Patriots Training Camp Notebook: Day 9

The Patriots took things relatively easy on Day 9 of training camp, the final practice before the team gets two days off

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The Patriots took things relatively easy on Day 9 of training camp, the final practice before the team gets two days off. With live game action just a week away, there was a heavy focus on situations for all three phases. Bill Belichick must have felt the team responded well, because with heavy rain rolling in, he sent the team in an hour earlier that usual. Before the session came to a soaking end, here’s some of what the team was able to do…

1Option Work

During positional drills, the defensive front got a chance to practice defending read options and RPO’s, a growing element of NFL play books. With Danny Etling at quarterback, the defense got an opportunity to work on their reads and communications. The Patriots will see the option early in the preseason against the Redskins (Kevin Hogan) and Eagles (Nick Foles), and more importantly in Week 1 of the regular season against Houston (Deshaun Watson). It’s not uncharacteristic of the Patriots to use training camp to prepare for early regular season games, and no doubt the Houston matchup was stressed during this drill.

2Allen In Trouble?

Ryan Allen won the punting job in 2013 when the team kept him on the roster in favor of Zoltan Meskow, who was on the last year of his contract. Fast forward to 2018, and it’s Allen who finds himself in the last year of his deal. The challenge for Allen is underrated rookie Corey Bojorquez. The Louisiana Tech product has been the better punter so far, but at a cap hit of $2 million, he needs to do enough to separate himself from Bojo, who’s cap hit sits at $480,000. Allen was one of the Patriots best defensive weapons last year, but is Belichick willing to spend the extra million and a half on a punter? And yes, Bojorquez is a lefty.

3Superior Interior

As has been the case the past few seasons, the defensive interior is arguably the Patriots best unit coming into training camp. However, the reps have been shuffled from last season. Lawrence Guy and first-year Patriot Danny Shelton have seen most of the snaps with the first team, with Adam Butler stepping in next to Shelton for the first time today. This could signal a big jump up the depth chart for the second year UDFA Butler. His combination of size (6-5, 300) and agility allows him to help not only against the run but as an interior pass rusher as well. With Butler moving up the depth chart, former first-round pick Malcolm Brown slides back a spot. Brown is in the last year of his contract, and if the team feel comfortable with the depth around him, he could become a trade piece as the Patriots work to finalize their roster before the season.

4Situational Awareness

There was a heavy focus on situational football at today’s practice, and I don’t think the Patriots could have gotten any more specific. Drills included…

-Blocked field goals (Gostkowski purposely kicked balls low to be blocked)

-Hail Mary plays (Brian Hoyer did complete one to Phillip Dorsett)

-30 second drills

-Kneeldowns to center the ball for field goals

-Read Options

They practiced everything but the coin toss. Which, now that I think about it, seems like something Belichick would do. Keep an eye out for that in the coming days.

5Injury Report

Sony Michel was absent for the third day in a row. However, we now know it is a ‘minor’ knee injury that has kept him off the field, and the Patriots are being cautious wth his recovery. Kenny Britt is off PUP and took part in the beginning part of practice, but limped to the side field and then left when the team started 11-on-11 drills (but not before saying hi to some fans). It was reported after practice that the plan today was for him to only participate in half the session. Malcolm Mitchell made his return to the field today, and in full uniform. Mitchell, who is coming off a knee procedure earlier this month, stretched with the team before heading to the back field for individual workouts. With Mitchell and Decker both on the field, it was the first time this summer the Patriots had every receiver on the roster present and in uniform for a practice.