FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Many times at New England Patriots training camp, the natural inclination is to focus on outstanding plays that draw the loudest crowd reactions. There was an obvious moment in that regard during Sunday’s rain-soaked practice.
But not to be overlooked is when an area of the team doesn’t perform up to expectations, as was the case Sunday with the front seven on defense.
“We just got beat and got our asses handed to us,” Patriots defensive end Jabaal Sheard said.
This marked the Patriots’ second straight day of full-pads practice, which meant a continued focus on the running game. The defensive front seven simply didn’t provide enough consistent resistance in that area, and it wasn't much better in the passing game, either.
Sheard, now in his sixth NFL season, has been around long enough to know there are sometimes days like this and that the key is to come back with better attention to detail, communication, understanding of the defense and technique (especially when footing isn't great because of the rain).
That is, after all, why they call it “training camp.”
But at the same time, such performance isn’t acceptable -- to the players or coach Bill Belichick -- and addressing it head-on is critical. With limited opportunities to practice, every day counts.
That, in so many words, is what Sheard said Belichick told players afterward: “We just have to practice better and have a better day [tomorrow],” Sheard relayed.
With the disappointing day from the front seven as the springboard, let’s take a closer look at what we saw (and heard) from Sunday’s practice:
What's on the set list? Gronkowski said players were disappointed there was no music during warmups, but the tunes came on during team drills later in practice. The set list:
"Code of Silence,” Bruce Springsteen
"The Spirit of Radio,” Rush
“Tom Sawyer,” Rush
“Crazy Train,” Ozzy Osbourne
“This Is How We Do It,” Montell Jordan
Faulk addresses team: After practice, Belichick addressed the team before introducing former Patriots running back Kevin Faulk, who shared some words of wisdom. According to Gronkowski, Faulk’s message was about consistency. “That’s one thing he brought every day -- consistency,” Gronkowski said.
Photo: Players huddle around Kevin Faulk after practice. Faulk will be inducted into Patriots Hall of Fame Monday. pic.twitter.com/HVkl584SZq— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) July 31, 2016
Health report: Center Bryan Stork, who left Saturday’s practice midway through the session, was absent Sunday. Ditto for right guard Jonathan Cooper (right foot), while receiver Keshawn Martin was a new absence. ... Receiver Chris Hogan didn’t finish practice after absorbing a blow in the shoulder/neck area in a blocking drill, watching from the sideline for the rest of practice. ... Veteran receiver Nate Washington remains out of practice after vomiting on the field on Day 1.
Offensive line in focus: On a day the front seven was manhandled at times, some credit also goes to the offensive line. Without Cooper and Stork, and with guards Shaq Mason, Josh Kline and Tre' Jackson not fully practicing, the top unit was left tackle Nate Solder, left guard Joe Thuney, center David Andrews, right guard Ted Karras and right tackle Marcus Cannon. With depth thinned, offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia stepped in at left guard with the backups during one walkthrough portion of practice. ... In one-on-one drills, center David Andrews’ footwork caught my eye in repetitions against defensive tackle Markus Kuhn and Woodrow Hamilton. Andrews plays light on his feet, and with Stork’s absence from practice, it’s like déjà vu from last year when Andrews stepped in early in the season.
Extra points. Agents Drew and Jason Rosenhaus were present for practice, with Belichick greeting and walking with them en route to the locker room. NFL Network reported that Rosenhaus and the team are talking about a revamped deal for Gronkowski, but nothing is imminent. ... Punt return was the area of focus in special-teams work, with top draft pick Cyrus Jones the top returner and rookie Kamu Grugier-Hill once again showing up on the top unit. As Belichick said Friday, Grugier-Hill is “Brandon King-ish” from a special-teams perspective in terms of what he could bring to the squad. ... Center/quarterback exchanges were an issue with the weather conditions, as Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett were all involved in fumbles at different points. ... Early in practice, Garoppolo threw a beautiful deep ball in individual drills that first-year receiver DeAndre Carter hauled in with cornerback Cre'von LeBlancc in coverage. ... Garoppolo had two passes intercepted in team drills, but he didn’t receive help from his receivers, as Chris Harper couldn’t corral one delivery that was tipped into the air and hauled in by safety Brock Vereen. Tight end Martellus Bennett couldn’t bring in another pass that safety Devin McCourty picked off. ... Sirius XM NFL Radio was in attendance and will be airing a Patriots-specific program Monday afternoon -- “Movin’ The Chains” with Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller.
Monday's schedule: Faulk's Patriots Hall of Fame induction (5 p.m. ET, free to public, NRG Plaza outside Hall); 7 p.m. ET in-stadium practice for season-ticket-holders and Foxborough residents.