Patriots

Postcard from Patriots Training Camp: With Tom Brady out, Brian Hoyer & Jarrett Stidham share the load

Postcard from Patriots Training Camp: With Tom Brady out, Brian Hoyer & Jarrett Stidham share the load

FOXBORO — The Patriots were back on the field for Day 2 of training camp practice, but there was one very prominent member of the roster who sat out the proceedings. Here’s what we saw . . . 

WHAT THEY WORE

Players were in shells and shorts yet again, but Tom Brady was not. He stretched with the team and got loose but did not participate. He wasn’t in uniform and his helmet was not around. “Just a day off,” is what our Tom Curran was told so nothing to worry about as far as the soon-to-be 42-year-old’s health is concerned. 

Patrick Chung remained in a red non-contact jersey. as did participating passers Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham. Danny Etling remained in a white jersey and worked with the receivers. 

ROLL CALL

Deatrich Wise was back in uniform Friday and hanging with the defensive linemen, a good sign that one of the team’s experienced defensive linemen is moving in the right direction. He started camp on the physically unable to perform list, but that appears to have changed. 

Michael Bennett and David Andrews were once again not participating. Julian Edelman, Nate Ebner, Sony Michel, Yodny Cajuste and Demaryius Thomas also remained out.  Byron Cowart left the session early, and Isaiah Wynn was once again not a full participant. Joe Thuney saw reps at left tackle again with Ted Karras and James Ferentz sharing left guard and center duties.

QUARTERBACKS NOT NAMED BRADY

Big day for Hoyer and Stidham, as you might expect. Here’s how they fared in 11-on-11 work.

Hoyer went 11-for-13 and looked sharp at times, particularly after getting into a rhythm. His flag route toss to Phillip Dorsett deep down the field was probably his prettiest of the day. He also hit big tight end Matt LaCosse on a seam with Elandon Roberts draped all over him. Even the shorter stuff was impressive at times as he found James White on what looked like an option route over the middle with Terrence Brooks close in coverage. 

Stidham, meanwhile, went 9-for-12 with a pick in competitive 11-on-11 work. His best work came at the end of the practice when he hit all five of his throws in the final offensive period of the day. He rolled out to his right, away from a Brandon King blitz, and found Jakobi Meyers on a diving touchdown grab. He also hit a beautiful wheel route throw to White down the sideline for another score that was dropped in the bucket. Stidham also had an impressive roll to his left, finding Maurice Harris on a throw that traveled about 30 yards and was caught in the back of the end zone.

As scouts have told us, he throws a nice ball, even when off-platform, meaning even when he’s on the move, if his feet aren’t set perfectly, he can be accurate and put some velocity on the thing. Stidham certainly had reps that made him look like a rookie as well. The Harris throw was held onto for quite a while. He had other reps where he tucked and ran because he couldn’t find anyone. Midway through the practice, he had to throw one away after searching (unsuccessfully) for an open target. His pick came on a throw into traffic that was secured by Brooks. 

Where the indecision really hurt Stidham was in the 3-on-2 and 7-on-7 work he did.  Working in the red zone in 7-on-7 he was picked by Duke Dawson on one play that stretched too long. Soon thereafter he had one back-shoulder pass broken up by Jason McCourty and Devin McCourty picked Stidham off moments later. Three picks in all between 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills isn’t ideal, but Stidham certainly showed enough promise at the end of the session to give him something positive to build on moving forward. Not just his accuracy, but his understanding of where pressure was coming from seemed to be advanced. We’ll see how he fares when the pads come on this weekend — if he’s given many reps once Brady is back in the mix. 

In 7-on-7 stuff, Hoyer made nice touchdown throws to Stephen Anderson and N’Keal Harry. He had another pass that Dorsett had to climb the ladder for that was completed along the back end line of the end zone. 

OBSERVATIONS WORTH NOTING

Late in the practice, Harry wasn’t sure where to line up. Brian Hoyer had to call timeout. When they aligned again, Harry was in the wrong spot. Bill Belichick sent the entire offense for a lap and then brought the entire team together on the middle of the field for a quick chat. Warm and fuzzy, I’m sure. 

One pass disruption other than those noted above by Brooks, Dawson and the McCourtys: Obi Melifonwu had a pass-breakup in 7-on-7 when he got his hands on a Hoyer throw. His size makes him an intriguing red-zone coverage option where space is hard to come by.

LaCosse (on a dangerous pass over the middle by Hoyer), Braxton Berrios (on a pass thrown behind him by Stidham) and Ryan Davis (in an individual drill) all had drops. Anderson dropped one as well in a drill when linebacker Jamie Collins punched it loose soon after it was caught. 

Jake Bailey hit a few monster punts early in the practice, but it seemed as though every time the rookie fifth-rounder blasted one . . . the next was shanked. Consistency an issue for him Friday. Ryan Allen was steady, as he typically is. 

Returning punts Friday — and there’s still no definitive top choice for that role — were Harry, Berrios, Patrick Chung, Gunner Olszewski and Maurice Harris. 

Harris had a great day. He was on the receiving end of Stidham’s nice roll-out pass, but he was also one of Hoyer’s favorite targets in 11-on-11 work, catching all four passes sent his way in those periods. 

New tight end Lance Kendricks is working with other new faces primarily, but he caught my eye early in the session when he made a diving grab in a tight area on a short Stidham throw. 

Patriots who switched positions under Belichick>>>>>

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How Drew Brees' return impacts Tom Brady, Patriots and NFL free agency

How Drew Brees' return impacts Tom Brady, Patriots and NFL free agency

The New Orleans Saints should feel confident at least one of their three quarterbacks will return for the 2020 NFL season.

Future Hall of Famer Drew Brees announced Tuesday on Instagram that he's coming back for what will be his 20th pro season. Brees didn't explicitly say he's returning to the Saints, but the language in his Instagram post makes it sound like New Orleans is the likely destination.

How does Brees' decision impact Tom Brady and the New England Patriots as free agency nears? Let's take a look.

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1. Will Teddy Bridgewater and/or Taysom Hill leave the Saints?
It's unreasonable to expect Brees, Bridgewater and Hill all to be back in New Orleans next season. The Saints, according to OvertheCap.com, have the sixth-lowest salary cap space in the league and we don't yet know what Brees' 2020 salary will be. 

Bridgewater went 5-0 and played quite well in Brees' absence in 2019. He deserves to be a starter somewhere, and according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, there could be a robust market for the young quarterback.

Hill has been used in a variety of roles for the Saints, including quarterback, running back and wide receiver. He's among the most versatile players in the league and should receive a nice raise from whichever team signs him this offseason. It should be noted Hill is a restricted free agent, so it's a little easier for the Saints to keep him. Bridgewater is an unrestricted free agent.

Brees and Hill coming back, with the latter having a larger role in the offense, probably is the best-case scenario for the Saints. They should again be among the top contenders in the NFC as long as Brees is healthy next season.

2. Teddy Bridgewater is an intriguing Tom Brady replacement
Bridgewater would be among the best options for the Patriots if Brady were to leave in free agency. Brady, after the spending the last 20 seasons with the Patriots, has the ability to be a UFA for the first time in his career in March.

Brady obviously would be the best quarterback available if he reached the open market, but he'll be 43 years old in August. Teams looking for a more long-term answer at quarterback now are likely to have another good option in Bridgewater, who's only 27 years old.

Bridgewater completed 67.9 percent of his passes for 1,384 yards with nine touchdowns and two interceptions in nine appearances for the Saints in 2019. Two of his wins as a starter came against quality opponents in the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys.

He has not been a full-time starter since 2015, one year before he suffered a major knee injury. That said, Bridgewater is still young and ranks among the most accurate quarterbacks in the league. The resiliency he's shown to bounce back from a horrific injury and become a starting-caliber quarterback again has been quite impressive.

3. Cross one name off the top free agent QBs list
The 2020 class of free agent quarterbacks is pretty strong, even if Brees returns to the Saints.

In addition to Brady and Bridgewater, other players who could be available include Jameis Winston, Ryan Tannehill, Marcus Mariota, Philip Rivers and Case Keenum. Teams looking to upgrade at quarterback in free agency should have plenty of options to consider once the market opens in March. 

4. NFL record books
Brady and Brees had a good duel in 2019 for the most regular season touchdown passes in league history, and with both quarterbacks set to play in 2020, that battle will resume in September. 


Click for the top free agent QBs in 2020

What Tom Brady texted Ben Affleck about his pending NFL free agency

What Tom Brady texted Ben Affleck about his pending NFL free agency

At least Ben Affleck tried.

The famous actor and celebrity Boston sports fan joined ESPN's "Get Up!" on Tuesday and dropped an interesting nugget: He had just hung out with New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady the night before.

Since Brady is set to become the NFL's highest-profile free agent in a month, there's only one question worth asking Affleck: Where did the 42-year-old say he's playing this season?

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Here's Affleck on that subject, via ESPN:

Me and Matt (Damon) texted him: 'What's the deal? Are you going or are you staying? And this is what we got back: An emoji (shrugs).

So, that's where "Brady Watch" stands with first day of free agency one month (March 18) away: a shrug emoji.

Brady likely wouldn't have revealed his free-agent plans to Affleck and Damon even if he knew them. But it's also likely even he doesn't know where he'll end up.

Our Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran reported Monday that Brady and the Patriots won't begin negotiations until either late February or early March, around the time of the NFL Scouting Combine.

While Brady could have back-channel discussions before then, the 20-year-veteran won't have a clear sense of whether he should "stay" or "go" until he sits down with the Patriots.

Maybe shoot Tom a follow-up text in a couple weeks, Ben?