Monday, August 08, 2016

Patriots Practice Observations: A.J. Derby, Martellus Bennett Standing Out

By Doug Kyed

August 8, 2016

FOXBORO, Mass. — Bill Belichick wasn’t lying when he said the Patriots have their deepest group of tight ends since the head coach came to New England in 2000.

Rob Gronkowski continues to dominate training camp, despite some issues with drops, and Martellus Bennett has shown smooth route running and soft hands this summer. Bennett caught three passes during 11-on-11s Monday.

A.J. Derby, selected in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL Draft but placed on injured reserve early last August, has stood out in three straight practices now. He caught two passes, including a contested grab over safety Patrick Chung on Monday.

Derby could have an uphill battle to crack the 53-man roster over veteran Clay Harbor, who returned to practice Monday, but he has impressive size and athleticism at 6-foot-5, 255 pounds. The former college quarterback ran a 4.72-second 40-yard dash at his pro day last March with a 6.99-second 3-cone.

Here’s what else stood out at training camp Monday:

— Quarterback Tom Brady went 13 of 20 during 11-on-11s. He spread the ball around, hitting Chris Harper and James White three times, Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski twice and Brandon Bolden, Chris Hogan and Derby once apiece.
— Linebacker Jamie Collins broke up a pass from Brady. Gronkowski and White each had drops.
— Backup QB Jimmy Garoppolo went 14 of 21 with an interception.
— Bennett caught three passes from Garoppolo, Edelman, Gronkowski and Hogan caught two and Derby, Harper, Bolden and Harbor caught one.
— Edelman looked as fast as ever beating cornerback Justin Coleman on an end zone fade from Brady during 11-on-11s. Edelman celebrated with a Gronk-esque spike.
— Rookie linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill intercepted Garoppolo. Rookie cornerback Jonathan Jones recorded a pass breakup.
— Third-string QB Jacoby Brissett didn’t attempt a pass in 11-on-11s. He has just two pass attempts in the last three practices.
— Hogan, Edelman, Harper, DeAndre Carter and cornerbacks Cyrus Jones and V’Angelo Bentley got reps catching punts.
— The starting offensive line consisted of Nate Solder, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Josh Kline and Marcus Cannon.
— The Patriots look to be experimenting with rotating their defensive line according to the offense’s personnel grouping. Jabaal Sheard, Rob Ninkovich, Chris Long, Markus Kuhn, Malcom Brown, Alan Branch and Terrance Knighton all are getting first-team reps.
— Branch suffered what looked to be a lower left leg injury and didn’t finish practice. He stayed on the field, however.
— Running back Tyler Gaffney is getting a lot of carries with the first team. He’s never made it this far into camp without suffering a season-ending injury. It will be interesting to see how he fares in the preseason.
— Center Bryan Stork returned to practice but didn’t work in team drills. The Patriots are experimenting heavily with Ted Karras and Josh Kline at center.

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