By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Tom Brady’s final practice as a 40-year-old was a hot and oppressive one. Taking the field in the sun with 90-degree heat and relentless humidity, Brady had a little extra pep in his step anyway. And it carried over when he started slinging the football.
Thursday’s session had a more intense feel to it than Wednesday, and a lot of that had to do with Brady. The Patriots put a lot of emphasis on the passing game and situational football, which is leading up to the first preseason game of 2018 next Thursday against the Washington Redskins.
Here are some observations and takeaways from the latest practice in Foxboro…
— Absent/PUP: WR Kenny Britt, T Marcus Cannon, S Nate Ebner, CB Jonathan Jones, CB Cyrus Jones, RB Sony Michel, WR Malcolm Mitchell, G Nate Theaker
— RB Mike Gillislee participated in a red non-contact jersey. Thus, he didn’t get any reps in team drills.
— WR Matthew Slater returned in full pads, but mostly worked on his own. He got some time on the conditioning field and did some solo work on the main field.
— Brady mostly looked sharp compared to the start of camp. He’s been better the past two days. The rust could be slowly coming off. He completed passes to Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Jacob Hollister, Cordarrelle Patterson, and James White.
— The Patriots ran several two-minute offenses. In the first one, Brady completed a pass to Gronkowski then the offense sprinted to the line to clock the ball. On the third play, White got left wide-open to breeze into the end zone.
— However, Brady’s low point came during another two-minute drill. After completing a pass to Dorsett, who made an impressive catch in tight coverage by Eric Rowe, he made three straight incompletions. He just missed Chris Hogan in the end zone, then Riley McCarron dropped a pass after appearing to run the wrong route or get off the right spot. Brady was none too pleased with that. Finally, he slightly overthrew Dorsett in the end zone. But Brady was able to finish off the drill by completing a wheel route to White down the left sideline. Although the past two days have been better than prior practices, there’s clearly still plenty of work to do for Brady to get in sync with his newer targets.
— Despite his drop, McCarron did get some snaps with the starters in place of Edelman, who eventually subbed in for him.
— CB Ryan Lewis had another good day in coverage overall. He jammed Dorsett at the line on one play, which resulted in no throw from Brady. He also had good coverage on Hogan on an incompletion from Brian Hoyer.
— WR Cordarrelle Patterson had a nice day. He continues to stand out with his playmaking when given opportunities on offense. He made an outrageous one-handed catch with CB Jason McCourty all over him, leaping in the air to corral the ball. If he can pick up the playbook and build a connection with Brady, Patterson could become much more than just a kick returner for the first time in his career.
— The receivers as a whole had a rough start to practice. The cornerbacks got the best of them in an early 1-on-1 coverage drill with no passing involved. They had to do pushups as a group, then again after faltering in 1-on-1 passing drills. Extra pushups in 90-degree heat? Not ideal!
— During a 1-on-1 session, coaches used large paddles to simulate defensive linemen getting their arms in the air. Brady completed two passes to Hollister during that drill.
— Deatrich Wise got starter’s reps on the left edge, with Adrian Clayborn on the right, while Trey Flowers watched from the sidelines. Flowers has had a relatively quiet camp so far. But it also speaks to Wise’s rapid rise up the depth chart, and his versatility to play on both ends of the line.
— RB Jeremy Hill got a look as a kick returner, as well as some first team snaps on offense.
— Fringe players like RB Ralph Webb, TE Ryan Izzo, DB Damarius Travis, and DB A.J. Moore got some reps on special teams coverage units. That’s probably the only hope those guys have of making the 53-man roster.
— T Isaiah Wynn got a few reps at left tackle with the first team offense. He continues to look like the backup left tackle to Trent Brown, however, with a chance to slide over to guard when the opportunity arises. As Bill Belichick loves to say, still a long way to go.
— LB Kyle Van Noy broke up a deep pass intended for Hollister in the end zone.
— Patterson caught a touchdown on a very deep ball from Hoyer, beating Jordan Richards in coverage. He celebrated demonstratively on the play. Perhaps he’s not too familiar with Richards’ work.
— The Pats had a little fun (imagine that!) at the end of practice, with the offense and defense switching for a couple of plays. The “offense” could not punch it in. Brady lumbering around as a “linebacker” was a sight to behold.
More practice coverage coming on Friday.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at email@example.com.