FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots held the first day of their mandatory minicamp Tuesday, and here were some of the things that stood out:
Quarterback position looks to be in good hands. This was a very impressive practice, and I'd imagine the coaching staff has some fun dissecting one specific part of it -- dueling 11-on-11 sessions on each field, as quarterbacks Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo led their units at the same time. The music was turned up, creating some stress from a communication standpoint, and the overall operation of both offenses looked to be mostly on point at a quick pace. It was interesting to see how the personnel was divided -- Garoppolo throwing to tight end Rob Gronkowski and receiver Julian Edelman, among others, while Brady's top targets were tight end Scott Chandler and receiver Danny Amendola. That could be viewed as a snapshot of how the Patriots are balancing the process of getting two quarterbacks ready for a possible opening-day starting role.
Garoppolo and tipped passes. Something to file away for training camp and possibly the regular season: Garoppolo seems to have more passes tipped at the line of scrimmage than Brady. One of those tipped passes resulted in an interception Tuesday, but Garoppolo quickly got himself back on track and the mistakes didn't spiral. We've seen a few of those tipped passes in recent practices.
White, Amendola, Roberts make plays of note. It's a challenge to follow everything in a practice, but three things caught the eye in terms of top-notch plays. First, running back James White made a very nice catch on a wheel route for about a 20-yard touchdown from Brady in 11-on-11 work. Second, Amendola was catching everything thrown in his direction, as he and Brady seem to be operating at a higher level and building off their solid 2014 postseason together. Third, seventh-round draft choice Darryl Roberts, a cornerback out of Marshall working mostly on the left side, had a quality pass breakup against Garoppolo (believe it was against veteran receiver Brandon Gibson) over the middle. On one of the next plays, Roberts -- who was schooled by coaches on playing with the proper leverage -- was also in coverage on an incomplete pass along the left sideline but probably would have likely drawn a penalty for pass interference.
Lewis' work highlights essence of an OTA. At one point in practice, fourth-year running back Dion Lewis was lauded by Brady for his work in the passing game, which piqued my interest for a few reasons. First, Lewis is an under-the-radar option to become the team's passing back as he competes against White, Travaris Cadet and Brandon Bolden for the role. Second, that Brady was throwing to him in skeleton drills (against no defense) highlights how Lewis might be under-the-radar from a public perception standpoint, but he's very much on the Patriots' radar as he's healthy again after essentially missing the last two seasons. Third, I was curious why Lewis was praised in the first place and I later learned it was because he took a teaching point that was covered in morning meetings -- attacking the inside shoulder of the defender on a pass route -- and executed on the field. That, to me, is the essence of what we're watching in an OTA.
Extra points. Matt Flynn was the clear No. 3 quarterback, as one would expect, and he received a quick introduction of how Bill Belichick conducts business when he fumbled a center/quarterback exchange and was sent on a penalty lap. ... At one point in practice, Brady worked in the red zone with tight ends Gronkowski, Chandler and Michael Hoomanawanui, along with fullback James Develin, while the rest of the team was doing special-teams drills. At the same time, Garoppolo received one-on-one instruction from offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. ... The Brady-Chandler connection was notable, as Brady has apparently given him the nickname "Chan." ... Members of the team's scouting staff were present, including longtime consultant Larry Cook. ... The special-teams segment of practice was devoted to punt coverage/protection. ... Fourth-round draft choices Tre' Jackson and Shaq Mason continue to get a lot of quality work at guard, with Jackson spending time on the left side, a spot he didn't play much at Florida State. ... Good hold by the defense in late-practice situational work at the 3-yard line, as the rush got to Brady, who was forced to scramble as the play was whistled dead. ... Third-year receiver Josh Boyce got up gingerly after a long incompletion down the left sideline and didn't finish practice. ... Veteran defensive tackle Alan Branch was back on the practice field and said he hadn't been present at voluntary workouts because of personal reasons at home.