FOXBORO, MA — Each day of Training Camp is starting to feel closer and closer to NFL football, with a big step tonight as practice moved inside Gillette Stadium. The Patriots held their annual season ticket holders/Foxboro residents ticketed practice Monday night (the juxtaposition of those who cause some of the worst traffic known to man, and those who have to live with it). For the majority of you who don’t fit in one of those two groups, here is what you missed…
1Who’s Behind Gronk
The battle for the crucial backup tight-end spot took an interesting turn Monday night. It was exclusively Jacob Hollister running as the second tight end with the first team offense. Hollister hauled in a pair of touchdowns from Tom Brady, including one in the Red Zone. Hollister continues to be the rising star of camp after spending most of last year on the practice squad. Speaking to the media before practice, Belichick credited the Wyoming product’s growth to having spent a full year in an NFL system. Dwayne Allen and Will Tye split time on the second unit, with Tye continuing to show flashes of the player who was a 2015 All-Rookie with the Giants. Tye is scheduled to make $700,000 this year, the final year of his deal, while Allen’s cap hit will be $5 million this year, then $7.4 million next year. It’s still early, but the former Colt needs to find a way to show the coaching staff he’s worth that number with an affordable replacement waiting in the wings.
2New Return Game
If you missed it over the offseason, the NFL revamped their kickoff rules for 2018. Tonight was our first extended look at what strategy adjustments come with the new regulations, and what the return unit will be for the Patriots. Tonight saw Cordarrelle Patterson, Rex Burkhead, and Sony Michel on the first return unit, with Pat Chung, Jeremy Hill, and Riley McCarron also getting reps. The Patriots also practiced a couple of safety kick/returns, and on those downs Julian Edelman was added to the rotation.
3Nice Rebound For Brady
Sunday wasn’t a banner day for Tom Brady at practice, which brought out the questions about rust following his missing OTAs. Brady silenced the critics Monday night, putting on a show, particularly with the deep ball. At various points throughout the night, he would find Jacob Hollister, Philip Dorsett, and Julian Edelman for deep touchdowns. The Edelman throw was his best of the night, as he dropped a touch pass between two safeties to connect with #11 on the goal line off a wheel route. Brady did have one miscue on the night though; when trying to connect on another deep ball with Cordarrelle Patterson, he left his throw a bit short, giving Ryan Lewis a chance to come back and make a nice play, fighting off Patterson for the ball. Lewis, who spent last year on the practice squad, was so excited he stayed on the ground for 30 seconds clutching the ball, refusing to give it up to coaches or players to tried to return it to the line of scrimmage.
4Heads Up Rook!
At the end of practice, Isaiah Wynn found himself lined up to field a punt with the entire team (and crowd) watching. After dropping the first, chants from the stadium got him a redemption shot…and brought the crowd to their feet.
5Play Of The Day
While Brady shined overall, it was Brian Hoyer who was on the throwing end of the play of the day. During 7-on-7s, Hoyer found James White along the sideline running step-for-step with rookie Duke Dawson. Hoyer lofted the ball just far enough in front of White that Dawson couldn’t make the play, and White extended to make the catch. It was similar to a play Shane Vereen made against the Jets in 2014 (and on the same part of the field) to open the scoring in a Thursday Night Football matchup.
No new injuries to report tonight, as it was a much slower tempo practice than the previous days in full pads. However, Jordan Matthews was absent after leaving practice early Sunday with a hamstring injury. Kenny Britt was in attendance, but did not suit up or participate. Mike Gillislee was absent yet again, while the other backs all cycled through on the top unit.