Sunday 7: Possible reasons for strange start to Patriots training camp


1. The Patriots have had three training camp sessions and it’s been a strange start to say the least. Tom Brady had a maintenance day on Day 2 (Friday) where he was on the field, but not in uniform and did not participate. Then Saturday, Day 3, the first day in pads, Bill Belichick ended the session after roughly an hour and 15 minutes. Brady very rarely gets an off-day during training camp and if he does it’s never been this early. And then, Belichick’s sessions typically go at least two hours, so ending at roughly the midway point Saturday was very perplexing. What could be the reason? There isn’t anything definitive, but there certainly are some possibilities. One, Belichick could look at how deep into the playoffs the team has advanced the last several seasons, including reaching the Super Bowl in three straight years, and see that’s a lot of football and maybe realize that could be catching up to the team. Now would be the time to give them a bit of a break. Another thought is the team has back-to-back weeks of joint practices coming up during Weeks 1 and 2 of the preseason, and that is when the team will go all-out, so for now it’s easing them into things knowing what is to come. Nothing is really certain, but what is known for sure is this has been an unusual start to the summer.

2. The biggest takeaway from Nick Caserio’s press conference Saturday morning is now more than ever it seems he has a legitimate chance of leaving the Patriots and departing for Houston next offseason to be its general manager once his contract runs up. While he said all the right things and sounded a lot like Belichick, this was his chance to end the speculation and he didn’t exactly do that. Any time he was asked specifically about the drama with the Texans this offseason and his future, he side-stepped them and talked in generalities. There’s nothing wrong with Caserio wanting to advance his career, but it just seems this has the potential to be a storyline for a good amount of the year given the lack of clarity. 

3. As the days go by without Isaiah Wynn being a full participant in practice, the less likely it becomes he’s ready to start Week 1 against the Steelers. While for some veterans they may not need much time to gear up to play, Wynn is not one of them. The first-round pick last year missed most of the preseason and all of the regular reason with an Achilles injury. He has no NFL experience and needs as much time in training camp and preseason games as he can to be ready for the challenge of protecting Brady’s blindside at left tackle. It would not be a surprise in the least to see Joe Thuney start the year at left tackle as Wynn slowly works his way back.

4. The wide receiver position is truly wide open and will likely come down to who performs the best the next few weeks and who Brady trusts the most. Through three sessions, the players who have looked the best are Maurice Harris and then undrafted rookies Ryan Davis and Jakobi Meyers. On the other hand, Braxton Berrios hasn’t done much of anything to stand out. Harris seems to have a very good shot at making the team, and then we wouldn’t be surprised to see an undrafted rookie make the team at the position.

5. Danny Etling switching to wide receiver is one of the biggest talking points at training camp, especially with how much work he’s putting into it — staying well over an hour after practice to get extra reps. But, we just see no real chance for him to make the 53-man roster. His best shot is to stick around on the practice squad and use his ability to play multiple positions to his advantage. A nice story, but it is really tough to see it paying off.

6. While no one player can replace Rob Gronkowski, a sleeper to keep an eye on is Matt LaCosse. With Benjamin Watson suspended the first four games, we almost view LaCosse a lock to make the roster. Gronkowski finished last season with 47 catches for 682 yards and three touchdowns, and would it really surprise anyone if LaCosse equaled or bested that? The veteran has had good start to camp and could surprise some come the regular season.

7. The Patriots will have a full-padded session Sunday morning and we would expect it to be the most intense of the summer thus far. Then Monday, following Rodney Harrion’s Patriots Hall of Fame ceremony, it will be the annual in-stadium practice for season ticket holders and Foxboro residents. This is usually a lighter session and will lead into Tuesday’s first day off.