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Tom Brady said he has enjoyed going up against new competition during the Patriots' joint practices with the Eagles. (AP)
He sounded relieved. Do the same thing over and over and the repetition becomes familiar, even monotonous. That’s how training camp generally goes. It’s the same drills on loop, day after day. That’s part of the reason why Patriots quarterback Tom Brady smiled when he was asked about the joint practices between New England and the Eagles at the NovaCare Complex.
“We’ve run some plays against our own defense, at this point, 30 or 40 times,” Brady said earlier in the week. “It’s nice to see a fresh look at it.”
A fresh look. He could have just said fresh meat. Not surprisingly, Brady feasted on the Eagles’ suspect secondary over the last two days during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. On Tuesday, he threw several touchdowns during red-zone sessions and went long stretches without an incompletion.
Patriots wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins and tight end Zach Sudfeld both made big plays Tuesday, but it was the connection between Brady and wide receiver Danny Amendola that people talked about after practice. Early in the afternoon, Amendola dropped what would have been an easy touchdown as he crossed the goal line. Amendola made amends for that mistake later when he and Brady switched a call at the line of scrimmage using hand signals. That play resulted in a touchdown.
On Wednesday, Brady once again dissected the Eagles’ defensive backfield with surgical passes. Many of those completions came at the expense of cornerback Curtis Marsh, who was sliced up by various Patriots wideouts.
“He’s one of the best to ever play the game,” Marsh said about Brady following Wednesday’s public bludgeoning. “When you get benchmarks like that, plays like that where everything’s not in sync, then you watch the film, you work on your technique, and the next day you’re better for it.”
Brady is working with an almost entirely new set of offensive options this year. Wideouts Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker are gone. So is pass-catching running back Danny Woodhead. Tight end Rob Gronkowski -- as dominant at his position as anyone in the league -- is recovering from back and forearm injuries. And tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was released during the offseason, is in jail after being charged with murder.
The Patriots brought in several new faces to fill those voids, including Amendola (a free agent formerly with the St. Louis Rams) and a host of rookies: Receivers Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce and Thompkins, and tight end Sudfeld (an undrafted rookie free agent). Almost all of them -- particularly Amendola, Thompkins and Dobson -- caught long passes from Brady on Tuesday and/or Wednesday.
“[Brady] makes all of your mistakes show, basically,” cornerback Brandon Boykin admitted. “There’s no room for error. He’s putting the ball on the money each and every time.”
While the Eagles are still searching for a starting quarterback, the Patriots are obviously in a much different situation. Brady, who’s a two-time NFL MVP and has three Super Bowl rings, threw for 4,827 yards and 34 touchdowns last year while posting a robust 98.7 quarterback rating.
“The learning experience is pretty good,” Chip Kelly said about his secondary facing Brady. “He’s obviously one of the great quarterbacks to ever play the game, not just in the league right now. When you go through the history of the game, his name is right there. You better be where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be.
“There are still a lot of position battles going on in the secondary with this being a whole new staff and really a lot of new players back there. I think those guys did a good job on the defensive side of the ball of rotating reps so everyone got a chance to show what they can do over these two days, whether it’s 7-on-7 drills or 11-on-11 against one of the all-time great quarterbacks. It’s still a work in progress.”