Sunday 7: Danny Etling reacts to Patriots’ selection of Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham

Ryan Hannable
May 26, 2019 - 6:00 am

1. Last year at this time, there were three quarterbacks on the Patriots roster in Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer and Danny Etling. A year later, there are four, as the team selected Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham in the fourth round of last month’s draft. With Brady and a veteran backup in Hoyer, Etling felt like the developmental prospect following spending last year on the practice squad, but now Stidham feels like that player given him being a fourth-round selection. The Patriots are likely not going to carry four quarterbacks, which seems like bad news for Etling. Following Thursday’s OTA session, asked Etling his reaction to the Patriots drafting Stidham. “You can really just focus on yourself,” he said. “You try to continue to improve on your own skills and just find a role for yourself on the team and try to continue to focus on things that you need to get better at and improve on. If you do that you just want to become the best player you can be.” It seems like an uphill battling for Etling to stick around, but the second-year player appears to be willing to do whatever he can, including taking some special teams reps in recent sessions, to find a way to stick around. “My goals are just to do whatever I can to help this team win no matter what it takes,” Etling said. “I am trying to find a role for myself and continue to keep striving to improve every single day and get better and better.”

2. On the field in Thursday’s OTA session, which was open to the media, Etling struggled with his throws in 11-on-11 work, especially with touch throws during in the red zone. As of now, it would appear his only chance at making the 53-man roster is overtaking Hoyer as the primary backup, but that would take a lot of improvement as Hoyer brings so much to the table with his knowledge of the game and being able to help the Patriots defense with looks in practice. Perhaps the Patriots could slide Etling onto the practice squad, but that wouldn’t make much sense because it would take away reps from Stidham and not allow him to maximize his growth.

3. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Thursday’s OTA session was how impressive wide receiver N’Keal Harry was. Yes, it was a session held in t-shirts and shorts and Brady wasn’t the one throwing him passes, but his ability to make contested catches really stood out, and he was on the field a lot. The Patriots would benefit a great deal if he can break the trend of rookie wide outs not doing so hot in their first seasons and emerge as the Patriots’ No. 2 wide receiver. The 6-foot-2 Arizona State product ran some routes over the middle, which is a good sign as it seems the organization wants him to do more than just run routes on the outside.

4. It’s hard to handicap the wide receiver position now considering the time of year and also because of Brady not being there, but if we had to give our best guess it would have Julian Edelman, Harry, Phillip Dorsett and Braxton Berrios making the 53-man roster with Demaryius Thomas starting the year on PUP. Granted it was only one OTA session, but Dontrelle Inman didn’t make a very good impression, and none of the other wide outs really stood out.

5. Sony Michel was missing from Thursday’s OTA session, which was notable considering he appeared to be present earlier in the week based on video surfaced by the team. Given his past injury history, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the organization is taking it easy with him this offseason to preserve him for training camp and the regular season. It also goes along with the selection of running back Damien Harris, as Michel may not be able to handle the workload he had last year, especially in the postseason.

6. One thought which came up this week was perhaps the Patriots may look to have Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy line up on the edge more than in the middle of the defense at linebacker. Hightower noticeably looks slimmer than in years past, and the team has more depth at linebacker than at defensive end. We wouldn’t be shocked to see the team carry more at linebacker than at defensive end just because of the depth of talent at linebacker and the ability to move players like Hightower and Van Noy around.

7. After three OTA sessions last week, the Patriots will have two more this coming week, but none of which will be open to the media. The next time the media will see the Patriots on the field is for mandatory minicamp June 4-6 where Brady is expected to attend. There will be one OTA session open to the media the week after, but in recent years Bill Belichick has canceled those final few sessions in exchange for team-building activities like last year when they went to Fenway Park.

Related: N'Keal Harry works out with Tom Brady, Julian Edelman