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Letters from Patriots Camp, August 12, 2019

Camp

Today the Patriots were back at practice after getting a couple of days off following the first preseason game. [Note: How’s that for an exciting opening sentence? Not since Franz Kafka began “The Metamorphosis” with “When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin,” has any writer grabbed the reader’s attention by the throat this way. Take that, Chicago Manual of Style.] And tomorrow is the last public practice. Which means once they come back from Tennessee this weekend their workouts will be so shrouded in secrecy that “Storm Area 51″ would be killed where they stand if they tried to get a look. So I felt I owed it to you to leave the comfort of my suburban manse, head to Gillette, observe and report. Just remember that I do and do and do for you kids, and I ask nothing in return.

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— The morning kicked off with the rare Bill Belichick pre-practice press conference. And if you assumed he’d be in a good mood after spending the weekend watching game film of his team out gain the Lions by a 5-to-1 ratio, then you underestimate his power to find something to get salty about. He was at his surly, monosyllabic, persnickety best. The highlight of which was a super attractive reporter in very flattering dress (so, TV) whose work I am not familiar with asked him about the players on “The Bubble.” To which he gave her the laser eyes and repeated “I don’t know what ‘The Bubble’ is,” while she tried to rephrase the question a half dozen or so times. It was one of those Belichick presser moments that make me think someone is getting pranked. Like at a construction site when someone tells the new guy to go get him a left-handed screwdriver. Or it’s your first day at a restaurant and they tell you to ask the manager where the Table Stretcher is. (Personally, my go-to was “Go tell the chef I need the Cheese Straightener.”) Anyway, somebody in the Pats’ PR staff should start handing out stickers for this. “I Just Got Beliwrecked” or something they can wear like a Purple Heart.

— I had my own odd by also sad and tragic moment when I wandered away from the media tent, like the Man of the People I am. I’m one of those guys with that look that makes middle aged women ask if I work at whatever store I’m in. That must’ve been the case with this one lady who approached me to ask if the players sign autographs. I told her how that all works like the Camp Veteran I am. And she then proceeded to tell me how her father died out of state from cancer over the weekend and she was there to get her family’s minds off it. I guess different people grieve in different ways. Some people go to be with their loved ones. Others need to find out how many reps Isaiah Wynn is getting.

— Speaking of which … Wynn had, to this point, been one of the biggest disappointments of camp. For a while there it just seemed like they were bringing him along slowly after blowing his Achilles out in last year’s preseason. But as camp went into its third week and he still wasn’t playing much – and hardly at all with the first team when he did take snaps – it was hard not to conclude they don’t think much of him. Well I’m happy to report that today he played a lot with the starters against the starters, and with the 2nd string against the 2s. That doesn’t make him a lock to be the starting left tackle for the next decade you hoped for when they used the 23rd pick on him. But it’s a huge step toward him starting Week 1 against the Steelers.

— And while we’re talking left tackles, Dan Skipper – who still looks like the assistant manager of a Best Buy in a massive offensive lineman’s body – got into a physical beef with Michael Bennett. It carried on after the whistle, led to Bennett giving Skipper a head slap, and ended with Skipper gesturing in Bennett’s face with the double State Bird of Massachusetts. If you don’t love the occasional heated camp throwdown, football is not for you.

— This was yet another practice dominated by UDFA and Lions game standout Jakobi Meyers. He caught a grab at the back of the end zone from Brady. Laid out for a diving catch on a Brian Hoyer throw. Beat Jonathan Jones on a deep route after getting separation. And finished off the day by showing off the arm he had as a high school QB by throwing bullets to the defensive backs. Between him, Julian Edelman and Danny Etling, they’ve got double pass options all over the field. And I will no longer listen to people telling me not to get excited about him. So what if I got excited about Zach Sudfeld and he turned out to be nothing; It’s not like I invested my 401K in him. As that total stranger’s dad learned the hard way, life it too short not to convince yourself Meyers is going to be the next great Patriots WR. Indulge yourself.

— Also, with his arm, the Brady t0 Edelman to Etling to Meyers to some receiver Quadruple Pass can become a reality. Get to the drawing board, McDaniels.

— At this time of year nobody has to talk about injuries (except Antonio Brown), so all we know is that N’Keal Harry and Matt LaCosse were nowhere to be seen after leaving the game Thursday night. The big Blue Tent is a state of mind from now until cut down day.

— Guys who were back were another tight end Lance Kendricks wearing the red non-contact jersey, and Cole Croston, who was re-signed as an O-Line depth hopeful. There was still no sign of the mythical creature the locals call “Demaryius Thomas.”

— After the Detroit game, I wrote about how much better the Pats offense looked against the Lions defense than their own. Today that power imbalance came back as the defense picked off and broke up passes all over the field. Jamie Collins took one from Brian Hoyer in the red zone and took it in for a score. JC Jackson knocked down a deep ball intended for Braxton Berrios. Which has been pretty much how he’s played all camp as he might be cementing the CB2 job opposite Stephon Gilmore. And Joejuan Williams has made a strong case for the slot corner job, with two INTs today. If the difference between the McOffense facing this unit and the Titans’ D this Saturday is as pronounced as the difference between it and Detroit was, I’ll gladly be the engineer on the hype train express.

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— A tale of two receivers being defended by Stephon Gilmore: Maurice Harris elevated way over his head for a deep reception on the goal line. Danny Etling lined up against him and the result was a pick off. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

— And in Belichick’s never-ending quest to assemble peculiar mixes of famous people at his practices like a socialite planning a cocktail party, he had Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Cassidy on the field with him.

I’ll leave you to guess which one of them had their music blaring on the loudspeakers for most of the first half of practice. A couple of weeks ago he had Brad Stevens, Jayson Tatum and Nick Nurse, now it’s these two. The only man who has a more eclectic circle of friends than Belichick is his boss. It’s like the only requirement is to be famous, successful and to never, ever ask him about “The Bubble.”