For the second time at Patriots Training Camp, the players were treated to another walk-through practice on Tuesday to focus on the mental dynamic of the game. The afternoon session was in full pads and full contact.
The key observations for day six included Patriots’ Special Teams coach Scott O’Brien’s press conference, Zoltan Mesko’s strive for consistency, Special team’s area of most improvement and Tom Brady celebrating his 33rd birthday.
Patriots and the Specialists
Special Teams coach Scott O’Brien spoke briefly Tuesday morning about the focus on Tuesday practice on the special teams. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski is helping a rookie out for the second year in a row with punter Zoltan Mesko. O’Brien explained how Gostkowski and the special teams coaching staff has been able to adapt to new additions.
“...They did a good job with Jake [Ingram] last year, coming in and trying to earn a position and now with Zoltan trying to do it. It’s just the little things that everybody is a little bit different [at] that he likes that we’re trying to adjust to.”
As he further explained, it’s all about making adjustments on and off the field.
The usage of cornerback, Kyle Arrington proved to be greatly beneficial for the Patriots in return coverage. O’Brien discussed, “...He plays fast. He’s very instinctive, but he plays positions where he has more opportunities early than a lot of guys, but that’s what you’re looking for...”
Another player most likely to be used in special teams is first round pick Devin McCourty from Rutgers. McCourty has already shown quickness on the field and has kept up in coverage drills against some of the team’s top receivers.
It’s a rare occasion when an NFL punter has a growing fan base and rookie Zoltan Mesko is the exception. The sole punter on the roster, has already developed a growing number of fans. Interestingly enough, on several occasions during training camp, spectators educated others about the importance of having a punter like Mesko on the team. It is unlikely that former Patriots punters like Josh Miller or Chris Hanson received this type of praise or attention.
Not to be distracted by his growing popularity, the Michigan alum knows that nothing is ever certain in the league, especially for a rookie.
“The NFL is a business so you never know when your job is on the line...I haven’t made the team yet and I’m just trying to improve day to day...There’s still a lot of work left to be done” Mesko explained after practice.
Mesko describes exactly what he must work on to perform at a higher level, “...It’s more of a mental game now...focused on technique. Just like golfers, it’s not always the strong guy that wins the tournament.”
Return Game Needs the Most
The special teams of the Patriots have been labeled average among others in the league and special teams coach Scott O’Brien is fully aware of the this. During his Tuesday press conference, O’Brien expressed that the team’s return game needs the most improvement.
With a constant change in coaching staff, technique and opponents, it seems that adapting to the change is one of biggest hurdles. O’Brien confessed,
“...Things constantly change, we change as coaches, schematics change, rules change...but you always have to be able to break down segments, either schematically, by players, or whatever, to find out where you can improve on everything that you do.”
The Patriots have rotated several receivers to play as their top returners. The likes of Julian Edelman, Wes Welker and Matthew Slater were all used in the previous season. With Brandon Tate’s continuous improvement during training camp, look to the receiver to be playing a more prominent role in special teams.
The Birthday Boy
In what has become a yearly tradition for the starting quarterback, Tom Brady concluded training camp with fans and teammates singing happy birthday. It’s hard to believe that Brady has been with the Patriots since he was merely 22 years old as a sixth round pick.
Fans proudly displayed homemade signs wishing #12 a happy birthday, Brady’s father was also in attendance for the morning session.
Kisha Tapangan is a contributing writer for PatriotsInsider.com She also maintains her personal blog Necessary Roughness and can be found on Twitter @KishaT. Be sure to check in all camp long for regular updates by Kisha from Foxboro