Brian Fluharty/USA Today Sports

Sunday 7: Tom Brady has put lots of pressure on himself this year in one area

Ryan Hannable
July 29, 2018 - 6:00 am

1. Self-admittedly, it was a different kind of offseason for Tom Brady. The quarterback prioritized spending time with his family and therefore for the first time in his entire career missed the voluntary offseason workouts in the spring. The only activity he attended was the three-day mandatory minicamp in early June. For all the new receivers the Patriots have, before training camp they only had three days with Brady. Through the first three sessions, Brady hasn’t been as precise as he’s been in the past at the start of camp with several passes falling incomplete that normally would be completions. When speaking after Saturday’s session, the quarterback was asked if he’s behind where he would usually be with his receivers if he attended the spring workouts. “I don’t know,” he said. “Yeah, I don’t know. I mean, we have a long time. We have a lot of work to do. We’ll do the best we can every day to get the work in when we can and try to go out there and have a great year.” For almost Brady’s entire career, it’s been tough for receivers to pick up the playbook and know exactly where Brady wants them to be. When a pass would fall incomplete because of a miscommunication many always assumed it was the receiver’s fault. Now, it’s the other way around. It will be said the pass may have been completed if Brady attended the spring workouts and had spent extra time with the receivers. After a sluggish start to camp, Brady better hope everything is right by Week 1 because if it’s not, he could be knocked again for missing all of the sessions in the spring.

2. The most interesting comments over the first few days of training camp came from Dont’a Hightower comparing former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia’s style to new defacto defensive coordinator Brian Flores. “It’s a little different,” Hightower said. “Coach is definitely different. I think guys are learning a lot better, a lot easier. A lot of young guys are stepping up and able to pick up for some of the older guys. It definitely works in our favor.” It seemed Hightower was saying sometimes Patricia’s philosophies were too complex for some and tough to learn. Flores has been on record saying he prefers to keep things as simple as possible. This will be something to continue to watch over the course of the summer and even into the season, especially when it comes to how well the defense communicates.

3. One offensive skill player who has stood out over the first few days has been tight end Jacob Hollister. The second-year player looked very good last year in shorts and shells, but then wasn’t the same player when the pads came on. But, he seems like a good candidate to have a breakout season. On Saturday, he was part of a breakout session with Brady, James White and Josh McDaniels. This is a good sign for the tight end. With Julian Edelman being lost for the first four games, maybe Hollister could see and increased role to help fill the void.

4. The Malcolm Butler story could actually be put to an end. In an ESPN feature which aired Saturday, for the second time Butler indicated perhaps he wasn’t fully at his best the week leading into the game and that could have been why Bill Belichick decided not to play him. Keep in mind Butler was a day late arriving to Minnesota the week of the game because he was hospitalized with an illness before the team departed on Monday. While it’s not as juicy as many of the theories thrown out there in the days following the game, this really seems to be the true reason. With that being said, it still is worth asking why didn’t Belichick throw him out there in the second half just like Butler was thrown out there late in Super Bowl XLIX in place of Kyle Arrington, which obviously paid off.

5. When Sony Michel fumbled in Saturday’s session, some immediately noted he has fumbling concerns dating back to college. That may be a bit overstated. The running back had 12 fumbles at Georgia, but five came in his sophomore year and he had just two as a senior — only losing one. Those two fumbles came over 156 carries, so in reality he fumbled once every 78 carries, which isn’t a bad ratio at all. While ball security is particularly important in the Patriots offense, the notion he’s coming into the league with fumbling issues is a bit exaggerated.

6. With no joint practices this year, the preseason games should have a lot more value. The team has liked using joint practices almost in place of the games for the starters because they could simulate so many more situations than in a preseason game. It’s hard to say exactly how this changes things, but expect to see a lot more of the first-team offense and defense in the first two preseason games, both at home. The days of Brady not playing at all in a preseason game may be a thing of the past.

7. It’s worth noting the crowds haven’t been quite as big as in past years at the first couple of sessions. The weather may certainly be playing a factor, but the ramps to the stadium have been used for overflow crowds in recent years, especially on the weekends, and that hasn’t really happened to date. With good weather in the forecast for Sunday, maybe it changes then.