Cloudy with a chance of scattered showers was what the weather reports were for early Monday morning. The inevitable rain forced the Patriots into the Dana-Farber Fieldhouse for the last of 25 total practices. With what would’ve been the final practice open to the public, Patriots fans missed out on some of the most light-hearted moments so far.
Practices held in the Dana-Farber Fieldhouse are closed to the public due to capacity restraints.
With the final practice in full effect, the Patriots worked out in shorts and shells before boarding a plane to venture down south.
The practice session on Monday brought some interesting observations: Patriots continue situational work, updates some injured players and Wilfork’s skills at an unconventional position.
For Kisha’s Key Point, we’ll examine key things to look for in the upcoming preseason game against the %%MATCH_22%%.
Situational Work and the Running Back Focus
|%%MATCH_19%% throws on the run during a joint football practice with the %%MATCH_21%% in Foxborough, Mass. Wednesday Aug. 11, 2010. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Director of player personnel, Nick Caserio opened his Monday press conference with a confession. Caserio knew a little something about the Atlanta Falcons, “...good offense, good young quarterback, good tight end, good running back, good receivers, so they've got the bases covered offensively.”
Sounds like the Patriots have their work cut out for them. Not to be seen as unprepared, the Patriots spent the only practice working on situational drills also, giving the running backs some reps.
The team’s running unit received much of the focus during practice with veteran running back Fred Taylor taking the lead. BenJarvus Green-Ellis was the back that received the majority of the carries during last week’s match up against the Saints. Bill Belichick has expressed his desire to break up carries amongst all of the backs to establish a fluidity and rhythm to the team’s running game.
Last season, Green-Ellis finished with 26 carries for 114 yards and also played on the special teams squad as a part of their coverage unit. Taylor compiled 63 carries for 269 yards last season and also had four rushing touchdowns. The battle for the top back position has been a focus at camp so far as Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk and Laurence Maroney are also in contention having successful showings at camp.
Tully Banta-Cain, Darnell Jenkins and Thomas Williams Update
At the conclusion of Sunday’s practice, several players were missing in action, one of which was Patriots top pass rusher linebacker Tully Banta-Cain. Banta-Cain had ankle concerns and while he was present and suited for practice, the eight-year veteran did not participate in any of the team drills. In Banta-Cain’s place, newly reinstated Derrick Burgess and Marques Murrell were both taking charge as the lead outside linebackers.
Darnell Jenkins and Thomas Williams were both missing in action during the indoor practice which draws more concern to the severity of their injuries.
Wilfork Shows Off Surprising Skills
|Wes Welker catches a pass during a joint football practice with the %%MATCH_23%% Saints in Foxborough, Mass. Wednesday Aug. 11, 2010. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
In a surprisingly light moment during Monday’s practice, Bill Belichick had the offensive and defensive units switch positions. This allowed for wide receivers and running backs crouching down as a the would-be defensive line and also allowed for nose tackler Vince Wilfork line up as, well, the quarterback.
Wilfork was good for 1 of 4 passes, not to be overlooked, his sole completed pass was a scoring throw to Patrick Chung. At the conclusion of the switch up, Wes Welker spoke briefly of Wilfork’s best impression of a quarterback behind the offensive line.
“He really made some good reads out there, although he didn’t have a rush, so he sat back there for a good 10 seconds, trying to get rid of the ball. At the same time, he had a good delivery.”
Kisha’s Key Point: What to Look for in Atlanta
What exactly is there to fear in the Atlanta Falcons? Upon careful examination, enough was discovered to draw some concern from the Patriots.
The Atlanta Falcons boasts an even balance on the offense with top running back Michael Turner rushing for 871 yards on 178 carries, wide receiver Roddy White managed 85 receptions for 1,153 yards. Veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez is a deadly target for quarterback %%MATCH_20%%, who is entering his third year as the Falcons’ offensive leader. Ryan completed 263 of 451 passes for 2,916 yards.
Based on the Patriots’ performance against the New Orleans’ running game, the defense allowed 29 carries for 100 total yards and two rushing touchdowns. After having trouble finding their aggressiveness on defense, the Patriots could very well struggle with an explosive back like Michael Turner charging right through the center of the line. One key area to look at is the Patriots’ ability to hold an offense at the goal line. There is a very small margin of error and with more unity; they can force the Falcons offense to settle for a field goal.
As far as the Falcons’ defense is concerned, the greatest threats are from linebacker Curtis Lofton who compiled 133 total tackles and two forced fumbles last season to lead the Atlanta defense.
Keep a sharp eye on improvements made on the Patriots kick return coverage, special teams coach Scott O’Brien placed a high focus on improving this unit as a whole.
Overall, the Patriots offensive units look solid. With Tom Brady and Brian Hoyer both having efficient showings at camp and during the first game, it is the offensive line that will be tested even further against the Falcons.
Both the Patriots and Falcons are coming off a win in their first preseason games and both will have chance to work on adapting to each other’s differing defensive fronts (Patriots running a 3-4 and Falcons using the 4-3) during the two joint practice sessions taking place on Tuesday.
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