FOXBOROUGH – Tom Brady dropped back with the intent of firing a short pass over the middle to Kenbrell Thompkins, but that plan went awry when cornerback Darrelle Revis jumped the route and intercepted the Patriots quarterback and returned it for a short pick-six.
The defense was fired up after the play, which also injected life into the crowd at Thursday’s training camp session.
For Brady, who’s entering his 15th season, training camp feels a little different this year. The defense is undoubtedly stronger, particularly the secondary, with the additions of players like Revis and Brandon Browner.
The presence of players like Revis and Browner has raised the level of competition for the Patriots offense and their receivers, forcing them to work harder and sharper – a challenge the veteran quarterback has embraced.
“They’re both great players,” Brady said of Revis and Browner. “When you make a mistake, they make you pay, and I think that’s the mark of a really good corner.
“As a quarterback, you’re always trying to find the weak link in the defense and neither of those guys are weak links. Sometimes we’ve got to go after them and see if we can make a play. But like I said, if you miss a little bit, they end up making the play and it’s great work for us and you understand what you’re up against.”
During the second week of camp, there’s been a noticeable increase in the physicality on the field.
On Wednesday, Browner spent the better part of the day jawing and jostling with Thompkins – and at one point getting into it with receivers coach Chad O’Shea.
Of course, it was all in the nature of good competition. As defensive back Duron Harmon put it, it was just, “Browner being Browner.”
On Thursday, Brady was asked about the physicality of the defense and if it gets in the way of working good repetitions into practice. But for Brady, it’s been refreshing to see the enthusiasm on the defensive side of the ball.
More than anything, Brady felt that the defense’s physicality in camp has been great preparation for what the team will see during the regular season.
“They’re a physical defense,” Brady said. “All those guys are veterans, they know how to get away with certain plays. Holding, for example, it happens every play. There’s an edge you can always push it to. If you look at the offensive line, they’re holding on every play, that’s the way football is. You’ve got to do it in a way the refs don’t see it and don’t call it.
“That same goes for the defensive backfield. If there’s a way to gain leverage on a particular route, you’re going to use it. I think that’s what defenses do. We’ll go into a game and say, ‘Look, these guys hold on every play.’ But we still got to figure a way to get open because it’s not flag football, their hands are going to be on you.”
The Patriots will practice for one last time Friday before heading to Richmond, Va., on Sunday. The team will begin joint practices with the Redskins on Monday, and will face them in the first preseason game Thursday.
Like most of his teammates have expressed, Brady said he is eager to be challenged by another team.
“You can’t come in here and scheme every play against our particular defense, we’re just trying to install the things we do,” Brady said. “You’ll get some different competition.”