When Patriots training camp opens there are normally more pressing issues to cover beyond quarterbacks deep on the depth chart, but today’s practice challenged that thinking.
Usually quarterbacks are easy to distinguish from the other positions groups as they sport red no-contact jerseys at practice, but today second year back-up Danny Etling’s jersey was white, perhaps indicating that he is no longer a quarterback. This isn’t a complete surprise considering how little Etling was involved with the quarterback position group during spring practices, but seeing him take reps at receiver for the first time was intriguing. Based on his comments after practice, it seems the LSU product is more than open to trying something new.
“Everyone has a lot of different roles on this team and I’m no exception,” Etling told reporters after practice. “I'm excited to continue to keep trying to find a different role for myself, and do whatever the coaches ask me to do and keep learning from leaders in front of me.”
Etling is still listed on the Patriots roster as a quarterback. However, if today’s practice gives us any indication of the role Etling will be working towards, it won’t be a quarterback. We don’t know exactly what the coaching staff has in mind for Etling, but as Bill Belichick always reminds us, around Foxborough, titles don’t matter unless they’re the championship type, and Etling is taking the same approach to his new position.
“I’m going to do whatever it takes for me to help the team out. Whatever role the coaches ask me to do, I’m going to do it to the best of my ability, 110 percent every single day.”
Etling admitted that he has never played wide receiver before, but he believes his understanding of the offense and experience playing quarterback will help ease the transition.
He certainly isn’t the first player to change positions in the NFL. In fact, he’s not the first player on this current Patriots roster to change roles. Whether it works or not, it seems the Patriots coaching staff is open to giving Etling a chance to catch on outside of the quarterback role.
Today was the first time the media was able to see Etling outside of quarterback, but it’s likely not the first time the Patriots have put Etling at a new position. After spending last season on the practice squad, there were plenty of opportunities for the coaching staff to try Etling’s at various positions such as on special teams.
“There’s a reason why he is with us,” wide receiver Phillip Dorsett said. “He can do both. We always knew Danny could play different positions. I always used to joke with him and call him Taysom Hill,” Dorsett added.
It’s a little early to get carried away with comparisons when we know very little about Etling’s possible future at wide receiver or special teams.
“I wouldn't compare myself really to anybody. I'm just myself, Danny Etling, and I'm trying to figure out what my role is going to be on this team.”
Time will tell how the Etling experiment works out, but keep an eye out for No. 5, wherever he is.