Teaching moments abound for Brissett in Garoppolo’s absence

Teaching moments abound for Brissett in Garoppolo’s absence

FOXBORO -- They weren't Jacoby Brissett's last practice reps of the spring, but they were his last with reporters in attendance and they illustrated perfectly why Bill Belichick calls OTAs a "teaching camp."

Class was in session. 

The final few minutes of Tuesday's practice were all Brissett's because Jimmy Garoppolo was about 100 yards away doing some conditioning with other injured players. 

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Until that point, Brissett had put together a nice practice performance. He showed good touch on deep attempts. The ball came out quickly on short-to-intermediate throws. 

But things unraveled a little for him at the end during 11-on-11s.

One attempt for Chris Hogan was broken up. Deep passes were overthrown. One screen attempt was fired into the dirt. Another incompletion seemed to be the result of Brissett's leg getting stepped on or brushed out from under him. The last pass of the period was batted at the line of scrimmage and picked by undrafted rookie linebacker Harvey Langi. 

One of Brissett's few completions in that portion of practice came when Devin Lucien made a diving grab on a low fastball just before it hit the turf.

As Brissett has often done this spring, he hung back after the team ran The Hills, and he got in some reps with other down-the-depth-chart pass-catchers. 

While he threw to some of his younger teammates, veteran receiver Danny Amendola stopped on his way into the locker room and shared some of his thoughts on where the second-year quarterback was in his development.

"I can tell he's getting better," Amendola said. "He's getting stronger. He's learning the verbiage and the play-calls, and he's throwing the ball well. It's a matter of mentally getting it down. He's getting better."

It's been written ad nauseam in this space, but the way in which Brissett grows this season could impact how the Patriots approach the quarterback position down the road. A third-round pick last year, Brissett seems to have the physical skill -- particularly the arm strength -- required to play the position in New England. 

The question is how quickly can he pick things up in order to give the Patriots another legitimate option behind center? 

Brissett has admitted that there's a gap between what he can do and what the two veterans ahead of him are capable of, but he's working to close the gap. 

"I can tell he's working hard," Amendola said, "and he's getting better every day. He's so young, and he has a long way to go. But we're all really happy to have him, and he does a good job, especially for a young guy." 

Amendola noted that seeing Brissett work after practice to get a few more reps -- even on a day where he was the No. 2 quarterback -- was a good sign that Brissett understands the importance of "getting your stuff done" and being a professional.

"He's learning man. He's learning," Amendola said. "I think once he feels and learns the groove of year-in-year-out professionalism, that's where you see guys grow the most. He's learning, man. He just needs time. He's doing well."

One of the players most accustomed to catching passes from Brissett is fellow second-year player Devin Lucien. Drafted in the seventh round last year out of Arizona State, the wideout said that there is no doubt in his mind Brissett is far more comfortable running things at the line of scrimmage this year as compared to last year. 

There was one moment that stood out in that regard at Tuesday's workout. In an 11-on-11 period, Brissett scoped out the defensive alignment and made a signal in the direction of undrafted rookie wideout Cody Hollister. Brissett looked Hollister's way after the snap and hit Hollister in stride for a long over-the-shoulder completion with undrafted rookie corner Kenny Moore in tight coverage. 

If Brissett indeed changed Hollister's route at the line, it was the right call. 

"I'm sure," Lucien said, "as a rookie you come in with a whole bunch of bearded guys that are huge, some receivers that are older than you, you might be kind of shy to be that controlling dude. I know I would be, honestly. I think the biggest thing for Jacoby is just that he's more comfortable. I think that's just starting to show for you guys. He feels more comfortable making signals, the checks at the line, all that. I think it just comes with time."

Brissett got plenty of time on Tuesday with Garoppolo down, and there were teaching moments aplenty. Call it another small step for a young quarterback who teammates think is moving in the right direction. 

Bill Belichick liked what Cyrus Jones brought as a returner vs. Texans

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Bill Belichick liked what Cyrus Jones brought as a returner vs. Texans

Cyrus Jones brought back four punts for 58 yards during Saturday's preseason game with the Texans, showing the vision and burst that made him a dynamic return man at Alabama and helped make him Bill Belichick's second-round draft pick in 2016.

Two of those four returns -- he also had one kickoff return for 17 yards -- stood out as Jones made "something out of nothing," as Belichick put it after the game. 

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On the first, Jones caught a Shane Lechler boot at the Patriots 27-yard line with three Texans bearing down on him. He sidestepped Dylan Cole with a subtle move to his left, then turned on his speed. Using good blocks from Jordan Richards, Duron Harmon and Justin Coleman, Jones had himself a 32-yard gain. 

After the fact, Jones was congratulated by a large swath of his teammates on the Patriots bench. Jonathan Freeny, Jonathan Jones, Elandon Roberts, Brandin Cooks, Nate Ebner, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, James White and special teams coordinator Joe Judge all happily patted Jones on the helmet or shoulder pads to encourage the second-year corner. 

Jones has been open about how the difficulties he had holding onto the football as a rookie impacted him, but in the early going this year, ball-security has not seemed to be an issue. He muffed one punt on the first practice of training camp, he double caught another in West Virginia last week, but other than, he has handled his return responsibilities well. 

Defensively, he was involved on two long Jaguars touchdowns last week and opted not to speak with reporters afterward. Had his confidence been impacted, it didn't seem to last long. Belichick noted he liked the aggressiveness Jones showed as a returner, despite fielding one that turned into a loss of three deep in Patriots territory. 

"I though Cyrus did a good job in the return game, both in punts and kickoffs," Belichick said. "Ran hard. Ran aggressively. Made good decisions with and without the ball. Had a couple of situations where the ball either hit the ground or was going out of bounds. I thought he did a nice job."

The Patriots seem to have a solid top-four at corner with Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe and Jonathan Jones. Cyrus Jones would seem to fall outside that group in competition for the fifth spot alongside players like Justin Coleman, Kenny Moore and DJ Killings.

But if Jones continues to show positive results in the return game, he could earn a roster spot for his abilities in that regard. Not only do the Patriots place a premium on the kicking game and the importance of field position, but if Jones could help take some of the load off of other returners like Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, there would be value in that as well. 

Perry: Garoppolo's accountability a winning sign in losing effort

Perry: Garoppolo's accountability a winning sign in losing effort

HOUSTON -- If Jimmy Garoppolo is destined to be a starting quarterback down the line, he showed one quality after the game that would seem to indicate he's just about ready.

He was accountable.

The strip-sack that nearly decapitated him and gave the Texans possession? On him.

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"The o-line did a great job tonight," Garoppolo said. "The sack-fumble was my fault. Can't let that happen . . . I'm the quarterback. It's just -- it's my fault."

His pick in the fourth quarter, a strange throw on the run that was out of reach for tight end Jacob Hollister? Well, yeah, no one else to blame there.

"You just gotta throw it away," he said. "Put more on it. Don't even give the guy a chance to do that."

It wasn't all ugliness in preseason game No. 2 for Tom Brady's backup. He hit DJ Foster on a quick toss over the middle that turned into a 25-yard touchdown. He climbed the pocket and drilled Austin Carr for a first down in the third quarter that started a streak of six straight completions, ending with Foster's score. He established chemistry with tight end James O'Shaughnessy, who had to sit during last week's game with the Jags. And he did it all behind the likes of Cam Fleming, Cole Croston, Jamil Douglas and James Ferentz.

One of Garoppolo's best plays of the night actually came on a sack. But instead of taking a vicious blow -- like the one he absorbed on the strip-sack -- he got on the ground just as the Texans were bearing down on him. He lived to see the next down, using an on-the-field awareness that may be tough to sharpen during practices when quarterbacks wear red jerseys and aren't allowed to be touched.

No, the final line wasn't sparkling, as it was a week ago. Garoppolo was 15-for-23 for 145 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He missed throws to O'Shaughnessy, Carr and Dion Lewis. He was nearly picked on a Brandon Bolden wheel route.

But the accountability Garoppolo showed after the fact is the kind of thing that doesn't go unnoticed by teammates, and it's one of the reasons he'll already have them won over if he ever gets another chance to start.

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