FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Reporters covering the New England Patriots had their fill of coach Bill Belichick during offseason camps. as Belichick held news conferences three consecutive weeks and then capped things off with back-to-back pressers Tuesday and Wednesday this week.
Belichick saved his most expansive answers for Wednesday, sticking around late to make sure reporters had everything they needed.
Here's what we learned:
Lewis has made an early impression. In the competition for the pass-catching running back role previously held by Shane Vereen, four-year veteran Dion Lewis has put himself in position to be a dark-horse candidate worthy of consideration. Lewis hasn't played in a game the last two seasons. "He’s missed some time lately [in 2013, 2014], so we’ll see where he’s at, but he’s had a good spring," Belichick said. "He's done a good job."
Working Sheard on both sides in a variety of roles. Free-agent signing Jabaal Sheard is a hybrid player who could be a 4-3 defensive end or 3-4 outside linebacker. The Patriots are using him in both roles in their multiple defense. "He’s played on his feet here here, played down, both sides, so he’s getting a lot of exposure to different things," Belichick said. "He’s been good."
Getting a feel for McClain. In the cornerback mix, the Patriots signed former Falcon Robert McClain to a one-year deal and he's aligning on the left side, right side and in the slot. He's also a factor on special teams. "He’s a smart kid, works really hard – one of our hardest workers," Belichick said. "He needs to be versatile and he is."
What Belichick appreciates about Bolden. When it comes to four-down players on the roster, running back Brandon Bolden is part of the list. Belichick likes him. "He’s a good early-down back, he’s a good third-down back and he’s good [on] fourth-down; one of our best special-teams players, certainly one of our best offensive special-teams players along with [Matthew] Slater. So he’s a very valuable guy, fills a lot of roles, smart, doesn’t need a lot of reps, and he’s got a lot of experience."
What he's looking for in this offseason-camp setting. Belichick said the main things coaches ascertain from offseason camps is "a little better evaluation of how the players are handling things mentally, their assignments; there’s more things they have to worry about and the communication as a team from the signal callers on out to each of the different groups of players. It’s not an evaluation of the physical part, but it’s an evaluation of the mental part and their ability to think quickly, process information, handle different situations and communicate individually and as a group."
Second-round pick keeps up. Safety Jordan Richards, who missed the first six practices of the offseason because Stanford had yet to hold graduation ceremonies, hasn't fallen too far behind. "He’s really smart," Belichick said. "We gave him some information to work on while he was away. He’s obviously studied it and worked hard at it. For a guy who wasn’t here, he had a pretty good idea of what we were doing. He kept up on the installation, and he’s done a good job out on the field. He’s smart; he communicates well. He had a lot of playing experience in college, of course, but that seems to be transferring pretty quickly out here."