FOXBORO — Tom Brady’s reportedly dealing with a sore back. If Sunday’s practice is any indication, the quarterback is doing just fine.
The Patriots 12th day of training camp marked Brady’s heaviest workload and best practice of the summer. Brady was on fire Sunday as he finished 17/22 in 11-on-11 drills.
The performance comes on the heels of the Patriots first preseason game where Brady didn’t suit up. According to the Boston Globe, Brady’s sore back was part of the reason for him not playing and part of the reason his workload has been scaled back in training camp. On Sunday, however, Brady responded with his best day of camp. Out of Brady’s five incomplete passes, three were batted down and two were inaccurate throws.
Brian Hoyer finished 11/22 and Danny Etling went 2/4 in full-team drills.
After their first preseason games, the Patriots are shuffling players around in their depth charts. On offense, Isaiah Wynn received reps at right tackle when Brady was in the game. That spot has typically been LaAdrian Waddle’s with Marcus Cannon out with an injury.
On defense, linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley was playing with Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy on defense. Keionta Davis was lined up at the left defensive end position, replacing Trey Flowers in certain defensive sets.
Jonathan Jones had two breakups on Sunday. Both were against Brady as Jones was lined up in the slot with Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe on the outside. Rowe, JC Jackson and Jason McCourty finished with deflections as well.
Braxton Berrios made a very nice diving catch in 1-on-1s. Devin Lucien continues to stand out as well. He made two nice catches in 1-on-1s.
Eric Decker received some personal time with Brady today. The receiver caught passes from Brady during his warmup. In practice, he was involved in a Brady side session with Phillip Dorsett, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and Rob Gronkowski.
Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, Cannon and Harvey Langi were absent on Sunday. Kenny Britt is doing more in practice, but he’s still limited along with Trey Flowers, Matthew Slater, Ryan Lewis and Jason King.
Jones makes impact in secondary
Jonathan Jones has spent most of training camp rehabbing and watching his fellow cornerbacks make plays. When he was finally inserted into the defense on Sunday, he hoped to contribute.
It didn’t take Tom Brady long to test him.
The first snap Jones saw during Sunday’s 11-on-11 session, Brady went right after the slot cornerback. Jones showed little rust on the play as he deflected the pass intended for tight end Jacob Hollister. It was a welcome back moment for the 24-year-old.
“It’s just like thrown back into the fire,” Jones said. “When you get back out there, you’ve got to be ready to go and compete with the guys out there with you. They’re depending on you. It felt good to be back out there. Hopefully will be able to keep building on it.”
Jones had a solid second NFL season with the Patriots in 2017. As a slot cornerback, he started four games and appeared in all 16 games. His season ended before the AFC Championship due to an ankle injury. Before going down, Jones made eight deflections and his first-career interception.
This offseason, the Patriots have been rotating Duke Dawson, Eric Rowe and Jomal Wiltz in and out of the slot cornerback spot. Typically, Stephon Gilmore and Rowe have been on the outside. With Jones returning, he could very well be back in that top grouping – like he was on Sunday.
In his first practice back, Jones looked ready. After the first deflection, Brady tested the cornerback again later in practice. The result was the same as Jones deflected another pass, this time intended for Riley McCarron.
“Try to get out and contribute,” Jones said. “Those guys have been working hard. I’m behind so I’m just trying to catch up.”
Pats re-sign Waddle
The Patriots re-signed reserve tackle LaAdrian Waddle to a one-year, $1.5-million deal just over a week after free agency began in March.
The move didn’t garner much attention at the time, but it’s taken on added importance during training camp. Marcus Cannon, who missed nine games last season with an ankle injury, opened camp back at his familiar spot at right tackle with the first-string offense.
But Cannon has since been in and — mostly — out of the lineup. He left the second practice of the year for undisclosed reasons, returned for the next two workouts and Sunday missed his seventh straight practice.
As was the case last year when he appeared in 13 games and made five starts with Cannon out, the 6-foot-6, 315-pound Waddle has stepped in to fill the void, taking the snaps with the starters after opening camp working with the second string.
“I think that’s just being ready,” Waddle said while downplaying his promotion and solid play. “In the preseason, everybody is going to get those reps and you’re going to work with different guys. That’s just part of the game and being able to perform at a high level regardless of who’s in there.”
The Patriots return three interior starters in guards Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason and center David Andrews along with Cannon and Waddle at right tackle. Trent Brown, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the San Francisco 49ers to replace the departed Nate Solder at left tackle, is the only newcomer.
While it’s a group with a history of continuity, the unit is taking a refresher course in chemistry this summer.
“I think we’re here every day to improve,” Waddle said. “We kind of look at it as we have to go at this thing together and d collectively improve each day. Just work on being the best we can be and be the best unit we can be.”
Waddle, who spent his first two seasons in Detroit before signing with the Patriots late in the 2015 season after being cut by the Lions, played 22 offensive snaps in a preseason-opening win over the Washington Redskins on Thursday. While the offense sputtered when he was on the field, Waddle nonetheless took away a number of positives from the exhibition.
“It was definitely good to get out and go against different guys and get some live bullets going,” the 27-year-old Texan said. “It’s different than practice. You’re going against guys who are going all out and the tempo was ramped up a bit. It was good to get that exposure.”