Why shared practices work for Patriots

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Why shared practices work for Patriots

Wondering why the Patriots have opted to share the training camp practice field with the Saints and Buccaneers this offseason?

Bill Belichick loves doing it.

After a day spent practicing with New Orleans back in August of 2010, Belichick said, "I thought yesterdays practice was probably one of the most productive practices I think Ive been a part of in my career."

Those sessions marked the third time that the Patriots have paired up with an NFC team since Belichick's been with the Patriots.

The first time the Pats shared a practice was in 2001 with the Giants. New England also worked out with the Falcons in Flowery Branch and hosted the Saints.

There were no shared practices last year, likely thanks to the compressed preseason caused by the lockout.

The Saints will be at Foxboro on August 7 and 8 in advance of the August 9 preseason game. The Patriots will work with Tampa on the 22nd and 23rd before playing at Tampa on the 24th.

One reason these practices benefit the Patriots so much is they are an established program. There isn't a lot of orientation and installation that needs to be done on either side of the ball. Offensively, the quarterback is a veteran, the offensive line is made up of returning players, the skill players have all played in Josh McDaniels' system. The same goes for the defense.

This year, the Saints and Bucs stand to benefit quite a bit from working against the Patriots. The Buccaneers are under a new head coach, Greg Schiano, and working with the Patriots will allow them to see the tempo and attitude of a team that Schiano will no doubt try to build his team in a similar way.

The Saints, with all their offseason travails, will benefit from getting outside of their own heads and having interim head coach Joe Vitt get his feet wet leading a team against another, even if its just in practices.

Belichick, who's developed close relationships with both Saints coach Sean Payton and Schiano, will happily help those teams out for friendship and what his team gets in return. Belichick couldn't have been more effusive in 2010.

"We saw a lot of things from the Saints that we havent seen working against ourselves. ...They do a lot of things well, so there were a lot of things that we were able to evaluate and also adjust to. We can walk through them, we can talk through them, but its different when a good team does them and hurts you with them and you have to make those changes," said Belichick. "(There's) no better preparation for a game than working against the team youre going to play. Weve seen a lot in the two practices yesterday. Well see a lot more today. Its been a great learning experience for our football team, not just the players but our staff as well."

It certainly seems to help that there's a friendly relationship and respect between the coaches. If the tenor is competitive and mutually beneficial but not bitter, it will work.

"Its been so easy to work with them. Its been so easy. Do you want to do this? Yeah, we were thinking the same thing. Do you want to do that? Yeah, thats the way we do it. Most of the conversations, thats the way they go," said Belichick. "If he brings something up to me I say Yeah, great. Thats the way we do it. The individual one-on-one drills, the team drills, the down-and-distance stuff, how we call things, its been very easy to work with them from a structural standpoint, which I expected it would be. I really did, just from our relationship and when we talked about it in the spring and then a couple times over the summer and then when we both came to training camp. Its been very easy. The degree of difficulty on this from a coaching standpoint and working together has been very low. No time and a lot of benefit, so those are the kind I like."

And what's not to like?

McDaniels: Garoppolo still a long way from a 'finished product'

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McDaniels: Garoppolo still a long way from a 'finished product'

FOXBORO -- As the Patriots move forward with their process of preparing Jimmy Garoppolo for Week 1 of the regular season, there's plenty of refining the third-year quarterback needs to make to his game. 

But that's what training camp is for, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels explained on Wednesday.

"We're a long way from where we want to be in terms of the finished product in terms with he and a lot of guys on our team," McDaniels said. "There's nobody that's as good as we can make them. We're excited to have the opportunity to work with all of those guys and try to improve everything we can."

Garoppolo seen plenty of work as Tom Brady's backup over the last two years, both within the Patriots offense and as the "look team" quarterback, impersonating the likes of Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Now, as Bill Belichick explained on Wednesday, Garoppolo's development as the team's starter is a priority.

How far Garoppolo has to go before he's ready remains to be seen. But McDaniels seemed to indicate that if Garoppolo can continue on the track he's been on in terms of his desire to improve, he'll be where he needs to be when he needs to be there. 

"He's worked extremely hard," McDaniels said. "He's gotten a lot of opportunities in his first two-plus years here, in practice and in spring football. This will be his third opportunity at training camp. He's got a great work ethic. He's got a great approach. He tries to get better and improve every day, and he's made progress." 

He's made so much progress that Belichick didn't even venture to get into the details of the road the Eastern Illinois product has traveled since arriving as a second-round pick in 2014.  

"Experience, everything," Belichick said. "It’s everything. All of the things that go into playing football: preparation, execution, knowing the opponent. We could sit here and talk about it for a day. Everything."

Garoppolo's teammates have noticed his progress, too. While both safety Devin McCourty and special teams ace Matthew Slater were careful not to compare Garoppolo to Brady, they praised the work they've seen behind the scenes from the backup-turned-starter. 

"The cool thing seeing Jimmy, I was a veteran when he was coming in," McCourty said. "You see a rookie, he's just been developing. Each time he steps on the field, he gets better and better so I think it's probably very exciting for him knowing the work he's put in. 

"And I think for other guys on the team, you know he's a hard worker so I don't think it's worries or anything like that. He's a confident kid, and he's been out here practicing hard. We see him a lot all throughout the year when he's on the look squad and being different quarterbacks . . . It's tough for me to really break him down and compare him. I think Jimmy's just a guy who's come in here and learned everything he could under Tom and just keeps getting better."

"I know that he's been working hard, just like the rest of us have," Slater said. "He's prepared himself for a moment to play since he got in this league. He's worked hard for it. We believe in his talent and his abilities, and we know he's going to go out and give us everything he has."