Hannable: There may be reason for slow start to Patriots training camp

Ryan Hannable
July 29, 2018 - 10:33 pm

Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports


FOXBORO — Through four days of Patriots training camp, it’s been rather uneventful.

There hasn’t been much hooting and hollering from the offense or defense following good plays. There hasn’t been much playful trash-talk back and forth between the two units, even when the defense stopped the offense at the goal line four straight times Sunday. There’s been no Tom Brady screaming either in frustration or joy. There’s been no Rob Gronkowski high-stepping after big catches.

There really hasn’t been a heck of a whole lot to get excited about. And in all honesty, it’s had a strange feel.

Through four training camp practices, two of which were held in full pads, we’ve seen a great deal of time and emphasis be put into the running game. This certainly factors into the lack of emotion as it’s hard to get excited about running play after running play, especially when the contact isn’t full speed and there isn’t any tackling. 

Brady and Gronkowski haven’t been very active, but that is due to the heavy emphasis on running plays.

So, what’s going on? Why has training camp lacked energy? There certainly are a few theories as to why.

One, the Patriots aren’t where they usually are at this point in the summer because Brady and Gronkowski missed the entire spring besides mandatory minicamp. Two, the team is changing the focus of the offense and with five quality backs the team will be going to more of a run-heavy offense. Three, Matt Patricia is no longer around and his energy has been missed that much.

While none of those theories are likely true, there is one theory that makes a heck of a lot more sense.

Since the Patriots do not have any joint practices, it doesn’t make sense for them to come out so hot out of the gates. They have plenty of time to get ready for their first preseason game on Aug. 9, so it may make most sense for them to ease into things.

The Patriots have had joint practices every year since 2012 and it certainly makes sense as to why training camp would be structured differently without them. In year’s past, the Patriots would begin joint practices a week from Monday — only having roughly nine practices before that. In reality, that’s not that much time and it forced the team to get right into it and have a sense of urgency.

This isn’t to say the Patriots haven’t been focused through the first four sessions because they have and have accomplished a good amount, it’s just it hasn’t been as intense as in the past.

Another thing to consider is the Patriots will be going up against each other every practice until the season opener on Sept. 9. Chris Hogan and Julian Edelman will be matched up against Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe hundreds of times. Trent Brown will be facing Trey Flowers dozens of times in 1-on-1s. Sony Michel will be trying to break Elandon Roberts’ tackles countless times.

Because of the nature of football, it’s likely tensions will boil over at some point and a fight may ensue. 

Bill Belichick has a strict no fighting policy and players get ejected if involved. As a way to prevent tensions from boiling over in the first place, Belichick could be implementing a slow build up to all the really competitive periods. It wouldn’t be a shock to see one or two intra-squad scrimmages at some point just to create more game-like situations.

The lack of energy and emotion could be cause for concern, but even the best player on the team knows it will change at some point.

“It’s part of the training camp routine, it’s these early days of contact,” Brady said to Sirius NFL Radio in an interview that will air Monday afternoon. “It will get more competitive as we go too. I think everyone is ramping that up.”

No need to worry about the lack of emotion thus far, it just appears to be a trickle-down effect of not having joint practices.