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NFL Team Report - New England Patriots - INSIDE SLANT
The last two times the media saw the New England Patriots practice -- the final organized team activities session a week ago and Tuesday's first day of mandatory minicamp -- there were only two quarterbacks taking reps on the field.
With fourth-year veteran backup Ryan Mallett missing workouts for an undisclosed reason, Tom Brady is left running the first team and rookie second-round pick Jimmy Garoppolo is receiving more than his share of chances throughout drills and backup action.
The youngster out of Eastern Illinois eventually may take over for the 15-year veteran Brady, but that is in the future. Right now, Garoppolo is simply trying to learn the New England offense and get his feet wet as a professional.
That means all the extra practice reps this spring that normally might have gone to Mallett are more than welcome. In the first day of minicamp work Tuesday, Garoppolo threw a nice deep ball to rookie receiver Jeremy Johnson to beat solid coverage, one of the rookie's best tosses during his short time with the Patriots.
"It was a good read," he said with a chuckle, suggesting that he was satisfied with the play. "It's just one of those things that you see the safeties rotate and you get your eyes in the right place and you have to have efficient eyes, and I did that on that play."
Other times he was forced to pull the ball down and throw it into the ground, Peyton Manning-style, under pressure or throw wildly to a spot where he apparently thought the intended receiver would be. It clearly is a growing process at this point for a guy coming from the Football Championship Subdivision level trying to get up to speed quickly with what is one of the NFL's more complex offenses.
"I don't even know if you can compare the two. ... It's night and day," he said when asked about the differences between offseason work at Eastern Illinois and with the Patriots. "We come out here, it's gorgeous out here, had a great day of practice. What else would you rather be doing?"
While Garoppolo clearly is taking advantage of Mallett's missed time, he is also leaning on both the veteran backup and the veteran starter as he tries to get a handle on the playbook. In addition, he is learning how offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels handles his pupils.
"Brady and Mallett are two guys who have been doing this for a while, and they know the offense very well," Garoppolo said. "They've helped me a tremendous amount. Them and Josh and offensive assistant Jerry (Schuplinski) have done a tremendous job helping me.
"Josh is just like me, an energetic guy. He loves the offense, loves football, and we go out there and have a great time every day."
For at least a couple of days, Garoppolo was the No. 2 quarterback in practice. At times he looked like a polished, accurate, athletic young passer. Other times he looked less than stellar. He is a work in the very early stages of progress.
He knows that, which is why he is not all that interested in addressing the talk of him being the heir to Brady's job.
"It's just one of those things; you can't really focus on it," he said. "If you're focusing on that, you're focusing on the wrong things. My main focus was on coming out here, being very consistent, day in and day out. It's a grind, and you have to come out here and do well each and every day."
And that is an answer that would probably make coach Bill Belichick, McDaniels and even Brady proud.
NFL Team Report - New England Patriots - NOTES, QUOTES
--Cornerback Darrelle Revis missed essentially the entire practice on New England's second day of mandatory mini-camp action for unspecified reasons. The veteran was on the field for the opening of the session during stretching and form running but left shortly thereafter, missing all the group and team work in the two-hour practice. Revis had been a full participant in the Patriots' previous mini-camp and OTA action that's been open to the media.
"All the players that are out there practicing are practicing and the ones that aren't, aren't," coach Bill Belichick said on the field after the workout ended.
Asked a follow-up question if there was anything in particular to Revis specifically and Belichick offered little more.
"There are a lot of guys that don't practice today," Belichick said.
--Quarterback Ryan Mallett was once again absent from practice for New England's second day of mini-camp action, the third straight time he's missed a workout with the media in attendance dating back to OTAs. No word on the nature of Mallett's apparent injury, other than the fact that he was working with the team's rehabbing players with the training staff during the practice action.
--Offensive lineman R.J. Mattes was released on Wednesday. Undrafted out of North Carolina State last year, he spent time with New England last summer as well as a short stint on the team's practice squad late last season.
--Wide receiver Jeremy Johnson was signed by the Patriots on Thursday. The 6-foot, 179-pound rookie free agent out of SMU caught 112 passes for 1,112 yards with six touchdowns as a senior for the Mustangs. Over the course of his four-year career, he hauled in 196 passes for 1,936 yards with 10 touchdowns.
--Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer missed the final eight games last season because of a broken leg. As is the case with so many players when they are forced to miss time from the game, Vollmer admits he's probably enjoying OTA workouts more than the average player might. "No doubt, whenever you get hurt or miss some games, you're excited to be back," Vollmer said. "You go through rehab and try to get your body right. So it's definitely exciting for me."
--Linebacker James Anderson signed with the Patriots June 4. The 6-foot-2, 235-pound veteran has played in eight NFL seasons, the first seven of which came with the Panthers. The 30 year old spent last year in Chicago where he tallied 102 tackles and four sacks in 16 starts. Over his career he's started 69 of 110 games, totaling 556 tackles, 12 sacks three interceptions, 23 passes defensed, five forced fumbles and eight fumble recoveries.
Anderson immediately becomes the most experienced, talented backup linebacker in New England. While Pro Bowler Jerod Mayo, third-year former first-round pick Dont'a Hightower and second-year second-round pick Jamie Collins are penciled in as the three starters, there is extremely limited depth behind them.
NFL Team Report - New England Patriots - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
A closer look at the Patriots' picks:
Round 1/29 -- Dominique Easley, DT, 6-2, 288, Florida
--The Patriots stayed put in the first round for the first time in three years and went after a talented, athletic Gator with a perceived upside and a very real injury history. Easley is a disruptive force when healthy but is coming off a torn ACL that cost him all but three games in his final season at Florida after coming back from a torn ACL in his other knee two years ago.
Round 2/62 -- Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 6-2, 226, Eastern Illinois
--New England spent plenty of time working out quarterbacks prior to the draft and then targeted the highly productive Garoppolo as the man to likely replace Ryan Mallett as Tom Brady's backup and, down the road, maybe ascend to a potentially even greater role. Garoppolo has a quick release and good accuracy, but will have to transition from a lower level to the far more complex passing game in New England and the pro defenses he'll face.
Round 4/105 -- Bryan Stork, C, 6-4, 300, Florida State
--Stork won the Rimington Trophy as the top center in the country while helping FSU to a national title in his final season. The All-America will be expected to come in right away and possible compete for playing time at either center or right guard, where he could easily prove an upgrade over returning veterans Ryan Wendell or Dan Connolly.
Round 4/130 -- James White, RB, 5-10, 195, Wisconsin
--With both starter Stevan Ridley and third-down back Shane Vereen heading into the final year of their rookie contracts, New England clearly wanted to add depth and developmental talent to the backfield committee. White, who opened and closed his four-year college career with 1,000-yard campaigns, is a guy familiar with sharing the load for the Badgers, and unlike Ridley, his two fumbles in 754 career touches show the kind of ball security that Bill Belichick is fond of.
Round 4/140 -- Cameron Fleming, T, 6-6, 318, Stanford
--Despite returning all five starting offensive linemen from last season, New England continued to target the spot in this year's draft by taking the right tackle out of Stanford. Fleming started all 39 games he played for the school and given that he's about to receive a degree in aeronautics and astronautics is seen as a heady player who might have the potential to bump to guard at the next level.
Round 6/179 -- Jon Halapio, G, 6-3, 323, Florida
--For the third time in its first six picks New England added another offensive lineman with the addition of Halapio, a two-time Gators captain who started 43 of the 51 games he played in Gainesville. A right guard for Florida, he'll join the Patriots' offensive line development program that's now under the direction of first-year line coach Dave DeGuglielmo.
Round 6/198 -- Zach Moore, DE, 6-5, 269, Concordia
--Finally addressing a defensive end/pass rush need that many considered a high priority, New England went with a developmental talent from Division II. Moore certainly has an NFL frame and his 33 career sacks are impressive; he'll be looking to make a major leap in competition.
Round 6/206 -- Jemea Thomas, CB, 5-9, 192, Georgia Tech
--Thomas is an undersized tweener with experience at both safety and corner. He'll probably compete in the nickel in the NFL and on special teams, but as a four-year college starter brings solid experience to the next level.
Round 7/244 -- Jeremy Gallon, WR, 5-7, 187, Michigan
--The Patriots' final selection of the day added another undersized receiver to the team's receiving corps. Gallon had a highly productive final season for the Wolverines with 89 catches for 1,373 yards and nine touchdowns, but his undersized build and average hands make him a question mark at the next level.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--DE Andre Carter (not tendered as UFA).
--WR Austin Collie (not tendered as UFA).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED
--QB Jimmy Garoppolo (2/62): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--C Bryan Stork (4/105): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--RB James White (4/130): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--T Cameron Fleming (4/140): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--G Jon Halapio (6/179): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--DE Zach Moore (6/198): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--CB Jemea Thomas (6/206): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--WR Jeremy Gallon (7/244): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--LS Danny Aiken: Potential RFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--WR Julian Edelman: UFA; $17M/4 yrs, $8M guaranteed.
--TE Michael Hoomanawanui: Potential UFA; 2 yr, terms unknown.
--C Ryan Wendell: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--LB James Anderson: Not tendered as UFA by Bears; terms unknown.
--CB Brandon Browner: UFA Seahawks; $15.15M/3 yrs, $1M guaranteed.
--S Patrick Chung: FA Eagles; terms unknown.
--LB Josh Hull: FA Redskins; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--WR Brandon LaFell: UFA Panthers; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--CB Darrelle Revis: FA Buccaneers; $32M/2 yrs, $10M SB/$12M RB 2015.
--DE Will Smith: FA Saints; terms unknown.
--RB LeGarrette Blount: UFA Steelers; $3.85M/2 yrs, $950,000 SB.
--LB Dane Fletcher: UFA Buccaneers; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--S Steve Gregory (released).
--TE Matthew Mulligan: UFA Bears; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--NT Isaac Sopoaga (released).
--LB Brandon Spikes: UFA Bills; $3M/1 yr, $900,000 SB.
--T Will Svitek: Not tendered as UFA/Bengals; terms unknown.
--CB Aqib Talib: UFA Broncos; $57M/6 yrs, $5M SB/$26M guaranteed.
--S Adrian Wilson (released).