As the Patriots quarterback competition approaches its second week of full pads on the practice field, all of the team's signal callers have had their standout moments.
Between a veteran free agent, a second-year player with one year under his belt, and a veteran now on his third stint with the team, all are at different points in trying to grasp Josh McDaniels' offensive system and it's been a process for everyone to work through.
"Each player at that position is in a different spot relative to how much experience they've actually had playing in our system which really isn't a whole lot for any of them," said McDaniels while meeting with reporters on a Webex call on Friday afternoon.
"I think when you look at this system, the quarterback is the lead dog in this system and it's an opportunity for the quarterback to really be able to showcase his skillset," said quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch, himself a newcomer to how New England runs things. "One thing that Josh does incredibly well, he makes sure the system is built around the player."
One aspect McDaniels hasn't had before is the unique combination of size and athleticism that Cam Newton brings. The Pats offensive coordinator praised Newton's focus and dedication as he gets up to speed at breakneck pace.
"Cam we added him basically in July, and I think he's really busted his butt to learn and grow each day that he's been with us," said McDaniels. "There's absolutely no shortcut to really going through it and repping it in practice, and seeing it and calling it and reacting in full speed on the field to different situations."
"The improvements that [Newton's] making on a daily basis are sometimes what you could sometimes see some other guy who's been in the system for a few years may make in a monthly basis," added Fisch about Newton's quick development.
The players will be off on Saturday and then return for practice on Sunday, a mere three weeks out from their scheduled opener against the Miami Dolphins. McDaniels and Fisch continue to do everything they can to teach their quarterbacks what to do without overwhelming them.
"The only thing that matters to me is that when we put them out there on the field and we ask them to do certain things that they know what those things are and they're able to function and execute with them," said McDaniels. "If that volume is scaled back to some degree which I would expect that it would be at any point this year for this group relative to what we've had for the last twenty years, then that's fine. What we need to do is execute the things that they know how to do well and that's what we're going to try to do with whoever is out there."
While there will always be some ups and downs, the coaches were encouraged so far. There is still plenty to get down before they have to play any games, but it was a solid first week with pads on for three practices.
"I feel good about each day, learning about our guys a little more," said Fisch. "Every day we practice full speed is another day that we can get a good feel for their ability to hit guys in certain spots, their ability to get the ball to the right guy at the right time. Timing, accuracy and decision making is something that we live at in the quarterback room. All those guys are beginning to be faster and faster after every snap."
Webex Quotes of Note
Josh McDaniels on Julian Edelman
Julian's really a different player, that's the thing I've always thought. Being so close to this offense, and understanding the intricacies of it and where we put people nad how the players play in it, he's not just a slot receiver and he never has been. He's been able to produce on the perimeter, he's been able to produce inside, we played him outside and brought him across the formation. He does so any different things and his role has grown and evolved over time but to say he's just a slot receiver it would be an error in understanding how he was used.
Jedd Fisch on learning from mistakes in practice:
"You gotta sometimes treat the practice field like a driving range. You gotta see 'what club do I need to use here?', or you know 'what's it feel like?', 'is this a ball I need to put extra trajectory on'. If you learn from those mistakes you gain knowledge as you go."
Bill Belichick on players making mistakes in practice:
"I don't think it's really good for us as a coaching staff to over-evaluate an individual play when we have so many plays to work with. Every player makes mistakes out there, every player gets corrected, every player gets coaching points on things that they can do better, differently. I would say ultimately we're going to reach a point where we have to really evaluate what the performance is. I think in the early stages, there's definitely a timing, confidence, anticipation issues that are different from player to player, depending on who they're in there with, and what the play was and how things unfolded and so forth. Sometimes those are mistakes, sometimes they're learning experiences, sometimes it could be mistakes by multiple people involved with a specific part of the play that have to be ironed out."