It's only four days of practice and only two of those took place in full pads, but there were still some pretty obvious things to assess from the first taste of Patriots Training Camp 2014.
So while the players get the day off and the coaches reset their plans for moving forward when the team returns to the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium at 9:15 a.m. on Tuesday, PFW uses this opportunity to pick four major takeaways from the first four days of training camp.
1 – Revis is Moss-like:** Randy Moss was maybe the most impressive physical talent to ever grace the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. He was a freakish athlete whose immense abilities were as obvious as his unique personality. Revis' skills jump off the practice field in a similar way. His fluid coverage abilities are unlike anything we've seen since Ty Law, and probably ever. He will clearly be poised to take away opponents receivers as well or better than we saw from Aqib Talib over the last year-plus. The final way that Revis is like Moss is that he seems to decide on his own when a practice rep is over. Many times this past week he was running right with a guy only to pull up and decide he had done enough on that play only to watch the receiver continue across or down the field and, sometimes, make the reception. Greatness knows itself well, something we learned from Moss and are now seeing from Revis. I'll take it.
2 –**Garoppolo is a work in progress: Jimmy Garoppolo was the talk of the spring. As a second-round pick he created buzz as the perceived heir to Tom Brady's throne. He then went out and looked quite solid in OTA and mini-camp action. But the transition from shorts to full pads has been a tough one so far for No. 10. While many, including myself, felt after the spring that Garoppolo might be competing for the backup job his work through four days of action has been anything but competitive. Slow reads, too many check-downs, inaccurate throws and turnovers were the story. He even had a few botched snaps and handoffs. By extension, Ryan Mallett had arguably the best practice of his Patriots career with a few extra reps in Sunday's full-pads workout. Mallett also seems more boisterous, vociferous and energetic entering his fourth season. Early odds seem to point to the Patriots carrying three quarterbacks this fall, and that Garoppolo has a long way to go before he looks ready for the main backup job. But there is also plenty of time and many reps to come for him to improve in the big jump he's making this summer.
3 –**Gronkowski, Edelman, Amendola and then what?: It was great news that Rob Gronkowski was cleared to open camp and that much better to see him in full pads, even if he's not taking part in group or team drills at this point. Gronkowski is seemingly on pace to be ready for the opener in Miami, so the offense should have its most important player not named Brady to open the season. Phew! Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola have also looked very good to open camp, with maybe the one issue coming when they have had to face Revis. Hey, that happens. Both returning pass catchers – who were No. 1 and No. 2 in receptions last fall – appear healthy and ready to return to key roles. After that, though, there are nothing but unproven question marks. Brandon LaFell has been inconsistent and dropped the ball too often after missing much of the spring. Kenbrell Thompkins has been his up-and-down self, which was the story of his spring and entire rookie season. Aaron Dobson remains on PUP and continues to miss key reps and time to build a rapport with Brady. Josh Boyce has also had too many drops and seems to lack that extra gear to go after the ball in the air for a guy who's supposed to be a big-play speedster. The fact that Wilson Van Hooser has stood out at times for his production says something about the middle and bottom of the depth chart of pass catchers so far in camp. Michael Hoomanawanui is what he is. Justin Jones is intriguing, and has already shown improvement, but is raw. And didn't we learn a lesson with Zach "King of the Summer" Sudfeld last year? As it stands now the pressure is on Gronkowski, Edelman and Amendola – three guys with extensive injury histories – to stay in the mix if the offense is going to soar. To put a new spin on and old baseball slogan it's Gronk, Edelman and Amendola and pray for rain.
4 – James White is going to be a significant contributor as a rookie:** The fourth-round pick has been one of the best all-around performers in the early stages of camp. The versatile, athletic rookie has been in the mix running the ball, catching it and on special teams. He's gotten a lot of reps, including two days in pads with a decent focus on the running game. He's hit big plays on the ground and through the air. With Dominique Easley working back from his ACL and Bryan Stork taking more penalty laps in practice than almost anyone other than his roommate Garoppolo, White looks poised to be the top impact rookie at this very early stage. He should get his chances even with Shane Vereen doing his veteran thing, and if Vereen goes down it looks like New England is more poised to fill the passing back role than a year ago.
What do you think of these observations from the first week of camp? Anything else that's stood out to you as a fan? Let us know with a comment below!