FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It happened so quickly that it would have been easy to overlook, which is the way a lot of things unfold with the New England Patriots' fast-paced offense.
It was no-huddle work at practice, players aligning quickly, running the play, and then hustling back for the next one. The purpose seemed to be more mental than physical, as there wasn’t game-type urgency, no defense on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
Veteran tight end Martellus Bennett thought he positioned himself correctly to the left of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, but when Garoppolo looked to that side of the field, he waved him closer to the line.
"Marty, a little bit closer!" Garoppolo called out.
With that, Bennett -- responding to his nickname -- tightened his split and the ball was snapped.
That brief snapshot of practice illustrates, in part, how Garoppolo has progressed since the Patriots selected him in the second round of the 2014 draft, 62nd overall. He naturally has a better understanding of the team’s complex offensive system, understanding not only his own responsibilities but those of other players as well.
That extends to the overall locker room.
In June, Garoppolo talked about how the quarterback position is "never-ending -- mentally [and] physically," touching on how that means learning each player on and off the field. His work with Bennett was an example along those lines.
"I know all the guys, the guys know me," Garoppolo said last month. "… I can remember back to rookie OTAs and it was night and day."
So, too, is the difference between serving two years as a backup and being thrust into a starting role in place of Tom Brady.
How ready is Garoppolo?
If leadership and command of the offense in practice is any indication, he looks to be on the cusp. The next challenge is to transition that progress into regular-season action if Brady is unavailable.