From the moment word surfaced that the Patriots had traded for Brandin Cooks, there was an excitement surrounding the offense. Nothing that has happened since has done anything to alter that perception.
Cooks has been a standout from the start of camp, catching passes and darting around the practice fields with seemingly effortless motion and lightning quick feet. But as good as he was throughout the first week-plus, he's taken it to a different level since the Jaguars came to town.
During the two days of work against Jacksonville it could be argued that Cooks was the best player on the field. He showed his deep speed on Monday, racing past the secondary on a pair of occasions to get open deep down the field. On Tuesday the Jags simply couldn't cover him.
Tom Brady looked in his direction often and virtually every time the pair made a connection. Whether it was one-on-ones to start practice (Cooks made a terrific one-handed grab in the end zone) or during full team work (several more touchdowns), Cooks was unstoppable.
"Great teammate. B-Cooks, Cookie – he's a great energy around us," Julian Edelman said after practice. "He works hard, he's disciplined, he's fast and he does a lot of things, makes great catches, but more importantly, he's just a great teammate. It's exciting to have him in our room. It's exciting to have him on our team because he's going to make us better, so it's been great."
Cooks has worked hard to immerse himself into the offense, something Bill Belichick noticed right from the start.
"Very hard-working kid. Brandin works hard on the field, off the field, in the classroom, in the weight room, training, conditioning, practice tempo," Belichick said. He wants to know the right way to do it, wants to try to do it the way you want it done. He's been a pleasure to coach."
Cooks has enjoyed the work against Jacksonville, explaining how going against another team raises the level of competition for everyone. Cooks' level was already pretty high, but few could argue his performance wasn't even more impressive against the Jaguars.
Overall both offenses fared better on Tuesday than was the case a day earlier. Brady was sharp while taking the vast majority of reps during the team periods. Belichick has explained in the past that those receiving the bulk of the reps during these joint practices generally don't receive as much playing time in the game, so it would make sense to expect to see plenty of Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett Thursday night.
Here are one man's observations from the Patriots 11th practice of training camp and ninth in full pads.
Check out our favorite photos from Patriots joint practice with the Jaguars at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday. Aug. 8, 2017.
-There were some additions to the list of absentees on Tuesday, most notably cornerback Eric Rowe and linebacker Shea McClellin. Rowe was limping toward the end of Monday's practice and was replaced by Jonathan Jones. It is unclear what caused McClellin to miss practice. Also, rookie tackle Tony Garcia, linebacker Trevor Bates and Matthew Slater were not spotted. Don't'a Hightower (PUP), Alan Branch (PUP) and Andrew Jelks (NFI) remain out of uniform as well.
-Wide receivers Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola and Cody Hollister, tight end James O'Shaughnessy, running back Mike Gillislee, safety David Jones, defensive tackle Vincent Valentine and tackle Nate Solder all suited up but spent most of the morning rehabbing on the lower field. Mitchell took part in the one-on-one drills against the Jags for the second day in a row before heading for rehab. Valentine, who appeared to be trying to work through a possible back injury on Monday, did not take any reps with the defense. Solder did some work with a heavy bag in the Dante's Inferno area where the offensive linemen train toward the end of the practice.
-Rob Gronkowski went through the positional drills without his arm brace but once the contact began in full team work the brace was back.
-Cooks and Amendola worked with a resistance band around their legs at the knees during the drills at the start of practice. Amendola spent quite some time talking with Belichick during that period.
-"The Boys of Fall" remains a staple of the stretching period.
-The secondary was working fighting off blocks with an orange ball rolled at their legs. The ball was smaller the ones normally seen in these types of drills.
-There were quite of few guests around the practice fields on Tuesday. Former linebacker Tedy Bruschi was on hand, and at one point he chatted with his former teammate Rick Lyle. Lyle, who was a member of the Patriots defensive line from 2002-03, handled the snapping duties for the Jaguars during the 7-on-7 period, although he is not listed among the team's coaches.
-Belichick spent some time chatting with Jaguars coach Doug Marrone and former Eagles and 49ers coach Chip Kellyat the start of practice. Kelly was a guest in Foxborough during the spring as well.
-There was quite a bit of family for the players on hand, most notably Brady's mother, Galynn. Galynn is recovering from cancer and several Patriots took some time to say hello, including Edelman, Belichick and Linda Holliday and former Patriot Willie McGinest. McGinest conducted interviews with Brady and Edelman for NFL Network.
-For the second straight day Malcolm Butler really struggled in one-on-ones but was much better in full team work. Allen Robinson toasted his twice for touchdowns before journeyman Arrelious Benn got the better of him later. But once things switched to 11-on-11 Butler was his normal feisty self. He made a terrific diving play in front of Robinson to prevent a completion and showed tight coverage several other times as well. He nearly had his second pick in as many days in the end zone when he undercut a route but was unable to come away with the catch in front of Benn.
-Stephon Gilmore followed Butler's great diving pass defense with one of his own on the next snap. He timed his dive perfectly, knocking Bortles' pass away from Robinson across the middle. Robinson did gain a measure of revenge later when he beat Gilmore down the left sideline and not only drew a flag for pass interference but also made the catch for a big gain.
-Gronkowski dominated whenever he was targeted as the Jaguars had no answers for the huge tight end. During 7-on-7s he caught at least three touchdowns and during 11-on-11 work he was tough to deal with as well. One example came late in practice with the Patriots working in a hurry-up situation. Gronkowski went up for a ball near the left sideline and high-pointed the catch with ease before keeping his feet in bounds. Jags safety Barry Church knocked him off his feet on the play and the tight end wasn't too pleased. Overall it was a strong day for Gronk.
-Devin Lucien continues to make the most of his opportunities. With several receivers banged up, Lucien has had a lot of work and once again on Tuesday he came up with some niche grabs. The best came down the left sideline when he caught a ball from Garoppolo between a pair of Jags defenders for a touchdown. Unfortunately for the young receiver, Lucien appeared to injure his hamstring at one point and spent some time trying to work through the injury, although he remained on the field for the rest of practice.
-Robert Kraft came out to watch practice early on.
-The Patriots pass rush was effective in pretty much every team period. The Jags had the ball five times and the Patriots applied a good amount of pressure on Blake Bortles every time. Harvey Langi appeared to shake free for one of the would-be sacks.
-With McClellin out, rookie Derek Rivers saw his most extensive work of the summer thus far. He was part of the subpackages and filled a variety of positions. He moved from the outside to the inside of various plays, mostly serving as a rusher, although he did drop into coverage on a couple of occasions as well. He didn't appear to make many plays but his presence was notable nonetheless.
-One interesting play for the Patriots offense came deep in the red zone on a fourth down situation. Surprisingly, Gronkowski was on the sideline and instead it was Dwayne Allen that was Brady's target. Brady looked down the seam and Allen barely turned around before securing a nice back-shoulder throw for the touchdown. Brady immediately ran to his new tight end to congratulate him.
-The Patriots defense had some substitution issues at one point and was called for a penalty as a result. Belichick was well ahead of the officials as the coach was steaming at the mental error. Darius Kilgo was the last player on the field but he was not alone as 14 players were sent for lap by and angry Belichick as the play continued with the first group being summoned back onto the field.
-LaAdrian Waddle received the "first-team" reps on Tuesday ahead of Cam Fleming as the two appear to be splitting time in Solder's absence. Waddle fared better than Fleming did on Monday, but neither seems to have an answer for Jags defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who has applied constant pressure the past two days. Overall the Patriots pass protection was much better Tuesday, however.
-Each team ran four live goal line plays with the Jags managing a pair of touchdowns while the Patriots had just one. Jacksonville attempted four runs by four different ball carriers and the Patriots defense showed physicality on all four. Chris Ivory and Tommy Bohanon were stuffed while T.J. Yeldon twisted his way barely across the plane and rookie Leonard Fournette also needed second effort to find the end zone. Malik Jackson made a terrific stop on Brandon Bolden on the Patriots first attempt, scooting outside the tackle to bring the back down at the 1. Brady's then overthrew Matt Lengel in the end zone before Rex Burkhead was stuff off left tackle. On the final play Burkhead broke into the end zone up the middle behind some nice blocking from David Andrews and James Develin.
-As was the case on Monday, Brissett took his reps at the very end of practice with the rest of the reserves. He hit K.J. Maye on a couple of occasions before being picked off Stanley Jean-Baptiste while trying to hit Tony Washington. At the end of those final reps the entire offense and coaches, including Belichick, did pushups. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and receiver coach Chad O'Shea did pushups with the offense at the end of the 7-on-7s earlier.
-During some red zone work the Patriots executed a nice wrinkle when Brady faked a jet sweep to Cooks before flipping an option pitch out wide to James White, who easily got the corner and scampered in for the touchdown.
-Kyle Van Noy had a tough time in coverage, losing Ivory on a swing out of the backfield that resulted in an easy touchdown for the Jags. He has some issues at other times as well, but he also did his share of damage to Ivory. Van Noy applied strong pressure on a pass and basically steamrolled the back after putting him on roller skates for several strides, drawing a hold penalty in the process.
-Brady wasn't the only Patriot whose mom was in attendance. Diane Walters, mother to Gronkowski boys Rob and Glenn, was also on hand.
-In addition to Brady and Edelman, several other Patriots spoke with the media. Cooks, Butler, Garoppolo, Shaq Mason, Lucien, Chris Hogan and Deatrich Wise were among those taking the time to chat.
-The Patriots and Jaguars will conduct a walk-through on Wednesday but it will be closed to the public. The teams will then open the preseason Thursday night at Gillette Stadium with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.