Day 3 of Patriots Training Camp is in the books. We finally got to see the team in full pads, or as Bill Belichick calls it ‘real football’. It was a big day for both the offensive and defensive line, and the running game featured heavily in the practice schedule. Overall, it felt like the defense won the day, as is often the case on the first day of full contact. A packed house added to the ‘real football’ atmosphere. Fans were packed onto the ramps behind the stadium for the second day in a row. While many have become accustomed to the standing room only practices in late July and early August, it’s still impressive that the Patriots can draw 10s of thousands for a practice session year after year. If you weren’t one of many in attendance today, here’s what you missed…
1Rough Day For the QBs
While Tom Brady had his own issues to deal with after practice, the struggle on the field was real for both Brian Hoyer and Danny Etling. Hoyer was erratic at times, including missing a wide open Dwayne Allen on a wheel route in 11 on 11’s on the goal line. Later in the drill, it was indecision got him, as he double pumped and eventually pulled the ball down while looking over the middle, only to take a sack before getting to his next read. He was also victimized by Duron Harmon who had a Red Zone INT (more on that in a bit). As for Etling, the Patriots 7th round pick this year, there is still quite the learning curve ahead. After going 1-7 in 7 on 7s (his lone completion was a check down), he struggled throwing 1-on-1 drills, going just 2-5. Most of his throws were either high or too far out in front of their intended target. While the LSU product certainly has an NFL cannon, the rest of his game is going to take some time.
Duron Harmon made the most of the QB struggles today with a pair of INTs. His first came on an excellent read and react to a comeback route thrown by Brian Hoyer. After the pick, Harmon took off down the sideline, running for about 25 yards after the whistles blew the play dead. He followed that up by celebrating with a few defensive teammates down on that end of the field in a real ‘back-to-football’ kind of moment you love to see early in camp. Add in a pick of Tom Brady, and you get one heck of a start to camp for the 27 year old safety.
3Size On Size
One of the most explosive moments of the day came in 1-on-1 drills between the offensive and defensive line. Adrian Clayborn is rarely on the wrong side of a matchup when it comes to size (6-3, 280), but such was the case when he got matched up against another first-year Patriot, tackle Trent Brown (6-8, 380). Despite the 100 pound difference, Clayborn won the battle, sending Brown back a few steps before planting him in the grass. As is often the case in the trenches, the low man won, size aside. By the way, don’t let this one instance take away from the job Brown has done so far as the apparent starting left tackle. Outside of that one hiccup, he’s been solid the first three days protecting Tom Brady’s blindside.
4Sony’s Ball Security
Sony Michel has drawn the most attention of any Patriots rookie so far in camp, practicing with the first team offense and showing early signs that he is starting to earn Tom Brady’s trust. However, he had a bit of a welcome to the NFL moment today in red zone 11-on-11s. After getting through the line, Michel slowed up a bit seeing nothing but the end zone ahead of him. Given the chance, a few defenders caught up and jumped on his back, with one punching the ball out. If there’s one thing Bill Belichick wants from his running backs, its to hold onto the ball. Michel will get plenty of more chances to prove himself, but that’s one I’m sure he’d like to have back.
5High On Hollister
At one point during practice, Tom Brady was throwing on a side field with just James White and second year tight end Jacob Hollister, with a few coaches providing coverage. White is one of Brady’s most trusted targets, so to see Hollister work his way into that circle is an encouraging sign. It feels like he is neck and neck with Dwayne Allen for the second TE spot right now, and given Rob Gronkowski’s injury history and contract status, he could become a crucial part of the offense at a moment’s notice. For what it’s worth, he looked good during the session, running crisp routes (mostly in-cuts) and catching everything thrown his way.
With Julian Edelman suspended the first four games of the year, and Danny Amendola now in Miami, the biggest special teams question of this camp is who will return punts early in the year, and possibly all season if the Patriots don’t want to put too much strain on Edelman’s surgically repaired ACL. The group returning punts today included rookie Braxton Berrios (who has a blow-away first step), practice squader Riley McCarron, Patrick Chung, and Edelman. Early on, it looks like Berrios has the inside track on the job, coming off of his senior season at Miami where he averaged 15.9 yards a return.
The training staff had it pretty easy today. Marcus Cannon, after leaving practice early yesterday, was back on the field and appeared to be a full participant. Only one player left early today; Trey Flowers was helped to the locker room holding a towel to his face during the end of the session. Phillip Dorsett also came up limping a bit after getting jammed at the line in WR-DB 1-on-1s, but after jogging for about 30 seconds went back into the drill and received no additional attention after that.
8The Red Carpet
Tiquan Underwood (and his hair) were in attendance for the second day in a row. Another former Patriot player-turned-coach was in Foxboro as well. Sammy Morris, who both played and coached under Belichick, spoke to the crowd before the team took the field. Morris is now the running backs coach at DIII Dean College in Franklin.