Pats rookies continue to impress

Saturday marked Day Two of Rookie Mini-Camp in Foxborough and the newest members of the New England Patriots continue to look impressive. LB Brandon Spikes, TE’s Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, WR Taylor Price, and CB Devin McCourty have had the most notable mini-camps. If the rookies’ mini-camp is any indication of their capabilities, the Patriots could have themselves the building blocks of another successful decade. Here are some notes on the rookies from Day Two (which is also the final day):

On LB Brandon Spikes:

The rookie’s leadership was again on display, and he also showed how a player can play faster than his recorded time.

  • Albert Breer from the Boston Globe: LB Brandon Spikes — he of the 5.0 40-yard dash — doesn’t look slow. In fact, in 7-on-7s, it was noticeable how quickly he reads things, and how he seems to diagnose where the play’s going and breaks toward the ball a split-second faster than everyone else.
  • Mike Reiss from …second-round draft choice Brandon Spikes was beaten in a tackling drill in which offensive players attempt to get past defenders within a tight box bordered by orange cones. Unhappy with the result, Spikes pushed the next defender aside and went through the drill again. The drill has offensive players with the ball in their hands and they come running toward the defenders, who must exhibit the proper tackling fundamentals in “touching” the player down. Spikes got beaten by a quick cut, but in a sign of how seriously he takes his craft, he stayed in place and executed the fundamental on the next repetition.

On CB Devin McCourty:

If McCourty impresses in training camp and in preseason games, he could very well be the #2 starting corner in Week One against Cincinnati.

  • Reiss: First-round draft choice Devin McCourty has spent most of his practice time at left cornerback, which makes sense considering that veteran Leigh Bodden returns on the right side. While McCourty figures to line up at every cornerback spot as he acclimates to the team’s system, it’s notable that his initial work has come at that spot. McCourty, Darius Butler and Shawn Springs look like the top candidates in the competition at left cornerback.
  • Erik Scalavino from In that same drill (as the one Spikes was noted in earlier), none of the offensive players was able to evade CB Devin McCourty.

On OLB Jermain Cunningham:

So far so good in Cunningham’s transition from DE to OLB…

  • Reiss: This looked like a practice in which Cunningham spent more time in coverage than he did “rushing” (as much as one can rush in 7 on 7 work), so it was a good chance to see how he looked going backward instead of forward. To the layman, he does not look out of place, although on one of the final plays of practice he might have missed his assignment when sprinting down the middle of the field, because linebackers coach Matt Patricia quickly addressed him after the play.

TE’s Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez:

  • Breer: TE Aaron Hernandez continues to look impressive, both in his athleticism and versatility to play all over the formation. He even lined up, at times, outside the numbers. Again, he seems smooth and natural running.
  • Scalavino: All in all, after seeing all four practices, I’m most optimistic about the tight end competition because it looks like Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have legit hands and all-around skills, which should add a dimension to the Patriots offense that’s been lacking.
  • Scalavino: He (Hernandez) made a few nice grabs, ran precise routes, and received praise from some of the coaches for grasping some of the more difficult mental aspects of the offense.
  • Scalavino: Elsewhere this afternoon, at one point in the session, the entire team gathered to take whacks at the one-man tackling sled. A lot of players are big and strong enough to lift that thing off the ground, but TE Rob Gronkowski nearly flipped the thing over on one of his reps. That caught everyone’s attention on and around the practice field. Quite an impressive display of power.

Other Notes: Breer has a nice piece on WR Taylor Price, noting that he looks good running routes and has good hands. QB Zac Robinson continues to have accuracy issues in passing drills. Just in case you missed it or you don’t live in New England, the team’s show “Patriots All-Access” had a draft wrap-up earlier Saturday night that took you into the Pats’ draft room. It was pretty interesting as you can watch the various trades develop and hear the calls made to the draft picks. You can watch the entire show here and/or you can read Reiss’ wrap-up here.

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Tags: 2010 Patriots Draft Picks Aaron Hernandez Brandon Spike Devin McCourty New England Patriots Rob Gronkowski Rookie Mini-Camp Taylor Price

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