WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, West Virginia – Tom Brady barked his cadence loudly before tapping his foot once. His slot receiver, Julian Edelman, released quickly off the line of scrimmage, getting on to Houston cornerback Jonathan Joseph in a snap. Joseph tried to get his hands on Edelman in an attempt to gain balance and leverage. The Pats wideout wasn’t having any of it, using his arm to fend of Joseph’s right hand, then turning his shoulders, creating even less surface space for Joseph to grab. Scrambling to gain control, Joseph opened his hips slightly. Huge mistake. Edelman planted off his inside, left foot and cut hard toward the sideline. Joseph got turned around completely, leading to an easy completion and plenty of running room.
Why is this noteworthy? Well aside from Joseph being one of the best corners in the AFC, it highlights another reason why joint practices are a critical part of Bill Belichick’s formula. Prior to the session with Jacksonville last week, Edelman and his fellow receivers were finding less and less space to operate against the Pats defensive backs. Yes, those guys get paid too, but after a while, there are no secrets between teammates, especially as we get deeper into training camp.
“That’s the great thing about these practices,” said Edelman. “You have an opportunity to get out of training camp…it’s almost like you’re in school and you go on a field trip. You may be learning things but it’s like 10 times better than when you’re in class. It’s the same thing with joint practices. You get to go out, hit someone new, use your techniques that you’ve been working on for so long against someone new, and see how they stack up.”
That’s not to say it’s easy. It’s not. Houston’s defense is as good as you’ll see and Edelman and the rest of the Pats offense discovered that for the better part of the 2-plus hour practice Tuesday. But there were moments, be it in the aforementioned example featuring Edelman and Joseph, or later, when Chris Hogan ran by both Joseph and Kareem Jackson some 45 yards or so down the field to reel in a beautiful thrown bomb by Brady. Stephen Gilmore, Malcolm Butler or Eric Rowe would have known how quickly Hogan can get even and then go by you. Joseph and Jackson did not.
“It’s great to be able to have this,” said Brandin Cooks. “Last week, it was Jacksonville, this week now having a great defense in Houston. All it’s doing is just sharpening your game. Not having the same people in front of you, having the mix and the feel for the competition that we’ll be seeing all year round, I think it’s a great thing we’re doing.”
Edelman had a different way to describe it. He was in full storyteller mode (maybe that has something to do with a certain book he wrote with one Tom E. Curran).
“It’s the brother syndrome,” said Edelman. “You go out, your mother is not around, you’re with your brother and all day you hang out and you guys end up beating each other up. When you get to go out and play with someone else, it’s a little different. You get to have fun, and take pride on that, and you’re actually closer with your brother who’s there with you and you work harder together as a family.“
Based on how uneven the offense was on day one, I’d bet the two chief babysitters of this family - Belichick and Brady - will be asking for even more work from the skill position players. And there is no better time to do - and discover what works and what doesn’t - then in these sessions. Right mom?