By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Problems for the Patriots offense, or just a ridiculously deep defensive backfield? It's probably a little of both. Tom Brady's retooled, largely young weapons had a bad day overall, but it came against perhaps the deepest cornerback group in the NFL.
Footballs peppered the practice field in Foxboro on Wednesday, as the receivers and tight ends mixed drops with disrupted passes during the Patriots' third padded practice. Some of it can be credited to the secondary winning their matchups decisively.
Even undrafted players weren't letting the ball through. Rookie D'Angelo Ross went 3-for-3 during a competitive 1-on-1 period, disrupting two throws to second-year hopeful Braxton Berrios.
Jonathan Jones, arguably the MVP of camp so far, also came up with a few pass breakups of his own. J.C. Jackson broke up a pass to rookie N'Keal Harry and slowed his route on the next play. Stephon Gilmore, well, the QBs are smart enough not to target him.
Despite the step backward on Wednesday, undrafted receivers Jakobi Meyers out of N.C. State and Ryan Davis out of Auburn have made progress overall. There's a chance that more than one rookie is in Brady's arsenal this season. He also has a rookie running back and completely overhauled tight end group to build up.
"They're all new players, so we've got to figure out how to get them up to speed to what our expectations are, the level of competition on a daily basis," Brady told reporters on Wednesday. "We've got a very good defense this year. Those guys are challenging us on every day. It's hard to complete passes on our secondary. That's just the reality. So, it's actually great work for our offense to see how we measure up against a very good defense.
"Days like today are frustrating for us and we've got to learn from the corrections and try to come out and have a better day tomorrow."
It's important for the offense, particularly Harry (four drops in competitive drills) and the rookies, to have a short memory. If their performance on Wednesday were a game, it would've been a burn-the-ball kind of day. The good news is they have two more practices in Foxboro to correct their mistakes.
On the other side, the Patriots' secondary isn't necessarily buying into its own hype.
"I mean, we’ll see. We’ve got to prove it each and every day," Gilmore said after practice. "It’s not going to happen overnight, so it’s a lot of hard work to be good in this league."
The difference, though, is that the cornerbacks have a significant edge in depth of talent and experience playing together. That's especially true while Julian Edelman is not practicing.
That should change in the coming weeks. The competitiveness and athleticism in the secondary will not. These cornerbacks may make the Patriots offense better and more battle-tested in the big picture, but Wednesday was glaring evidence of how long Brady & Co. have to go compared to them.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].