The first day of NFL training camp is always hard to breakdown. There are no pads and limited contact between the players, so the effort is never 100%. For the first day of Patriots Training Camp 2016, there were no exceptions. Battles for positions and reps are the most watched parts of the practices, and this year, there is some extra juice with QB Tom Brady suspended the first four games of the regular season. Many fans wondered how Bill Belichick would break down the reps for the quarterbacks with the first team.
That questioned wasn’t fully answered until the end of the session. Jimmy Garoppolo and Brady were splitting the first team reps all day, but when it came down to the first period of seven on seven, Brady got the first reps. It was interesting to see that, even though Brady won’t see meaningful time for nearly two months, he still got the first shot. This was the case until the first eleven on eleven drills, where Garoppolo got the closest field with the apparent starters. Brady worked on the other field with the backups.
Justifying the work and first team reps isn’t that hard. Both guys need to work with the “starters”, because at some point, they will both have their time with them in meaningful game scenarios. They will likely continue to split the reps like this, that is, until the pre-season games begin. Brady will probably get less reps, if any, during those games, so Garoppolo can get as much in-game action as possible.
The two “starters” looked generally good, completing a high percentage of passes. Rookie QB Jacoby Brissett, however, did have some mistakes that I noticed. He tends to the hold the ball for a long time before making the decision, and was picked off on time by rookie CB Cyrus Jones in a red-zone drill.
One other note to excite on the QBs: Brady spent a period working with TEs Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski on the far field. I may have gotten a little too excited during this session.
Running backs are some of the hardest to judge on the first days of camp. Without the contact, it is hard to tell if a guy would have been stopped at the line or broke free for a big gain. One thing we can discuss is the order in which guys got the ball. In hand-offs, LeGarrette Blount got the ball first, followed by Brandon Bolden, James White, Donald Brown, and Tyler Gaffney. I didn’t notice a lot of work from Joey Iosefa or DJ Foster in the running game.
As far as passing routes go for the RBs, Foster did show some promise, but in the Patriots’ offense versatility is key. Blount also had some nice plays out of the backfield and got hyped up after one particular catch and run that resulted in a TD.
Dion Lewis, who is currently on PUP, was not spotted on the field today, as he returns from a torn ACL.
Rookie WRs Devin Lucien and Malcolm Mitchell mainly worked with Jacoby Brissett and the third team. They both made some exciting grabs, but also had a couple drops. In one of the few periods where there was minimum contact, Mitchell had some trouble getting any separation from Malcolm Butler.
I say this every year, and nobody may believe me anymore, but Aaron Dobson has some great hands. He made a few one-handed grabs in the end-zone that were absolutely incredible. The thing with Dobson is that he always gets injured, and that is the end of him for the season. With him already being behind the eight ball this year, he may have to outwork nearly every WR to make the team.
Edelman and Amendola, also on the PUP list, were out there on the field. They weren’t participating in drills, but were supporting their teammates and playing catch with each other. There was even a little route running.
WR/ST Matt Slater wore number 43 in support of Nate Ebner, who is currently with US Men’s National Rugby team. Slater has always been an outstanding teammate.
One quick note about the offensive line that second-year guard Shaq Mason was playing with the third team for a good amount of time. This may mean that Josh Kline and Jonathan Cooper has surpassed him on the depth chart, or O-Line Coach Dante Scharnecchia may have just wanted to see what the team has in Cooper and Kline.
Defense is the toughest of all to judge without contact. Malcolm Butler was shutting down nearly everyone he faced-off against in one-on-one drills. Again, there is not much contact, but we can only judge on what we saw.
LB Jamie Collins was also not on the field. This came as a surprise to many, because he reportedly arrived to the facility yesterday. Fans began to speculate that the absence was contract related, but the team and reporters quickly squashed that idea. Hopefully, Collins comes back soon, because the defense clearly misses him on the field. He provides an incredible ability to cover out of the backfield and TEs, and without him, they rely on guys like Jon Freeny.
I have been going to training camp for atleast ten years, and this was the first time I voluntarily sat on the grass. I arrived early and got the front spot behind the rope. It was a cool experience to sit so close to the field, but you are unable to see both fields clearly. Tomorrow I will move back to the bleachers and hopefully will have more insight for you guys.
If you are going to practice or have anything you want me to look at first, tweet at me!