Eric Decker's name has been linked with the Patriots going as far back as last offseason before he eventually signed with Tennessee. Now, it seems, he's making the move to Foxborough official. According to ESPN, the veteran receiver is about to sign a one-year contract with New England.
This isn't at all surprising, considering Decker came to be worked out by the Patriots earlier this week after free agent WR Jordan Matthews suffered a hamstring injury. Matthews was waived this week in a procedural move by the Patriots, and once he cleared waivers, reverted to the team's injured reserve list.
During a radio interview earlier this offseason, the then-free agent Decker came right out and said he felt he'd be a good fit for the Patriots. He would now fill a clear need for experienced depth on New England's roster. In addition to losing Matthews, the Patriots have gone the first week without veterans Kenny Britt and Malcolm Mitchell, who have been regulars at camp among the injured group of players who work on rehabilitation and conditioning exercises during practice.
"That's football," wide receiver Chris Hogan said of the rash of injuries at his position. "It's going to happen. Guys are going to get hurt. What we can do is control what we can control. For the guys that are on the field, control your effort, go out here, and take advantage of all the opportunities that we're going to get with guys being down."
It appears the Patriots have already cleared out a spot on the current 90-man roster for Decker by releasing a young o-lineman who wasn't at practice Thursday.
When Corey Bojorquez (pronounced bo-HOR-kez) was a high schooler, he learned to kick by studying YouTube punting videos and working in his front yard with a $15 football from Wal*Mart. A punter he closely watched was none other than Ryan Allen, a back-to-back Ray Guy Award winner in college and the man whom Bojorquez is now trying to supplant in New England.
"I've always kind of known who he was, how he approaches everything," the rookie remarked after Thursday's practice. "It's pretty cool being in person with him and working with him. It's been a lot of fun."
Awkward at all?
"Not at all, actually. It's been cool," Bojorquez maintained. "I don't see it so much as a competition. More just training. So, it's been fun."
Bojorquez kicked and punted in high school in California before focusing solely on punting as a senior because he felt he had more of a future there. He served as the holder that last season and again as a college senior at New Mexico. So, as he tries to beat out Allen today in Foxborough, he must be trusted to do both jobs.
He and Allen have alternated which of them serves as kicker Stephen Gostkowski's holder on placekicks during this first week of camp. Today, it was the rookie's turn.
"It hasn't been that hard," he explained. "Stephen will kind of watch me hold field goals when we're warming up and he'll tell me, you know, 'If the wind is going this way, hold it like this.' Little things like that."
The strong-legged Bojorquez admitted that he's being taught to consider the weather conditions more with the Patriots than he ever did before, but that he's enjoying the learning process.
"Definitely. Every day I'm getting a little bit better, whether it's holding or more consistent on my punts and placements. I think I'm doing a little better each day."
Flipping the script
It's not something they do every summer, but when it happens, it's fun to watch. At the end of Thursday's practice, while working on team red zone plays, head coach Bill Belichick had his offensive players play defense while the defenders took the ball and tried to score from a set play near the goal line.
Safety Patrick Chung was designated the QB for the defense on the two plays run from this reversed-role perspective. Both times, the offense broke up the passes into the end zone. WR Chris Hogan, playing cornerback, was responsible for the first one.
"Oh, it was good. I mean, I don't think a lot of people know this," he said with a playful smile, "but I played corner in college. I was firmly comfortable in the red zone there. I read that play the whole way."
The brief switcheroo is meant to inject some levity into what can become a predictable grind of training camp. Today's competition to close out the morning session seemed to do the trick, with players on both sides showing great enthusiasm whether they were on the field or cheering from the sideline.
"Yeah, this team is – there's a lot of new faces every year, but I would say there's a really good core group of guys here," added Hogan. "We've got great leadership and a lot of good relationships on this team, so, it's nice to compete against the guys and lighten things up."
"It was fun," guard Shaq Mason chuckled. "It was good to see that side of things and return to those high school days of mine on defense. It was pretty fun."
"That was pretty cool. I was really hoping we'd have scored on that," defensive-turned-offensive lineman Adam Butler conceded. "That's really good for us. Good bonding stuff."
Buy: J.C. Jackson – For an undrafted rookie, the young cornerback has gotten increased reps the more he's continued to make plays during the first week of camp.
Sell: Marcus Cannon – After missing the bulk of 2017 with an bum ankle, Cannon has twice left practice early in the first seven days of camp and was a no-show on the second Thursday.
Play of the Day: When the offense and defense traded sides at the end of practice, WR-turned-DB Chris Hogan did a nice job breaking up a red zone pass into the end zone to break up a would-be touchdown by the defense-turned-offense.
Quote of the Day: "Hopefully tomorrow. Today I kind of came out here to get a feeling, and everything went good." ~ RB Mike Gillislee, who missed a few recent practices, on when he expects to lose his red jersey and resume full-contact activity