FOXBOROUGH — the Patriots held an in-stadium practice in front of season ticket holders after Rodney Harrison’s induction into the Pats Hall of Fame on a busy night at Gillette Stadium on Monday.
Harrison, Pats legend John Hannah and head coach Bill Belichick were the most exciting aspect of tonight’s festivities as the walkthrough practice on the field was underwhelming.
The team was in shells for the first time since padded practices began on Saturday and everything was done at half speed as the team ran through some situational drills.
With most of the team present, the only players missing from Monday’s session were rookies Byron Cowart and Yodny Cajuste (NFI) as well as veteran wide receiver Dontrelle Inman.
Inman’s Patriots career could be short-lived as he was buried on the depth chart before he started missing practices.
Also of note, safety Patrick Chung was out of a red non-contact jersey as he continues to work his way back from a broken arm in the Super Bowl.
And starting center David Andrews was in his usual spot with the starting offensive line for the first time in training camp.
Now that we’ve taken attendance, here are a few quick notes from a non-competitive practice:
1. Patriots Going Back to a 3-4 Defense?
Based on what we’ve seen so far, Belichick has his defense poised to make the switch back to a 3-4 front. I try not to get too caught up in 3-4 vs. 4-3. The Patriots morph week-to-week based on opponent and in today’s NFL almost every team runs a hybrid front with rules from both defenses. However, the Patriots added nose tackle Mike Pennel in free agency who they’ve featured regularly with the starting defense and have the depth at linebacker to run Belichick’s bread and butter. Belichick, at his roots, is a 3-4 coach dating back to his days with Bill Parcells and the New York Giants and the early 2000s Pats were a 3-4 team. But in true Belichick fashion, he morphed the Pats to more of a four down linemen front during dynasty 2.0 when 3-4 outside linebackers became extremely expensive. Now, the three-techniques that dominate in 4-3 systems such as Aaron Donald are pricey. With Belichick, always follow the money.
2. Wynn Watch: Still Nothing…
Once again, 2018 top pick Isaiah Wynn was a spectator for the majority of practice. Tonight, Wynn worked with the first-team during warmups before stretching and then sat out the rest of practice. Until this point, I’ve stayed calm about the situation. But tonight’s session was so light that it’s a bit worrisome that Wynn couldn’t partake in the walkthrough. Wynn is a few weeks away from being a year removed from an Achilles tear last August. It was once again “the Skipper” aka Dan Skipper taking snaps at left tackle.
3. Derek Rivers Earns Reps With Starting Defense
Towards the end of practice, the Patriots ran through some situational 11-on-11s, and Derek Rivers found himself taking reps with the starting defense during the third down period. Rivers is building on a few good days of padded practices where he beat Marcus Cannon in one-on-ones and got into the backfield a few times working with the second-team defense. This is a make or break camp for the 2017 third-round pick, especially with the selection of Chase Winovich. Rivers would fit in nicely as a situational pass rusher on third down, which was the situation he was in tonight.
4. Brady’s Bunch in 11-on-11s
The Patriots did do some full-field 11-on-11s late in practice at half speed, but as always, the skill group with Tom Brady is worth noting. The Pats QB worked mostly in two running back sets with the following five players on the field: Phillip Dorsett, N’Keal Harry, Braxton Berrios, James White and Rex Burkhead. Brady continues to work with Harry every chance he gets, but his connection with Berrios is growing as well. Berrios has way more juice in his routes than he did a year ago.
5. Three Up, Three Down
No three up, three down tonight with the non-padded practice. Nothing to evaluate.