The New England Patriots opened up training camp to the public on Thursday and many observers got their first look at the 2015 squad. Patriots fans were out in full force, no question a sight for sore eyes as football is back.
Here are my observations for Thursday. —
– A lighter day for the team as camp opens up. As it states in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, clubs cannot practice in pads until the third day, so we likely won’t see that until Saturday.
Only some players had shells, most were in shorts and t-shirts. A very hot day, low intensity, as camp gets underway.
– A lot of energy from the players and fans Thursday. Chants from the crowd periodically yelling “Brady! Brady! Brady!” When Robert Kraft walked onto the field, he visited with fans and then was met with a loud round of applause, pumping his fist in the air.
– The players were not wearing jersey numbers on their clothes, which made it difficult to keep track of certain things. Some players are easier to spot than others, but it will limit some of the information we’ll be able to provide.
For those asking, this isn’t standard operating procedure for Bill Belichick and the Pats. Maybe in Organized Team Activities or mini-camp, but not training camp. This move, to me, is about Belichick sticking it to the media with the “Deflategate” narrative rolling on. Unfortunately, the fans are collateral damage.
– Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo both looked sharp today. Garoppolo had an early interception, but recovered nicely. He looks much improved from the last time I saw him live, which was last summer. He looks more confident under center and has command in the pocket.
Brady looked strong as well, picking up where he left off. He had a few beautiful passes, finding Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski and Josh Boyce regularly.
In a lighter day, mostly quarterbacks and pass catchers are going to stand out. But I was happy with the development from Garoppolo and Brady’s strong showing with everything going on.
– The most impressive player on the field Thursday was Edelman. I don’t want to overstate it, but it was noteworthy. He looked crisp in-and-out of his breaks, ran precise routes and had some very nice catches.
Last summer it looked like he took a step forward and took his game to a new level, that carried over into the season. With nearly 90 players and coaches on the field, he separated himself.
– Staying in the same vein, Brian Tyms and Aaron Dobson had solid days. Both are battling for the fourth receiver role and caught everything that came their way.
– At one point during a special teams drill, Brady took Rob Gronkowski, Scott Chandler, Dobson and Edelman to corner end zone. Each player took turns running routes, mostly fades to the corner and slants near the goal line.
Not sure who is taller, but Chandler and Gronkowski are huge. Josh McDaniels will get creative with them in the red zone. Opposing defenses are going to have a hard time slowing the offense down.
– We didn’t see much of them, but it was good to have linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Jerod Mayo on the field. Hopefully both will be ready to go for the opener. Along with Jamie Collins, the Patriots will have a very talented group in the middle of the defense.
– The play of the day happened towards the end of practice. Brady handed the ball off to Brandon Bolden, who handed it off to Edelman on a reverse sweep. Brady ran a wheel route off right tackle and Edelman threw a pass to no.12. Brady hauled in the pass with one-handed and kept his feet in bounds down the sideline for the score.