Anytime Tom Brady is not at the controls of the Patriots offense, things just don't seem the same. That was the case on Friday when the Patriots took part in the second practice of training camp on another gorgeous sunny morning in Foxborough.
Brady was in attendance, just not in his normal red No. 12 jersey. He arrived on the field a bit later than normal but still well before practice began, and once it did he spent most of his time watching his backup Brian Hoyer run the show. Brady was seen talking to several players during the two-hour session, specifically Maurice Harris at one point, and did some light throwing but otherwise was given the day off. No reason was given for his inactivity.
That left things in the hands of Hoyer and fellow backup Jarrett Stidham. Hoyer found his rhythm at times, completing a number of short passes while managing the offense effectively. He also hit Matt LaCosse deep down the seam and saw the tight end make a tremendous catch on an underthrown ball in heavy traffic near the goal line.
But things never seemed to be totally in synch, especially toward the end of practice. The offense broke the huddle and N'Keal Harry appeared to be lined up in the wrong spot, forcing Hoyer to use a timeout. When they broke the huddle again, Harry was still lined up incorrectly and the whole group took a lap.
When the offense returned, Bill Belichick convened the entire team for what my colleague from ESPN Mike Reiss likes to call a "concentration huddle" where the coach reiterates the importance of remaining focused at all times.
"It's just about accountability, making sure you do the right thing," Hoyer said. "If you're out on the field on Sunday, you can't have that stuff going on. So it just shows us you can't take a second off. You've got to be on top of everything — the personnel groupings, whatever it is, 10 men in the huddle, 11 men in the huddle. Always be on top of it and don't take it for granted.
"I think that something that we do a great job of is trying not to take anything for granted. We screwed up, we deserved to take that lap, and hopefully, we learn from it and don't do it again."
The rookie received more reps than he did on Thursday, and while he had some solid moments late in practice he largely struggled. That's to be expected for an inexperienced quarterback, particularly in New England.
"It's tough," Hoyer said of being a rookie quarterback. "I've been in that position before. Especially in this system where they ask a lot of the quarterback. You just have to try to work hard and do the best you can and move on from the bad plays. There's a lot of stuff going on out there and it's moving really fast."
That was apparent watching Stidham, who at times appeared flustered as he scrambled around and others simply fired into coverage and watched several passes get picked off. But it wasn't all bad – even on the picks.
From watching clips of old "Hard Knocks" episodes we've seen coaches encourage young quarterbacks to try to stick to the call and make reads rather than pulling the plug on the play too quickly by throwing it away. Stidham threw a few risky passes on Friday that unlikely would have been attempted in games and he paid for it.
However, late in practice he fired a handful of touchdowns working in the red zone in 11-on-11s. He was decisive and showed good arm strength at that juncture and the harried scrambles seen earlier in the day largely disappeared.
In all, it was probably about what could be expected given his status as a rookie fourth-round pick but Stidham definitely has some ability.
Beyond the quarterbacks, here are some blogservations from Day 2 of training camp.
-The players remained in shorts and shells as mandated by the league's CBA, which requires the first two days be non-padded practices.
-Wide receiver Dontrelle Inman was the first Patriot on the field.
-David Andrews and Michael Bennett missed practice for the second straight day. ESPN's Field Yates reported that a source indicated Bennett was excused from practice for personal reasons, although what that entailed was not known.
-There was one change to the PUP list as Deatrich Wise was on the field and in uniform after missing Day 1. He was limited in his return but his presence to a positive sign. Otherwise, Sony Michel (knee), Nate Ebner, Ken Webster, Cole Croston and Demaryius Thomas (Achilles) remained on PUP while Julian Edelman (thumb) and Yodny Cajuste (quad) stayed on NFI. All but Croston and Cajuste were seen on the field and spent time on the lower rehab area during practice.
-Isaiah Wynn received a similar work load as he did on Thursday when he saw no reps in 11-on-11. While the tackle watched with the backup linemen during those periods on Day 1, on Friday he joined Wise for a time on the lower rehab field. Wynn did return and was with the team for the rest of the workout.
-Rookie defensive tackle Byron Cowart appeared to suffer some sort of lower body injury. He worked with trainer Jim Whalen midway through practice and tried to do some light jogging but did so with a pronounced limp. He did not finish practice.
-With Andrews out and Wynn limited, the offensive line featured, from left to right, Joe Thuney, James Ferentz, Ted Karras, Shaq Mason and Marcus Cannon. The second group had Dan Skipper, Hjalte Froholdt, Tyler Gauthier, Tyree St. Louis and Cedrick Lang. There was another offensive lineman in uniform wearing No. 63 (last worn by the recently-retired Brian Schwenke) but the team has yet to announce the transaction.
-Coaches from the University of Iowa as well as the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League were in attendance.
-Karras, Ferentz, Froholdt and Gauthier spent time snapping to Hoyer and Stidham prior to practice.
-The punt team was in focus during the special teams periods and Ja'Whaun Bentley and Duke Dawson served as the personal protectors. Patrick Chung and Nate Ebner have served in that capacity in the past but with Ebner out and Chung limited to his red, non-contact jersey it's possible that will continue.
-The Patriots used several returners during the drill including Harry, Chung, Braxton Berrios, Gunner Olszewski, Harris and Phillip Dorsett. Vice guys getting work included Mathew Slater with Keion Crossen, J.C. Jackson with Jonathan Jones and D'Angelo Ross also took some reps.
-Devin McCourty, Duke Dawson and Obi Melifonwu all came up with interceptions during some 3-on-3 work early in practice. The drill was similar to the 2-on-2 stuff the Patriots did Thursday but featured more combinations with the added receiver. The defense dominated on Friday.
-Hoyer's best moment of the day probably came when Dorsett completely undressed Joejuan Williams on a crossing flag route router. Dorsett sprinted past the rookie second-round pick and was basically uncovered as Hoyer's pass lofted perfectly into his arms for a long touchdown. Hoyer also connected with Harry for a touchdown in the back of the end zone.
-Jakobi Myers, an undrafted rookie out of N.C. State, made a terrific diving catch on a pass from Stidham late in practice. Myers laid out for the pass and made a finger-tip grab while holding on as he hit the ground. Ryan Davis made an excellent grab on Thursday as the pair of undrafted rookies look to find roster spots in a wide open wide receiver group.
Check out the best photos from Patriots Training Camp at Gillette Stadium on Friday, July 26, 2019.
-Stidham's best pass of the day came on a wheel route to James White from the red zone. His pass perfectly arced over the head of the linebacker and into White's hands as the running back glided into the end zone.
-Stephen Gostkowski got some field goal work in after each of the final two 11-on-11 sessions that took place in the red zone. The veteran appeared to connect on all of his kicks, although it can sometimes be difficult to judge from the angle where the media sits. On the second set, rookie Jake Bailey handled the holding duties.
-Bailey unleashed his big leg during the punting work, but the rookie struggled at times with his consistency. He mixed in a couple of shanks with a few majestic bombs throughout the day.
-Practice once again ended with the entire team headed toward the back hill for some conditioning runs.
-Those who spent time chatting with the media after practice included Keion Crossen, Hoyer, Slater, Thuney, Lang, LaCosse, Kyle Van Noy, Mason, White, Dont'a Hightower, Chung, Rex Burkhead, Dorsett, Keionta Davis and Adam Butler.
-The Patriots will get after it in earnest on Saturday when they don pads for the first time this summer. Practice is set to begin at 9:15 a.m. As always, please check with Patriots.com for the latest practice updates. Nick Caserio is set to meet with the media prior to practice at 8:45 a.m.