By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
UPDATE: Thursday’s training camp is complete. Here are some notes and observations from the day.
Unfortunately, injuries and attrition are starting to creep in to Patriots practices as training camp continues to ramp up. Jordan Matthews became the first major casualty on Wednesday, ending up on IR with a hamstring injury.
That’s not the end of the injury concerns for the Patriots. Marcus Cannon and Sony Michel both had to leave practice early. Dont’a Hightower is reportedly “fine” amid false rumors of an MRI, but did look banged up for a moment during Wednesday’s practice. Nine others were limited and working on the lower practice field.
But beyond the injuries, there are also things to consider on the field as far as how players are performing in drills and who’s lining up with who. So here are some quick items that we will be watching for at the Patriots’ next practice on Thursday in Foxboro…
— Are Hightower, Cannon, and Michel out there? The concern is that Cannon, who’s returning from an ankle injury in 2017, and Michel, who had a checkered injury history of his own at Georgia, are back to participating in full. The rehab field and physically unable to perform (PUP) list are already crowded enough. Hightower looks to have been a false alarm, but the importance of the linebacker’s health can’t be understated. Cannon, meanwhile, has no long-term concerns and didn’t re-injure his ankle, according to Mike Reiss. (UPDATE: Hightower was back, but Cannon and Michel were not.)
— Who’s starting on the defensive line? Deatrich Wise got plenty of first-team reps on Wednesday, but Adrian Clayborn also has a good chance to become the starter at right defensive end. Both players will be key to the Pats’ defensive turnaround from the end of last season, but it will be interesting to see how the team configures those two players. (UPDATE: Interesting development … Deatrich Wise took Trey Flowers’ place at left defensive end, with Adrian Clayborn on the right side and Trey Flowers watching from the sideline.)
— Can Cordarrelle Patterson take a step forward? With Matthews gone, and Kenny Britt among the players on the PUP list, the Patriots are thinning out at receiver in general. They’re especially shallow when it comes to size at the position. That’s where the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Patterson comes in. He worked 1-on-1 with Tom Brady for a short time during practice on Wednesday, ostensibly in hopes of continuing to build a connection. He’s flashed at times with his athleticism, but the knock on Patterson has always been an inability to pick up offensive systems. (UPDATE: Patterson had another good day, including a couple of highlight-reel plays.)
— Who’s catching punts? Riley McCarron and Braxton Berrios continue to look tangled up in a battle for a roster spot as two of the team’s only traditional slot receivers behind Julian Edelman. They’re also competing to be the primary punt returner. But interestingly enough, running back Rex Burkhead has started fielding punts in recent practices as well.
— Is Phillip Dorsett among the top targets? One drill on Wednesday was pretty telling. It came as no surprise that Brady worked closely with Rob Gronkowski, Chris Hogan, and James White. It was a head-turner that Dorsett was also included in that group. He’s looking better this summer and appears to be entering Brady’s vaunted circle of trust; it will be intriguing to see how he progresses moving forward.
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.