New England Patriots Notes: Rob Gronkowski Dominating, Butler vs. Edelman


The New England Patriots wrapped up their final minicamp practice of the offseason yesterday (Belichick cancelled the one today), and the media was once again on hand to report how things went.

Here are some observations from beat writers in attendance:

(Here are some notes from Tuesday’s session, in case you missed it)

Mike Reiss-ESPN Boston

"One of the spirited one-on-one competitions has pitted cornerback Malcolm Butleragainst receiver Julian Edelman, and Butler is holding his ground for the most part. At one point, it appeared Edelman was frustrated by blanket coverage as a Brady pass sailed incomplete along the right sideline. One thing that stands out about Butler from an amateur scouting perspective: He glides across the field at times, almost making it look effortless."

Jeff Howe-Boston Herald

"Seventh-rounder Darryl Roberts got some work with the starters today and broke up a potential touchdown pass for Tyms in 11-on-11s. Roberts keeps making a play a day and is a dark horse to steal a cornerback job. Roberts was noticeably beaten by Edelman in an 11-on-11 pass later in the workout, so he wasn’t perfect. Then again, Edelman has beaten the game’s best corners.Rookie guards Tre’ Jackson and Shaq Mason will have a really good chance to compete for starting jobs when camp opens. Tyms had a bad day. He made a spectacular catch deep down the left sideline on a Garoppolo pass but fumbled afterward and had to run a lap."

Kevin Duffy-Mass Live

"On Tuesday, we touched on the (obvious) impact of Rob Gronkowski, and how the big fella can help make Garoppolo’s job much, much easier if Brady is indeed suspended four games.Here’s another example: When the Pats were working on their punt teams, the tight ends not involved were on the opposite field catching passes from position coach Brian Daboll. Gronkowski ran a deep post, and Daboll threw the ball a bit behind his 6-foot-7 target. Gronk reached back with his left hand and controlled the ball long enough to get his right hand on it for the catch.Hoomanawanui, watching with his helmet off, cocked his head and laughed."

Dough Kyed-NESN

"A fully healthy offseason is allowing Rob Gronkowski to dominate minicamp. It’s almost not fair when Gronkowski is targeted over some of the Patriots’ inexperienced defensive backs. Gronkowski continues to see work with backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo as the Patriots could be preparing for Tom Brady’s looming four-game Deflategate suspension.Brady completed 14 of 23 passes in 11-on-11 drills and 6 of 6 in 7-on-7s. Danny Amendola continues to stand out in team drills, catching six passes."

Yesterday’s session sounded a lot like Tuesday’s session, with Gronk dominating everybody, Brady being sharp as usual, Amendola making plays, and rookie Darryl Roberts getting involved. One thing that did jump out to me was Reiss’ note on Malcolm Butler hanging tough, and giving Julian Edelman a lot of problems.

Mike Reiss is the best in the business, so when he takes something away from practice, you better take it seriously. For those that actually watched Butler last season, you could tell this kid had game. That one play in the Super Bowl was not a fluke. He proved throughout the season that he could stick to receivers all across the field, and that is the main reason why I haven’t completely freaked out about New England’s secondary.

Edelman is as good as it gets receiver-wise, so if you can stick with him, and give him problems, you’re going to be just fine. And when you throw the early success of Darryl Roberts into the mix, I like where the Patriots’ young secondary is headed.

There are no pads involved in OTA’s and minicamp, which means teams can’t really get any hitting done. Because of that, it’s very hard to judge the lineman and linebackers in June, as opposed to the receivers, running backs, and corners. It sounds like James White is someone that has really taken advantage of this, as he has been making plays in the receiving game much like Shane Vereen did while he was a Patriot. I think White will win the third down running back job, and based on these last couple of sessions, he might just open the season as the top guy on passing downs.

When training camp starts up, the number one positional battle I will keep an eye on is Tre’ Jackson at the left guard spot. There is a bit of a hole in New England’s offense on the left side right now, and they will need a rookie to step up. Jackson was a steal in the fourth round of the NFL draft, and I am excited to see him work on the field.