Mike Giardi

Hoyer knows there's a lot to measure up to in backing up the GOAT

Hoyer knows there's a lot to measure up to in backing up the GOAT

FOXBORO - Brian Hoyer has been around long enough to know the deal. He spent as much time post-practice today talking about the guy he backs up - you may have heard of him, a fella by the name of Tom Brady - as he did about his own play here in camp, especially on Brady’s 41st birthday. 

As someone who was here for three-plus years as Brady’s understudy, then went away and returned midway through last season, Hoyer has a great perspective on what, if anything, has changed with 12.

“Someone asked me last week and I said just the gray hair,” smiled Hoyer, knowing full well he himself has zero hair. “It’s inspiring for me to be around because you see a guy who has accomplished so much but still has the drive and passion to come out here. I joked with him the other day and said how many 41-year-olds are running up a hill in full pads right now? In the entire world? So to me, to see someone that I looked up to as a mentor and a role model, to see him still doing it - I feel old at times and I’m only 32 - so it’s fun.”

Brady has been playing the best football of his career the past four seasons, winning two Super Bowls, losing another and getting bounced in the AFC title game. He also capped his 40th year on this planet by being named league MVP. And yet to Hoyer’s eyes, Brady is still as intense and locked in as ever despite a different offseason plan.

“…his preparation, how critical he is of everything he does,” noted Hoyer. “He’s so self-critical - whether it’s throwing the ball, a read, and for me, that’s always great for me to see as a reminder that this is how its gotta be done. It’s awesome to be back here and see that nothing has really changed. He’s the same Tom I know. He comes out every day and is competitive and wants to be the best.”

That’s a tough player to be measured against every day, and the offense clearly takes a step back when Hoyer is at the helm (duh). After a solid start to camp, the veteran has scuffled the past two days of camp, even when given a greater workload as was the case Friday. Our own Phil Perry charted competitive periods and had Hoyer 17-of-30 with two interceptions and a fumble. His accuracy just hasn’t been what it’s needed to be, but Hoyer is facing no pressure from rookie Danny Etling, who finally had what would qualify as his first decent day.

“You’re always fighting and for me, look it, I’ve been on a lot of teams and you never know what’s going to happen,” said Hoyer. “The only thing you can control is the way you got out and play. So that’s all the way up to other people and I’m at peace with that. At this point in my career, I go out and try to play the best I can. Whatever happens, happens.”

Hoyer was brought to be in the 'in-case-of-emergency, break-glass' guy. He doesn't have "upside" anymore, but the Pats knew that when the team brought him back. They wanted someone who knew the offense and could be trusted to not fall flat on his face should the moment arise. A couple bad days of training camp won't change that. Hoyer is the next man up, for better or worse.

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Camp Battles: Toughest foe for the big guys might be the heat

Camp Battles: Toughest foe for the big guys might be the heat

When you’re 6-foot-8, 370-some-odd pounds like Trent Brown, you don’t face too many formidable foes. But in training camp, there’s one consistently whapping the big fella on the noggin. That’s the heat. 

Thursday’s practice saw the mercury climb into the high 80s, and with the exception of an occasional breeze, there was precious little air to breathe. But Brown not only survived but thrived, continuing to look dominating while getting his work in.

“It’s not fun,” said the soft-spoken Brown. “But this is what we were working for all offseason.”

In large part, conditioning is what the offseason is all about. For guys such as Brown and rookie first-rounder Isaiah Wynn, some of what they could do was hampered by offseason surgery, but to their credit, both big men passed the conditioning run. In fact, as far as we know, every player on the roster did so.

The requirements vary by position, but the gist is a bunch of sprints with little rest between each rep. As Eric Rowe told me, “if you can’t pass it, you probably weren’t doing all you should do.” Of course, that’s easy for a cornerback to say, but the big bodies tend to labor more, especially in the heat. Marcus Cannon left practice on Day 1 (and again Wednesday) with heat thought to be the culprit. Still, those sights have been few and far between.

“It sucks,” said newcomer Danny Shelton, who’s lugging around 343 pounds on his frame, “but I take pride in being able to do what the coaches ask me and that was one of the things that has to be done.”

This camp had been a little slower paced than previous ones but it’s a credit to the linemen in particular that they’ve managed to stay on the field and do what’s required. Thus far, they’ve triumphed over the conditions, and have even managed to run the hills a couple times after practice. No doubt that makes Bill Belichick a happy man, though you probably won’t catch him smile.

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Camp Battles: Allen finds some punting competition

Camp Battles: Allen finds some punting competition

FOXBORO -- For the second time in three years, the Patriots postseason went awry in part because of special teams. 

Whether it was the failed extra point in the 2015 AFC title game in Denver or the shanked field goal in this past Super Bowl, kicker Stephen Gostkowski has been in the middle of that mess. So, you’d think perhaps the Pats would bring in some competition for the 34-year-old  kicker. You’d be wrong. Instead, it’s incumbent punter Ryan Allen who’s facing the challenge from undrafted rookie Corey Bojorquez. 

Allen has been fairly steady for the better part of his five-year career in New England. Yes, his yards per punt have come down from a high of 46.4 in 2014 to a career-low of 43.4 this past season but he did manage to drop 24 of his 58 punts inside the 20-yard line, the second-highest percentage of his tenure. Couple that dependability with his job as full-time holder for Gostkowski, and Allen would seem to have the inside track on retaining his job.

However, Bojorquez has what appears to be a bionic leg. He has boomed punts with regularity both in the spring and in the first week of camp. He’s outdone Allen with both hang time and distance, but his problem has been both consistency - he’s had a couple of shanks - and sometimes he’s displayed too much leg, which would have resulted in touchbacks. If he can find a more even approach, the New Mexico product might just unseat the vet. Bojorquez will also have to prove he can hold kicks as well as Allen has. That will certainly play a role in the final decision.