FOXBORO, Mass. — Tom Brady has a challenge ahead of him this summer: to get six rookie wide receivers on the same page before the Patriots’ first preseason game against the Eagles — and even more importantly, before the team’s first regular-season game in just 40 days.
Brady’s taking a patient approach this season (though he’s kind of forced to). There have been few vocal outbursts from the 14th-year quarterback.
The receivers are looking good so far, too. So, Brady’s poise is paying off. Rookies Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkins have taken first-team snaps with Brady. Quentin Sims and Perez Ashford were thrown into the fire after being signed just before training camp, but they look to be adjusting well, too. Mark Harrison is still a step behind, as he hasn’t been on the field yet, still recovering from a foot injury suffered during his Rutgers pro day.
“I think all the young players have been willing to work hard and do what the coaches have asked,” Brady said Friday. “I’m just willing to do whatever it takes, we’re here for one reason and that’s to try to go out and win as many games as we possibly can. You just can’t decide, ‘OK, September, this is when it’s really important.’ You have to start in May, work through June, and into July which we have now. August is important because it builds for September. I think all the guys have put a lot of time in over the course of the spring and summer and hopefully it pays off. That’s why we’re out here doing it.”
This year more than ever, it seemed like the Patriots were focused on drafting smart players. On Friday, linebackers coach Pepper Johnson had high praise for rookie defender Jamie Collins. Brady had similar high acclaim for the young group at wide receiver, which also includes third-year player Kamar Aiken and fifth-year Danny Amendola.
“We have a pretty smart group of guys, so that’s been a real positive,” Brady said. “I think hopefully we continue to play smart. We talk about being a smart football team and that’s a team that doesn’t go out and beat itself, a team that plays penalty-free, that takes care of the ball, that makes a smart play on a down-by-down basis. It’s hard to exist in this program if you’re not a smart player.”
Brady will have to get accustomed to being surrounded by some new faces, at least to start the season. Guys like Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd and Deion Branch are gone. The only returning wide receivers are Julian Edelman (who has yet to take the practice field), Matthew Slater and Aiken.
“We only have six practices until we practice against the Eagles a week from tomorrow, so it comes fast,” Brady said. “The installation, we haven’t even talked about the red area yet and we play them in a week and a half. It’s going fast, and you can’t afford to miss a lot of time now. You’ve got to be able to go out and execute at a high level. We worked in the spring about how quickly this was going to happen and we carried that over from the end of the camps through the beginning of training camp. A lot of guys put the work in that time, so we’re prepared. We just have to go out and keep stringing good practices together.”
There were times Friday night when some of the receivers were playing like rookies, but for the most part, Brady seems to be doing a nice job getting the young players acquainted. Thompkins and Boyce have been among the more consistent players at practice and Dobson has had some highlight-reel catches.