The bar wasn’t set that high for seventh-round pick Danny Etling coming out of LSU. He was a prudent game manager for the Tigers, throwing 27 touchdowns and seven picks in his final two college seasons (16 and two in 2017), but nothing in particular about his physical tools popped.
Coming into New England, he had all the makings of a developmental prospect. And the learning curve during camp seemed especially high for him because his delivery and accuracy simply weren’t good enough. During some sessions early in camp, he was impossibly wild.
On Tuesday, he settled in nicely. With the team’s first preseason game two days away, Etling got a ton of reps in the tropical heat and had his best practice, going 16 for 24 in 11-on-11s with an interception. The pick came early and it was bad. A dart right into the belly of Donta Hightower that Hightower had no choice but to pick off. But after that, Etling showed command and arm strength he hadn’t really displayed consistently. Throws in the seam and to the sideline to Braxton Berrios and Riley McCarron were fit into tight spots and delivered on a line.
Etling almost certainly won’t unseat Brian Hoyer as the backup heading into the season and his in-game performances in the four preseason games need to be good enough to keep the team optimistic about his upside as something more than a camp arm. But he made a case for himself on Tuesday.