PHILADELPHIA — Tom Brady had a crisp day against the Eagles Tuesday, and didn’t seem to miss many passes as he led the Patriots in 11-on-11 work against Philadelphia’s top defensive unit.
Brady capped a long drive with a touchdown pass to Danny Amendola that showed just how well the two are getting at working together. As Brady was calling things out at the line, he looked Amendola’s way (he was lined up in the left slot), and Amendola made a hand signal.
The receiver ran toward the end zone, then broke toward the sideline and made a diving catch for a touchdown.
“We’re working at it,” Brady said of that play and the progress he’s making with Amendola. “There are adjustments at the line of scrimmage which are always important, especially in today’s game where the defenses are so multiple, you have to be able to make adjustments at the line of scrimmage.
“When you get these situations that we had today, they can play out in a lot of different ways. For us to be on the same page is really important. The more we do it, the better we’re getting at it. We just have to stay with it.”
But Amendola wasn’t the only pass-catcher who had a good day. Rookie Kenbrell Thompkins continues to impress, and tight end Zach Sudfeld ran a very Gronkowski-like seam route for a red-zone touchdown.
Aaron Dobson was getting reps with Brady but after a scrum with Eagles cornerback Cary Williams, both players were benched (Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly said he and Bill Belichick had agreed beforehand that any players who fought would be pulled).
Brady said he’s trying to impart a sense of urgency on all of the new receivers, to help them understand that little mistakes can’t linger. But he seems to like the progress they’re making.
“I’m proud of all of those young players for coming in – we’ve thrown a lot of stuff at them,” Brady said. “I said the other day that it’s not like we’re backing off, because that’s not the way our offense is.
“We’ve got to keep putting the pressure on everybody, whether it’s Aaron or Josh [Boyce] or KT [Thompkins] or Zach Sudfeld. Everyone who’s out there is expected to go in there and execute at a pretty high level.”
The first day of training camp was not a great one for the offense, which is to be expected. But Brady sees improvement, and that’s critical.
“We’re making progress,” he said. “I think it’s better than what it was when we started, and I think that’s the important thing.
“We’ve got to keep building. We’re four weeks from our first game, so we’ve got to use every one of those days. We had extensive walk-throughs today at the hotel.
“All those places are opportunities for us to learn – all of us. And all of us get on the same page, and then we come out today and execute against a team that we really had no clue what they were going to do: the fronts, the blitzes, the coverages, the skill set of their players. So for us to come out and be able to execute was the more important thing.”
Brady said it is Belichick’s decision whether he plays more snaps in preseason games to get more time with the receivers, and noted that joint practices like these (and the upcoming ones with Tampa Bay) go a long way toward that end, too.
“I love playing out there, so if he tells me to stay out there, great. I think days like this are equally as important,” Brady said. “I think that’s why he’s liked doing this really since the CBA was changed and there were limited amounts of practices.
“Coach has really decided to amp our practices up and get us more into game mode instead of just a bunch of, ‘OK, now it’s first-down passing. Now it’s just nine-on-seven run.’
“It’s like, ‘OK, no, we’re playing a game,’ like you saw at the end of practice. There’s 45 seconds left on the clock and it’s the second half. We’ve got one timeout, what are we going to do?
“That’s a little different. You get sacked, you get a big gain, or you’re going to clock it and you call a timeout. Did we get out of bounds? We’re going to go for a touchdown, are we going to kick a field goal?
“I mean, all of those things are going to come up here on Friday and I think there’s just not as much time now to get all those things done, so we’re trying to really maximize it on the practice field.”