Patriots Practice Observations: Trey Flowers, Chris Long’s Roles Increase

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FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots put in one final tuneup Sunday afternoon before the Chicago Bears come to town.

The Patriots and Bears will hold joint practices Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week at Gillette Stadium. So Sunday’s practice, which was in shells and shorts, was more about “installation,” coach Bill Belichick said in the morning.

That doesn’t mean Belichick went easy on his team in 93-degree heat. The Patriots practiced for 2 hours and ran over 70 players in full-team drills.

Here’s what went down at practice:

— Tom Brady was 13-of-23 passing during 11-on-11 drills. Tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Clay Harbor and running back Brandon Bolden dropped passes from Brady.

— Jimmy Garoppolo was 16 of 28 with an interception in 11-on-11s. Gronkowski and running back James White had drops from Garoppolo.

— Rookie QB Jacoby Brissett didn’t attempt a single pass during team drills.

— Safety Jordan Richards picked off Garoppolo’s errant pass intended for tight end Martellus Bennett.

— Cornerbacks Logan Ryan, Justin Coleman and Jonathan Jones and linebacker Jonathan Freeny had pass breakups.

— Pass rusher Rob Ninkovich (torn triceps) made a surprise appearance at the start of practice before leaving for a separate practice field with trainers. Fellow starting pass rusher Jabaal Sheard was a surprise absentee.

— Chris Long and Trey Flowers received starting reps on the edges in Ninkovich and Sheard’s place. It was notable to see Flowers with the first team over Geneo Grissom and Shea McClellin. Flowers and Long both produced strong performances in the Patriots’ preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints. Flowers could wind up as the Patriots’ breakout star of the summer.

— Undrafted rookie cornerback Jonathan Jones, who has been a camp standout, also received first-team reps.

— Former Patriots special teams coach Scott O’Brien was a guest at practice. He spent a long time talking to Belichick.

— David Andrews and Bryan Stork swapped reps with the first team at center. It appears that starting battle is ongoing. Shaq Mason remained at right guard while Josh Kline handled backup snapping duties.

— Receiver Nate Washington had his best practice of camp. He made five catches during team drills.

— Linebacker Dont’a Hightower and cornerback Cyrus Jones were credited with sacks during Brady’s 11-on-11 reps.

— Chris Hogan continues to stand out at wide receiver. He and linebacker Jonathan Freeny shed their red non-contact jerseys. That could mean Hogan will make his preseason debut Thursday against the Bears.

Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images

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