Even with one third of the roster not participating, the New England Patriots’ organized team activities are a crowded affair. 60ish players with varying degrees of experience in the system will need to be brought up to speed and given opportunities to take advantage of their limited time on the practice field.
With every rep valuable but only so many to go around, the Patriots’ coaches have to make sure to keep everybody involved even when it is not their time to actively go through a drill. Head coach Bill Belichick noted as much during a media conference call on Thursday, stressing the importance of so-called mental reps.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about 13 offensive linemen or eight defensive tackles or four quarterbacks or nine receivers: it’s hard to get everybody the right amount of work or to get them the high volume. But I think you just try to balance that out and give everybody an opportunity, try to spread the reps out,” Belichick said.
“It’s very important for players at every position to learn from the guy who’s taking the reps. So, even though they’re not in there taking it, mentally they can still take it and still go through the process.”
While Belichick noted that this would apply to every position on the roster that has multiple players present for OTAs, one among them still stands out simply due to its importance: quarterback. Right now, New England has four QBs under contract and present for voluntary offseason workouts. Giving all of them a chance to learn the system in this environment is of the utmost importance.
On Thursday, Belichick explained how the team is tackling this issue and the message it is giving Cam Newton, Mac Jones, Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer.
“In the quarterback’s case, it is pre-snap keys and real-time timing, rather than watching it on film and that kind of thing, but real-time timing of, ‘Alright, here’s what happens when the ball snapped, here’s what I see, here’s where I go with the ball.’ But again, that’s true of every position. That’s what a good player will do. That’s what a good professional will do,” he said.
“They’ll take advantage of every rep, whether they’re in there or not, and then take advantage of the ones that they are in there on the field for. We emphasize that with all players and the place that they get, they get.”
Belichick explained that having depth at this time of the year is key, because teams can very quickly “having too many to not having enough” players in the fold. Regardless of how many are under contract, though, the message for the players remains the same: be attentive even when it is not your turn to go through drills.