Patriots OTAs Observations: Young Cornerbacks Prevail Over Backup QBs

FOXBORO, Mass. — If the 2018 NFL season started today, the New England Patriots’ offense would be in serious trouble.

Fortunately for the Patriots, it doesn’t. And if bullfrogs had wings, they wouldn’t bump on their butts all day.

The Tom Brady- and Rob Gronkowski-less Patriots had trouble moving the ball Tuesday in New England’s first open organized team activities session.

One can argue the usefulness of OTA quarterback completion numbers, but backup Brian Hoyer was 12-of-25 with an interception in team drills while rookie Danny Etling was 4-of-9. And that was while spending considerable time targeting young cornerbacks.

Here’s our full list of observations from Tuesday’s practice session:

— One of the first drills of the day had Hoyer and Etling catching passes with skill-position players. The first thought that came to mind was Brady dropping a pass in Super Bowl LII. The drill and Super Bowl play were undoubtedly unrelated.

— Patriots coaches were fired up for it only being the second OTA session of the spring. Expletives and tough coaching abounded on the twin practice fields. Running back Mike Gillislee drew the ire a couple of times.

— Patriots rookies aren’t wearing permanent numbers, and while we were trying to figure out who was who (their temporary numbers aren’t listed on the official roster), I turned to the group of reporters I was sitting near and asked, “Wait, are we dumb?” The rookies’ numbers go in order of draft slot. Duh.

50 OT Isaiah Wynn
51 RB Sony Michel
52 CB Duke Dawson
53 LB Ja’Whaun Bentley
54 LB Christian Sam
55 WR Braxton Berrios
58 QB Danny Etling
59 CB Keion Crossen
60 TE Ryan Izzo

Nos. 56 and 57 are retired.

The undrafted free agent numbers go in alphabetical order. Credit to my colleague Zack Cox on this one.

61 WR Darren Andrews
62 DT John Atkins
63 DE Trent Harris
64 DT Frank Herron
65 CB J.C. Jackson
67 DB A.J. Moore
68 RB Ralph Webb
69 TE Shane Wimann
71 P Corey Bojorquez

Bojorquez signed after the initial wave of rookie free agents.

— Brady, Gronkowski, wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, safety David Jones, cornerback Jonathan Jones, running back Brandon Bolden, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, guard Joe Thuney, wide receiver Cody Hollister and defensive end Trey Flowers were absent.

— Cyrus Jones, defensive tackle Lawrence Guy, safety Nate Ebner, defensive tackle Malcom Brown, offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, offensive tackle Trent Brown, Wynn and Darren Andrews were present but worked on a lower field away from teammates once team drills began.

— Wide receiver Julian Edelman also was limited, though he spent more time on the main practice field than the players listed above.

— We saw Edelman, Berrios, wide receivers Riley McCarron and Chris Hogan and safety Patrick Chung catch punts. Hogan had a muff.

— A few Patriots young cornerbacks stood out. NESN.com favorite Ryan Lewis was receiving starting snaps with Stephon Gilmore. Crossen didn’t allow a catch on six targets and had an interception and two pass breakups. Jackson and Dawson also were competitive in team drills. The Patriots have a knack for finding cornerback steals. Lewis and Jackson were undrafted, and Crossen was taken in the seventh round.

— Wide receiver Kenny Britt made the best catch of the day, showing his length as he reached out and hauled in a wide Hoyer throw. Britt also had a drop. There weren’t many standouts from a receiving standpoint, but Cordarrelle Patterson did catch two passes.

— Etling looked fine in his first open practice. It appears his mechanics were improved through his work with Brady’s throwing coach Tom House, but his biggest knock coming out of LSU was his ability to throw under pressure. This is an unpadded passing camp, so there’s no real pressure.

— There were college coaches on hand from Iowa, Miami, LSU and Louisiana-Lafayette.

Thumbnail photo via Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports Images

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