After taking Tuesday off, the New England Patriots were back on the practice fields on Wednesday to hold a two-hour, full-pads practice. While the defensive domination in combination with the offense’s sloppiness was the main story to come out of Foxboro yesterday, it was far from the only one worth talking about. Let’s therefore clean out the notebook to see what also was noteworthy about the sixth training camp session.
Patriots find the positives in the heat
Conditions were grueling on Wednesday morning, with temperatures climbing into the high 80s. Needless to say that practice was challenging from a conditioning perspective. However, the Patriots tried to make the best out of the heat as running back James White pointed out: it can help you prepare for some of the hottest games on the schedule, especially the one against the Dolphins in Miami in week two.
“Just hydrate, just work as hard as possible because during game time you’re going to be going 100 percent, so try to practice at 100 percent and try to get in that good football shape,” said White. “It challenges you mentally and physically. Each rep is going to be high, going to be sweating, going to be coaches yelling at you, a lot of different things, a lot of coaching points coming from a lot of different angles. It’s good preparation though so that when the game comes around it’s a lot easier for you.”
Quarterback Tom Brady saw things similarly when speaking about the temperature during a post-practice media session. “I think this is part of the challenge,” the 41-year-old said. “Whether it’s like this in late July, August, or whether it’s freezing cold in December, January, February, you’ve just got to figure out how to deal with it. The elements are a factor — we’re not basketball players, we’re not hockey players — we deal with the elements.”
“You’ve got to deal with the heat and there’s probably, between a 90-degree day and what we dealt with in Kansas City last year, which was, I don’t know, five degrees?” Brady continued. “I mean, that’s an 85 degree difference. So, you’ve just got to figure out how to deal with those elements the best you can.”
New England’s second-round cornerbacks step up
For most of training camp up to this point, the Patriots’ pair of second-round cornerbacks has been quiet. Neither Joejuan Williams nor Duke Dawson Jr. really stood out one way or another, which is unsurprising given their lack of experience in combination with New England’s overall depth and talent at their position. On Wednesday, however, the two youngsters both had their best practice to date.
Williams, who was drafted 45th overall in April, finished the session with two pass breakups. Along the way, he showed some clear improvements when it comes to anticipation and playing the ball. Dawson, meanwhile, did get beat by rookie wide receiver Ryan Davis on a 35-yard would-be touchdown pass from Brady — he did have very good coverage, the pass was just perfectly placed — but he later also noticed a pass breakup against Brian Hoyer and Gunner Olszewski. Even though the 2018 second-rounder is still clearly behind Jonathan Jones for the slot role, he did show progress on Wednesday.
The veteran acquisitions will be fun to watch
Another day, another sign that a trio of veteran offseason acquisitions will likely play considerable snaps and roles for the Patriots this season: defensive linemen Mike Pennel and Michael Bennett, and linebacker Jamie Collins all stood out in camp so far — and yesterday was more of the same. While Pennel and Bennett were tough to handle in 1-on-1s, Collins forced a fumble during 11-on-11 work. The trio will be fun to watch.
Jakobi Meyers emerges as the front-runner for the final receiver spot
Undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers did not only make one of the best catches of the day when he high-pointed a Jarrett Stidham throw over a tightly covering Keion Crossen, he also showed why he might just be the front-runner for the final wide receiver spot: on a day that saw Braxton Berrios struggle with the first unit, Meyers received some time with Brady’s ‘circle of trust’ — a group of workout partners that historically included Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, and saw James White, Sony Michel, N’Keal Harry and the rookie yesterday.
Tom Brady speaks about his contract situation, sort of
After the session, Brady spoke with the media about a variety of issues — and one of them was his contract situation. The game’s greatest ever quarterback is entering the final year of his deal, and so far there has not been any reported progress. The veteran passer, unsurprisingly, would not touch the topic even when asked about it. Brady said all the right things without actually saying much:
Q: Are you in a good place with the team right now regarding your contract situation and long-term desire to be here?
TB: Yeah, you know, I’ve had such a great experience over a lot of years. I appreciate this team and the opportunity it gave me in 2000. I play for a great coach in Coach [Bill] Belichick, and Josh [McDaniels] and I have a great working relationship. I love Mr. [Robert] Kraft and his family. We’ve had just incredible success. Hopefully we can keep it going.
Q: Is going year-to-year a possibility for you with your next contract?
TB: We’re all day-to-day if you think about it. None of us are really promised anything. I’m trying to do the best I can do today and just let those things sort themselves out.
Q: Do you feel that you’ve earned a contract extension?
TB: I don’t know. That’s up for talk show debate. What do you guys think? Should we take a poll? Talk to Mr. Kraft, come on. No, like I said, we’ve got a great relationship so we’ll see how it goes.
Plenty will be made of Brady’s answers but he did exactly what he always does: not trying to make himself the story, while letting the process play out. It’s business as usual for both sides involved.