WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, WV (CBS) – The Patriots and Texans held their second joint practice Wednesday on a much better weather day than Tuesday. Following some early fog, the sun came out and temps escalated quickly. Both teams had good energy and focus. Here are some thoughts and observations on the two hour-plus session:
–There was an injury scare during kickoff return work as rookie Derek Rivers went down. He looked to have suffered a left knee/leg injury and was examined for several minutes on the ground by team medical personnel. Rivers eventually was able to walk off the field. You certainly hope for the best for Rivers, who has been an impact player in camp. Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reports that Rivers “avoided significant injury” so let’s hope things stay that way after further tests are conducted…..
By the way, Devin McCourty came over to check on Rivers as well as Julian Edelman……
–Meanwhile, DL Kony Ealy left practice with an apparent left shoulder/neck injury, but was spotted later on back on the field….
–RB LeShun Daniels and OT LaAdrian Waddle did not practice after leaving Tuesday with injuries…..
–Also, after missing Tuesday’s practice……CB Stephon Gilmore returned to practice Wednesday……
–Watching some 1-on-1 lineman drills early in the day and was impressed with Marcus Cannon. He did a nice job against JJ Watt. Cannon has gotten better and better as his Pats career has evolved…….
–I know there are some who are concerned about Julian Edelman at age 31, but watching him so far in camp…he shows no signs of slowing down. Once again, looks like health and health only will be the concern. He is as dangerous as ever and his route-running is special……
–Even as the Houston defense continues to play the Patriots offense tough……Tom Brady had a good day with some perfect throws to the likes of Chris Hogan (a laser over the middle that he caught in his fingertips, deep ball TD), Brandin Cooks (sideline throws, also TD pass), James O’Shaughnessy (lob deep back shoulder – great catch), Edelman, and James White(TD)….
–Brady also got frustrated with himself….once after an incompletion to Cooks and then on an out route to Gronkowski. After practice, Brady showed his quest for perfection when talking about a missed opportunity with Gronk:
“I mean we’ve got to make that play. It’s got to be a better throw. We’ve just got to come up with it. Sometimes you get the exact look you want versus a certain play and it’s not a productive play. Those are the ones that you kick yourself on. Then there’s some plays where they’ve got the right defense called versus what you have called and sometimes an incompletion – that’s what it is. Plays where it really should be a completion and a big gain, those are the ones you’ve got to come up with.”
–We also asked Brady about his Tuesday when he appeared to get annoyed and frustrated with his offense:
“You’re just trying to create some urgency. I ask guys to dig a little deeper. It goes like that. Sometimes things don’t go great in the first quarter of games, sometimes they don’t go great in the first half, sometimes they don’t go great for the first three quarters, but you’ve got to keep grinding. You’ve got to keep digging deeper. A lot of times football is a lot about momentum. Things don’t go well early and then you find a little rhythm, start making some plays, scoring some points and then you can rattle off 28 points. That’s football.”
–Tight end James O’Shaughnessy had a good day…..I had him for 4 catches (3 passes from Garoppolo, 1 deep ball from Brady) and he made some nice blocks on special teams. He’s a guy to watch in the battle for a spot behind Gronk…….
–The Patriots defense had its moments Wednesday too. Malcolm Brown broke up a screen play and was wildly cheered for it by the Pats sideline…..rookie DL Adam Butler had a few plays where he put on a nice interior rush. Would have had at least one sack…..LB Trevor Bates showed up in coverage and would have had a sack…..CB Eric Rowe made a nice play vs RB Tyler Ervin after a catch. Rowe popped the ball out from Ellington, scooped it up, and went the other way…..LB Harvey Langhi set the edge nicely on a play where a rolling out Houston QB Deshaun Watson had nowhere to go…..CB Malcolm Butler was beaten for a TD by WR Jalen Strong on a play where Butker just missed picking it off……
–Meanwhile, Tom Brady spent a few minutes chatting it up with now Houston Defensive Coordinator Mike Vrabel after practice. Both Brady and Bill Belichick had high praise for the man who helped Tom and Bill win three Super Bowls in New England:
Belichick: “Mike had a lot of great qualities as a player, so yeah, no surprise. Mike played defense. He played a lot of positions on defense. He played everything in the kicking game and also did a lot for us on offense, playing tight end in short-yardage situations. He could call signals, he had great leadership, was a multi-year captain, so his leadership, his presence, his communication, awareness, situational awareness in addition to just being a good football player, but those things were traits that carried over into coaching. And Mike’s one of the physically and mentally toughest players I’ve ever coached, so I’m sure that will serve him well in this profession, too. There’s times when you need that.”
Brady: “He’s worked really hard. He was at Ohio State for a while and then obviously to the Texans in his role and then to be defensive coordinator. It won’t be long before he’s a head coach, too. He’s just got a great presence. He was a great player for us. He’s been one of my great friends for a long time. It’s nice to see him out there. There’s a little friendly talk back and forth, which is always fun, but yeah, I love the guy and what he’s accomplished. His son is going to B.C. [Boston College] next year, so I told him he’ll always have a place to come for dinner. It’s a great relationship and it’s going to be a great rivalry because they have a great team.”
–And finally…..there was an interesting end to practice. The two teams exchanged handshakes, almost like at the end of best-of-seven series in the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. ESPN’s Mike Reiss asked Pats captain Devin McCourty about it afterwards and Devin said, “Out here there’s a lot of respect for guys.”……
–The two teams will have walkthroughs (Thursday here and Friday in Houston) and then they’ll meet in preseason game number two Saturday night at NRG Stadium. You can see that game on WBZ Ch 4 at 8pm.