Patriots Use Multiple Looks, Shuffling Rotations for Defensive Line, Linebackers


Patriots Use Multiple Looks, Shuffling Rotations for Defensive Line, Linebackers FOXBORO, Mass. — The third day of Patriots training camp is done and gone, and it will forever be remembered as the day when David Patten retired.

New England held a walkthrough in the morning and a full practice in the afternoon, and wide receiver Darnell Jenkins was activated from the non-football injury list and participated in his first session. However, defensive lineman Ty Warren, offensive lineman Nick Kaczur, left guard Logan Mankins, wide receiver Matthew Slater and outside linebacker Derrick Burgess were all absent.

Wide receiver Wes Welker, defensive linemen Ron Brace and Kyle Love, safety Bret Lockett and running back Thomas Clayton were all present but did not participate in practice.

Here are some other observations from the third day.

Walk it Out

The walkthrough provided a welcomed rest for the players, who went through two hard days of double-sessions to open camp. They rewarded the coaching staff in the afternoon by looking very lively and playing physical during the second practice.

Defensive Line Rotations
Gerard Warren and Mike Wright are getting plenty of reps with the starting defensive linemen, but the one noticeable thing about the D-line is the amount of rotations. The linemen are moving all across the line from one play to the next. In live action, this could help the defense key on the other team's offensive game plan, particularly if offenses change the play at the line to target certain defensive linemen.

Rookie Gets a Shot

Outside linebacker Jermaine Cunningham earned his most reps with the starters during the second session. The Patriots had been using a lot of Rob Ninkovich in the first two days of camp, but Saturday was Cunningham's day to play opposite of projected starter Tully Banta-Cain.

This might have been the coaching staff's response to something they've liked out of Cunningham, or maybe they're just looking to see what he could add to the starting unit. The Patriots used different linebacker combinations on the inside, too, but Jerod Mayo and Gary Guyton are the clear starters there. Brandon Spikes and Tyrone McKenzie have played well together on the inside, but the coaching staff got more of a look out of Thomas Williams and Dane Fletcher on Saturday.

Quarterback Conundrum
Rookie Zac Robinson isn’t having a very productive camp, and he threw at least three interceptions during Saturday's second session. Granted, the scout team didn’t have much of a chance to hold its own against the defensive starters, but if Robinson doesn’t start to make more noticeable progressions soon, the Patriots could eventually add another quarterback to challenge him for those reps.

Quality Coverage
The Patriots spent a portion of the second practice working on kickoff coverage, and the unit looked really good. They were aided by Stephen Gostkowski's booming kicks — several went through the end zone — but the coverage unit bottled up the return unit very deep in its own area almost every time down the field.

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