Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Brady, Belichick all business as Patriots endure lengthy practice

What has Tom Brady all steamed?

This preseason, its only the broiling sun on a humid afternoon in Richmond, Virginia, where for the second day in a row he took a standard full games worth of reps - and then finished off his day running conditioning sprints up the side of a hill, courtesy of coach Bill Belichick's obsession with squeezing every ounce of effort from each player.

The cantankerous coach swinging his whistle like he was trying to create a vortex, spouting motivational slogans while his young charges run wind sprints, conjuring images of the crazy-tough Herman Boone from decades earlier, his T.C. Williams High School team gasping for air in the stifling humidity - as told in the Disney film Remember The Titans - less than an hour's drive from where the Patriots and the Washington Redskins are holding joint practices.
Brady huddles with his winded offense in the Virginia heat

"This is where we win - the fourth quarter!" Belichick bellowed at his laboring players, proving once more his belief that the better conditioned team will have what it takes to pull out a victory late in the game.

"You can’t get in condition to play football without playing football." Belichick told beat writers just before practice commenced, perhaps giving them an itinerary for the brutal day. "You can run around a track and do sit-ups and all of that until the cows come home, but you’ve got to get in condition to play football by playing football."

"Hopefully our team will be ready to play on opening day from a conditioning standpoint, that’s what our goal is and we’ll try to build toward that goal."

Was that a smile?

"It builds some mental toughness." a weary-looking Brady offered when asked about the conditioning. "You see where you’re at. It’s certainly not easy to come out here and be out here for three hours and every drill is competitive and every drill you want to do the right thing but that’s where the mental toughness comes into play."

Brady was complimentary of the Washington Redskins, but his words had an edge when it came to dishing out the same old road apples about his own offense - because this wasn't Tom Brady trying to be politically correct or trying to sugar-coat things like he did last year when he and his receivers were suffering through a miserable start to their relationship... this was Tom Brady telling it like it is - no sugar, all business.
Logan Ryan continues to show starter-quality skill

"I think the more experience you have typically the better it goes and I think that we’ve had a lot of growing pains, you know." Brady said in reference to last season when it was his young receivers that had him boiling at times. "There’s certainly more familiarity within the skill group".

Welcome words from the now grizzled veteran who became so incensed and frustrated with his pass catchers last season that he had a very public meltdown in front of a national television audience just before halftime of their Thursday Night showdown with the hated New York Jets.

But he survived and the Patriots stayed the course with their young pass catchers, hoping to lay the foundation for a solid corps for years to come, and it appears that their dedication to the roster - feeding the rookies the ball when public opinion said to bring in some experienced receivers - is about to pay off.

"like I said the experience is very helpful and I think having the opportunity to play with Danny and KT and Aaron and Josh..." Brady trailed off, perhaps having one of those hellishly introspective flashback moments of the tough times, then he began again. "and Brandon LaFell comes in this year and he’s done a great job since he’s come in and done things. James White has done a great job. The more guys that we have on the same page, doing the right thing, that do their job really well dependably and consistently, the better we’re going to be."

Brady didn't mention Julian Edelman in that soliloquy, as they have played together for what seems like an eternity, though it was just last season that "Minitron" really broke onto the scene in topping both the one hundred catch and one thousand yard plateau as Brady's most dependable receiver, and appears to be on a different level from the other pass catchers as far as synchronicity with Brady.

But the way this training camp is going, Brady is going to have his pick of playmakers on the field at any one time - no big names, mind you, with the exception of larger-than-life tight end Rob Gronkowski, but all with the knowledge, skill and dedication to make this Patriots' offense the most versatile since the title years, and the 37-year-old gunslinger knows what he has.

"We’ve got to have an offense where you can dish the ball to really anybody" he smiled, "and that person is going to make the play."

Thompkins the pest:

Yesterday, we pondered the notion of whether Thompkins' recent dustups in practice was an anomaly or if he was really that competitive, asking, "Ok, it is really just Brandon Browner punking Kenbrell Thompkins, or does the second year undrafted free agent have something to do with initiating dust ups in practice?"

Turns out, it is Kenbrell Thompkins. 

Maybe it has something to do with the physicality that he faces every day in practice from Brandon Browner, but it appears that Thompkins is mad as hell, and isn't going to take it any more - either that or he's been hanging around with Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins too much, because the second year undrafted free agent has developed quite the repertoire of ways to get under a cornerback's skin.

Well, at least the Redskins' cornerbacks took exception to his physical play...

Logan Ryan inching his way into the starting lineup:

Ryan took reps with the first team on Tuesday from the slot, and being so physical and sticky in coverage that he seemed to frustrate Redskins' slot receiver Santana Moss and elicited celebration from the Patriots' sideline.

Ryan taking top reps shouldn't be viewed as anything more than a chance for the second year ball magnet to hone his skills, because he should be the top candidate to start opposite Darrelle Revis when the games start to count for real, something that is becoming more and more obvious the more Brandon Browner holds on the outside...

Browner the nickle:

Browner was pulled from practice during 11 on 11 drills in favor of Malcolm Butler as the big, physical corner was consistently beaten off the line trying to cover the outside receivers, lending credence to the thought that, just like with Kyle Arrington, Browner works best on the interior as a big nickle, as he can use his length and physical nature in space to counter a conspicuous lack of speed.

The former Seahawks' corner lost his starting job on the outside last season, benched in the game against Tennessee after being beat cleanly down the sideline twice and replaced by Byron Maxwell, who kept the starting gig for the balance of the season.

This is not to say that Browner can't be effective, he just needs to be in a position to succeed, and his disruptive nature on the field would be best utilized as an intimidator in the big nickle role where he can also be a force against the run.

Siliga fractures something, sporting a black cast on left hand:

Siliga departed practice early, pulling off his glove and pointing something out on his left hand to the team trainers.  He emerged from the locker room shortly thereafter sporting a hard cast on the injured appendage - but the team offered no update on the injury.

On the other side in the trenches, it was curious to note that Dan Connolly was again taking first-team reps at center with talented second-year man Josh Kline working at right guard.  This has been a trend throughout camp and perhaps gives an indication that Ryan Wendell's days as the team's starting center may be numbered.

Wednesday itinerary:

The two teams conclude their joint practices on Wednesday morning with an 8:30 am walk through in shorts and shells, the will make the short trip to Landover, Maryland in preparation for their preseason opener against each other on Thursday night at FedEx Field.

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