A trio of Patriots talking points from Monday afternoon after speaking with Tom Brady and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels:
1. Don’t believe the hype: Tim Tebow is here to play quarterback, not catch passes.
Ninety-nine percent of Tebow’s activity during his time with the Patriots has been spent learning to play quarterback in the team’s system. He has only spent time in the quarterback meeting room, he wears a red non-contact jersey on the field and he runs the third-team offense during team drills.
But Tebow spends five minutes each practice with the skill players in one drill – the player turns back, catches a pass and heads up field while being chased by two defenders – and suddenly ESPN and the NFL Network and the internet is abuzz about Tebow taking on a “slash” type of role with the Patriots, like the Jets attempted to do with him last year.
Hate to burst everyone’s bubble, but Tebow isn’t preparing to play tight end, fullback or any other position except quarterback. As McDaniels explained on Monday, the Patriots are only including Tebow in the drill because he has the potential to be a ballcarrier as a scrambling quarterback. The drill emphasizes ball protection and escaping defenders, and McDaniels noted that several defensive backs who may eventually handle punts also participate in it.
“He’s just practicing his open-field running,” McDaniels said. “Matt Cassel and (Doug) Flutie and some of those other guys I’ve had a chance to coach, I think we did the same types of things with them. And again we know Tim has a skill set that some of these other guys don’t possess in terms of his ability to run with it, scramble with it when he has it in his hands.
“I know the defensive guys enjoy the challenge of trying to get him to the ground, but I think it’s good for everybody. It’s a normal procedure we go through in training camp.”
McDaniels said Tebow is still learning the complex offense and taking it all in. He knows Tebow well from their days together in Denver, so Tebow may be judged on more of a macro basis than on how well he performs in a particular practice. The realistic approach with Tebow is for the Patriots to see if he can develop into a solid backup quarterback, which would allow the team to trade Ryan Mallett before his contract expires after the 2014 season.
“He’s put in a lot of time and effort to improve his individual skill set to play the position of quarterback in our offense, and I think every day is a learning tool for him,’ McDaniels said of Tebow. “It’s hard to gauge things at this point, but he’s going to do all those things, and I’m sure he’ll listen and take the coaching the way he always has and try to work to get better every day.”
2. McDaniels doesn’t show much concern about replacing Aaron Hernandez.
The Patriots lost their “Swiss Army Knife” when Hernandez was cut last month, and replacing such an explosive, versatile player won’t be easy.
McDaniels said the Patriots won’t necessarily try to replace Hernandez (without mentioning him by name, of course). They’ll adapt the offense without him, but they won’t just try to plug another player into his role.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever coached one season where we didn’t have to deal with, whether it was injuries or it was the loss of a player for a year. I mean we lost Brady in 2008 and that was certainly a challenge,” McDaniels said. “Our offense has never been the same two years in a row, really. The system hopefully is broad enough that we can use the skills that our players have to the best of their ability.”
“Whatever that way is, we’re not sure yet. That will develop over the course of the next month, and I think that would be continuing even as the season progresses.”
3. Quarterback cameras are fun, but maybe not so useful.
The Patriots have experimented this training camp by putting little cameras on the helmets of the three quarterbacks. McDaniels was asked what he gets out of it.
“It gives me a headache, honestly,” he quipped. “We’ve taken a look at it, and just to see if you can put together some really good teaching tape and teaching film for future players at the position from seeing it from their perspective.”
“There are some kinks, I’d say, we have to work out in terms of how much it’s on and how much it moves and gyrates during the course of time. We’re working on it.”
Brady said he doesn’t watch his own film much.
“I agreed to do it but I feel like I have what I need to see. Last thing I need is to overanalyze things,” he said. “I think it looks pretty cool at the end of the day … it’s a camera bobbing up and down and moving all over the place.”Ben Volin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin