Day 4 observations from Patriots training camp

Alex Valles

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The second day of full pads brought a greater amount of intensity this Sunday at Gillette Stadium. While the team wasn't going full-contact just yet, there were some serious collisions in the 11-on-11 and inside run periods.

One of the players that continued to bring the wood was recent training camp arrival, Michael Bennett. Bennett participated in his first practice with the Patriots on Sunday after missing the first three practices due to personal issues.

“I had a personal reason,” Bennett said after Sunday's practice via Zack Cox of NESN. “I didn’t retire. Everybody said I retired. I was laughing at home. I didn’t retire. No, I just had a family issue that I had to go take care of. I was lucky Coach Belichick — it’s nice when you have a coach that sees you as a human, sees you as a human being, not just a number and you’re able to go talk to him, tell him what’s going on, and you’re able to go take care of it."

Bennett primarily ran with the second-team defensive unit as he still needs time to be brought up to speed. As you would expect the former Philadelphia Eagle dominated New England's second-string line. 2019 fourth-round pick Hjalte Forholdt did everything he could to slow the three-time Pro-Bowler down, but his efforts proved futile. Expect Bennett to slowly work his way in with the ones.

The Good

  • Maurice Harris continues to prove that he is one of the more talented receivers on the roster. At 6-foot-3 Harris has the ability to line up in the slot and outside which is uncommon for a receiver of his stature. 

Harris leads the team in training camp catches and seems to be Brady's go-to target when the pocket collapses. The former Washington Redskin is not only making his case to make the roster, but he's also making a case to be a starter in Week 1.

  • Braxton Berrios had one of his best practices of camp on Sunday. In the first team period, Berrios beat his defender over the middle 25 yards down the field and took it the rest of the way to the house. Berrios also was running with the 1's in pre-practice ROA's (routes on air.) The group featured Phillip Dorsett, Harris, Berrios, Ben Watson, and James White. Not a bad sign for a guy who was on the bubble heading into training camp.
  • Dan Skipper was with the starting offensive unit lining up at left tackle for New England. The former Arkansas Razorback dwarfs the other offensive lineman as he stands at 6-foot-9, 325 lbs. Skipper has bounced around from practice squad to practice squad before landing in New England in January. With Isaiah Wynn slowly working his way back to full-contact, Skipper should be a guy to watch to fill the role of a backup swing tackle.
  • Obi Melifonwu had his third interception of training camp when he picked off backup quarterback Brian Hoyer in the team's red-zone period. Melifonwu was matched up on veteran tight end Ben Watson and mirrored him every step of the way before picking Hoyer off in the endzone. Melifonwu needs to continue to string these types of practices together if he wants to make the team's final 53-man roster. It is also notable that Melifonwu was on the team's number one kickoff unit. The former UCONN safety is going to need to add value on special teams if he wants to stick around on the Patriots.
  • Mike Pennel Jr. was an absolute force in the red-zone period. He made two stops in a row on the goal line, tackling running back Damien Harris for a loss on one of them. Pennel was signed by the team this offseason and is expected to be one of the team's key contributors on the defensive line.
  • Tom Brady started the day ten for ten in team drills. Don't think we have to worry about that cliff just yet Kellerman.
  • Stephon Gilmore continues to look like the best corner in football as he has not allowed a catch-all training camp. Look for Gilmore to build off his stellar 2018 campaign.

The Bad

  • Duke Dawson has struggled to see consistent reps in the defensive backfield. He was beaten multiple times in coverage on Sunday with the last instance being by an undrafted rookie free agent in Ginner Olsewski who didn't even play WR in college. Not a good look for the 2018 second-round pick. Given how deep the team is at the corner position, Dawson could be in jeopardy of losing out on a roster spot.
  • Dontrelle Inman was absent from practice on Sunday. After struggling in the team's first three practice, Inman's chances of making the roster are decreasing.
  • Danny Etling is slowly becoming a Patriots fan favorite as his willingness to play wide receiver and special teams exude shades of Julian Edelman. The only problem is that Etling isn't even close to the athlete that Edelman is. The 2018 seventh-round selection has struggled in his route running and continues to see his reps decrease as a passer. 
  • New England's running game struggled on Sunday as the team failed to produce a run over four yards. Much of that may have to do with the fact that the team is not full-contact just yet, so the running backs di not have the ability to break tackles. That being said, the Patriots defensive line has done a great job stuffing the run.

Other Notables

  • Stephen Anderson had a spectacular diving catch in seven on seven drills:
  • Christian Sam leveled rookie running back Damien Harris for a loss on the one-yard line in the teams red-zone period.
  • Derek Rivers continues to rotate in with the team's starting defensive unit. Great sign for a player who has struggled to see consistent playing time.
  • Jamie Collins also has found himself heavily featured on the team's starting defensive unit. Collins looks to return to All-Pro form with New England after struggling in his time with the Cleveland Browns.
  • David Parry was an active sub at defensive tackle. Could spell bad news for 2019 5th round pick Byron Cowart.
  • Keion Crossen had a couple of great pass breakups one coming against first-round pick N'Keal Harry where he sat on a hitch route and swatted the ball away at the last second.
  • Terrence Jones is seeing a lot of reps at safety in as Patrick Chung is in a red jersey recovering from the shoulder injury he suffered in the Super Bowl. 
  • Jakobi Meyers continues to quietly make a name for himself as he hauled in a couple of nice grabs in seven on seven and team periods.
  • Ryan Davis, UDFA out of Auburn University, is a very crisp route runner in the slot. Behind several receivers, Davis may have a chance to stick around on the team's practice squad.
  • Both Jayson Tatum and Brad Stevens were at practice today to see what a championship team looks like.
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