FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Observations from the New England Patriots’ organized team activity on Friday:
Chandler Jones and added context on health: This was a chance to get a better feel on the progress of where some players are from a health perspective. Defensive end Chandler Jones, for example, was a player I was interested in monitoring because he was spotted on crutches earlier this offseason after undergoing surgery. He wasn’t present, which hints that he is likely still on the rehabilitation track. Offensive linemen Sebastian Vollmer (shoulder) and Ryan Wendell (shoulder) and linebackers Jerod Mayo (patellar tendon) and Dont’a Hightower (labrum) were other absences. An absence from a voluntary practice in late May is hardly reason for concern, but it’s something I like to document to keep on the radar as we get closer to training camp.
Splitting up the QB reps: I spent the majority of practice charting quarterback repetitions, and it was almost a 50-50 split between Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo. Brady led all drills, then was followed by Garoppolo. Brady was his usual verbal self, encouraging teammates when he liked a route (e.g. Danny Amendola) and calling out to everyone where to align. In that sense, it was business as usual. One other quarterback observation: No. 3 Garrett Gilbert gets very few reps, so for those inquiring about the possibility of a No. 4 option at this time with Brady’s suspension in mind, I’m just not sure there would be any reps available for that player.
Scott Chandler’s body type: In a discussion with ESPN.com NFL Insider Field Yates leading into OTAs, we chatted about what would be valuable information to pass along from this type of practice setting (no pads, more teaching than competitive). One of the things that was passed along was to eye body types and see if any players appeared to be bigger/smaller than 2014, or if they simply stood out. Along those lines, 6-foot-7, 260-pound tight end Scott Chandler was hard to miss. For the last five seasons, it’s pretty much been 6-foot-6, 265-pound Rob Gronkowski towering over the Patriots' TE corps, but Chandler – who is longer but lankier – gives Gronkowski a run for the money. A nice set of twin towers, especially in the red zone, which was the subject of my post-practice video.
Good opportunities for young guards: With starting left guard Dan Connolly still a free agent and Wendell not at practice (shoulder), it was hard to miss how this was a valuable learning environment for young guards such as draft picks Tre' Jackson (fourth round, 111th overall) and Shaq Mason (fourth round, 131st overall) and 2014 practice squad player Caylin Hauptmann, among others. They all got quality reps that would usually go to more experienced players.
Music selection: With music blaring at times to create communication-based stress, a few songs that stood out: "Code of Silence" by Bruce Springsteen, "Cult of Personality" by Living Colour, and "Desire" by U2.
Extra points: Coordinators Josh McDaniels (offense) and Matt Patricia (defense) wore headsets as communication between coaches and players was an emphasis, as it often is in this setting. … A drone filmed practice overhead. When Bill Belichick was asked what the team gets out of that after practice, he said, “I don’t know.” … The punt team was the primary emphasis when special teams work was the focus, and it was the first chance to get a feel for the coaching style of Joe Judge, who was promoted from an assistant’s role to the head spot following Scott O’Brien’s retirement. He’s fiery. … Receiver Brandon LaFell wasn’t present, which gave third-year pro Aaron Dobson an extended opportunity for reps. Dobson’s bright red pants made him easy to spot relative to everyone else, as players didn’t wear jersey numbers or numbers on the back of their helmets. … Running back Tyler Gaffney was a player I hoped to catch up with, but he was pulled away with other duties. Paul Perillo of Patriots.com did, however, and Gaffney's remarks are passed along here. ... The workout finished with players running the hill behind the practice fields.