Darius Butler Emerges as Starting Cornerback in Second Patriots Minicamp

FOXBORO, Mass. — The Patriots wrapped up their second minicamp practice Wednesday, and once again, left guard Logan Mankins was the only person missing out of the 83 players on the roster.

The practice session lasted an hour and 45 minutes, and it was status quo for wide receiver Wes Welker (participated in a half hour) and safety Patrick Chung (wearing the red non-contact jersey). Here are some other observations from the second of three minicamp sessions.

1. Precise about positioning
The coaching staff is always making sure each player is in precise placement, whether it’s route running or defensive positioning. Even without any defense on the field, receivers and tight ends were instructed on where to dissect the zone and sit in open pockets.

2.
Butler is doing it
Cornerback Darius Butler has clearly emerged as the starting cornerback on the left side, as he is earning a whole heaping of snaps opposite of cornerback Leigh Bodden. Jonathan Wilhite and rookie Devin McCourty have been working as the second unit in drills, while Kyle Arrington and Terrence Wheatley have been jockeying for the fifth spot. Wilhite, McCourty, Arrington and Wheatley have all had their chance to line up with the first unit at various times, too.

3.
Ones vs. ones
There were a lot of drills Wednesday — both seven on seven and 11 on 11 — in which the first-team offense lined up against the first-team defense. Prior to this, most of these drills in camp involved the first team (offense and defense) lining up against the second team or scout team.

4. Red zone

The Patriots spent a good chunk of practice in the red zone, which was an area that troubled the offense in 2009. Wide receiver Brandon Tate, who has gotten a lot of snaps with the first-team offense, made the catch of the day, leaping over Butler to snag a pass along the right sideline of the end zone.

5. Slater showing up

Wide receiver Matthew Slater has made a good amount of plays over the last several weeks, and he made two diving touchdown grabs during Wednesday’s practice. First, Slater caught a pass in the middle of the field, got up and ran about 40 yards into the end zone. Later during red-zone drills, Slater found a pocket underneath the zone and caught a low pass for a touchdown, drawing a lot of praise from his teammates in the process.

6. Sanders shaken
Safety James Sanders said he caught a "UFC-style knee to the gut" from rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez when the pair leaped for a high Tom Brady pass in the end zone. Sanders stayed on the ground for a couple of minutes to catch his breath before walking to the sidelines with the trainers.

7. Little skirmish
At the end of practice, there was a minor dustup between a handful of players, including defensive lineman Gerard Warren. It quickly dissipated and really didn’t amount to anything, but it might be a sign of how competitive these offseason practices have been.

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