Brady plays the hits, largely steers clear of newer faces in first action


FOXBORO -- We really couldn't stop talking about it.

Ever since Tom Brady announced earlier this week that the plan was for him to play against the Eagles on Thursday night, it was only natural to wonder: How would he look with the new guys?

We discussed the topic on our shows. We wrote about it. We asked players about it when we could. We asked Bill Belichick what it was like to incorporate a new guy.  

It seemed pertinent, after all. The Patriots lost a 1,000-yard receiver in Brandin Cooks and their most clutch receiver of 2017 in Danny Amendola. Since then they've brought in a number of bodies to help replace that production. This would be Brady's first game action since the turnover.


The 41-year-old has served as an on-the-field tutor for some of his new teammates. He's done extra work with others. But on Thursday, it was almost as though Brady told those in their Patriots infancy, "OK, time for the grown-ups to play now."

Instead of peppering Eric Decker (who only received a few snaps with Brady) or Cordarrelle Patterson with passes, feeding them the reps that might accelerate their understanding of the offense, Brady played favorites.

Chris Hogan received seven targets. James White saw six. Julian Edelman got five, and Phillip Dorsett had three. Patterson got two targets, as did 2017 practice-squadder Will Tye. Jacob Hollister got one. Decker didn't get a target until the third quarter, when Brian Hoyer had entered.

It seemed relatively clear that Brady was more concerned with moving the chains and sustaining drives, establishing his own rhythm and a rhythm for his offense, rather than worrying about the state of mind of his new receivers.

And that makes sense. But at some point, Brady can't go all-in aiding in the readiness of a new player if it means less work for the guys he really trusts, the guys he'll be relying on in the biggest moments. It's their preseason, too.

I asked Brady after the game how he balances ushering along guys like Decker and Patterson with doing what's best for him -- sustaining drives, moving chains, leaning on his most trusted teammates even though they have oodles of experience together already.

"I think the coaches are pretty good at that and they kind of decide a lot of those things," he sad. "There's a lot of rotations in practice and we're all watching film together, we're in the meetings together, we're in the walk-throughs and so forth. 


"This is one element to getting to know people and preparation and so forth, and there's a lot that goes into it. So, I'm in there a lot with a lot of other guys that may not be as much on the field, but those things -- we’ve still got plenty of time left in camp to, as things take shape, to figure out who's going to be out there and who's going to try to help us win."

Some, though, are starting to slip behind. One of the newbs, Braxton Berrios, did not suit up Thursday. Kenny Britt arrived to New England late last season and hasn't yet practiced in full in training camp. Rookie first-rounder Sony Michel, projected to chip in as a pass-catching back, has been out for weeks.

Can't blame Brady for wanting to use his preseason throws on players he knows will actually be in Foxboro when things get started for real. As he noted, there's plenty of other ways for him to get to know the bubble guys between now and whenever they've earned his trust: meetings, film, practice, walkthroughs.

Thursday wasn't the time. That was reserved for Brady to go to his favorites. And he made the most of it, going 19-for-26 for 172 yards and two scores. 

For those of us interested in how he'll connect with someone like Decker -- who has struggled but may end up with a role given the team's depth at that position -- we'll have to wait at least another week. 


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