PHILADELPHIA — Tom Brady was crisp Tuesday as he led the Patriots in 11-on-11 work against the Eagles’ top defense.
He capped a long drive with a touchdown pass to Danny Amendola that showed just how well the two are working together. As Brady was calling signals at the line, he looked at Amendola in the left slot and the receiver made a hand signal.
Amendola ran into the end zone and broke toward the sideline, making a diving catch for the touchdown.
“We’re working at it,” Brady said of that play and the progress he’s making with Amendola. “There are adjustments at the line of scrimmage which are always important, especially in today’s game where the defenses are so multiple, you have to be able to make adjustments at the line of scrimmage. When you get these situations that we had today, they can play out in a lot of different ways. For us to be on the same page is really important. The more we do it, the better we’re getting at it. We just have to stay with it.”
Amendola wasn’t the only pass-catcher who had a good day as rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins continues to impress, and rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld ran a very Gronkowski-like seam route for a red zone touchdown.
Brady said he’s trying to impart a sense of urgency on all of the new receivers, to help them understand that little mistakes can’t linger. But he likes the progress they’re making.
“I’m proud of all of those young players for coming in — we’ve thrown a lot of stuff at them,” Brady said. “I said the other day that it’s not like we’re backing off because that’s not the way our offense is; we’ve got to keep putting the pressure on everybody, whether it’s Aaron [Dobson] or Josh [Boyce] or KT or Zach Sudfeld. Everyone who’s out there is expected to go in there and execute at a pretty high level.”
The first day of training camp was not a great one for the offense, which is to be expected. But Brady sees improvement, and that’s critical.
“We’re making progress. I think it’s better than what it was when we started and I think that’s the important thing. We’ve got to keep building. We’re four weeks from our first game, so we’ve got to use every one of those days,” he said. “We had extensive walkthroughs today at the hotel. All those places are opportunities for us to learn – all of us. And all of us get on the same page, and then we come out today and execute against a team that we really had no clue what they were going to do: the fronts, the blitzes, the coverages, the skill set of their players, so for us to come out and be able to execute was the more important thing.”
Brady said it is Belichick’s decision whether he plays more snaps in exhibition games to get more time with the receivers, and noted that joint practices like these (and the upcoming ones with the Buccaneers) go a long way toward facilitating that, too.
“I love playing out there, so if he tells me to stay out there, great. I think days like this are equally as important,” Brady said. “I think that’s why he’s liked doing this really since the CBA was changed and there were limited amounts of practices.
“Coach has really decided to amp our practices up and get us more into game mode instead of just a bunch of, ‘OK, now it’s first-down passing. Now it’s just nine-on-seven run.’ It’s like ‘OK, no, we’re playing a game’ like you saw at the end of practice. There’s 45 seconds left on the clock and it’s the second half. We’ve got one timeout, what are we going to do? That’s a little different. You get sacked, you get a big gain, or you’re going to clock it and you call a timeout. Did we get out of bounds? We’re going to go for a touchdown, are we going to kick a field goal?
“All of those things are going to come up here on Friday and I think there’s just not as much time now to get all those things done, so we’re trying to really maximize it on the practice field.”
Second-round pick Dobson was getting reps with the rest of the first-team offense, but during one early 11-on-11 drive, he got into it with Eagles cornerback Cary Williams.
At the tail end of a run play, the two started bumping chests and then Williams, who has a reputation as a hothead, shoved Dobson in the facemask and the two had to be separated.
Neither player returned to the field and Kelly explained that he and Belichick had agreed to pull players who fought.
“Someone got in extracurriculars, they were going to be done for the day,” Kelly said. “It was one way we made sure that didn’t continue. So [Dobson] sat and our guy sat. We didn’t want this to turn into a wrestling match.
“Both of our squads knew before [practice] happened — if you’re going to get in a skirmish, you’re going to sit.”
Chung flying high
Former Patriot Patrick Chung signed with Philadelphia in the offseason, reuniting with his college coach. Asked if it was strange to be on the field with the Patriots as opponents he said, “I’m happy I got the [Eagles’] wings. I’m good. I’m happy.” During one-on-ones for receivers against defensive backs, Amendola turned Chung around three times in the same rep. He was not known for his coverage skills with New England . . . Amendola suffered a bloody lip and left the field for a handful of plays, though he did return after getting treatment. He went down hard after drawing a pass-interference penalty, and said it was mainly hitting the ground that caused the injury . . . There was a small team of NFL referees on hand, the first time the Patriots have had referees at practice this training camp . . . Eagles wide receiver Arrelious Benn tore his left ACL in practice. It was the third such injury for the Eagles this preseason (WR Jeremy Maclin; LB Jason Phillips).