PHILADELPHIA — Tom Brady slowly walked behind center Ryan Wendell during Tuesday’s practice and observed the Eagles defense on the shadow of the Philadelphia end zone, pointed at the linebackers, made a vocal check at the line, gestured to Danny Amendola and called for the snap.
A moment later, Amendola easily broke free from his coverage and made a leaping touchdown catch to seal the Patriots’ most pristine offensive series of the joint session. Even during practice, Brady was game-ready with his focus under center and in total control in his first action of the summer against a live opposing defense.
Brady consistently worked the Eagles, extending snap counts to see if they’d jump, and when they did, he’d make a check to exploit the perceived coverage. Granted, the Eagles weren’t throwing the kitchen sink at Brady, but the quarterback made enough of the right calls to deliver passes before the defense could get anywhere near him.
Every bit as important, Brady’s receivers ran the right routes to get in place to finish the play.
“It’s impressive,” wide receiver Josh Boyce said. “He demands so much out of everybody. To follow his demands and be where he wants you to be on routes is fun.”
Brady opened the practice by completing 20-of-20 passes in one-on-one drills. Obviously, those are heavily swayed in the offense’s favor, but the receivers ran through a complex route tree, including a back-shoulder throw to Aaron Dobson, a deep pattern to Boyce and a comeback toss to Kenbrell Thompkins. Amendola ran the route of the day when he scooted through a variety of moves to turn around Eagles safety Patrick Chung three times before Brady found him.
“I feel like we got some good stuff done today,” Amendola said. “We’re just trying to work out some kinks and all trying to get on the same page. Overall, a good day today.”
Brady then completed all seven of his passes in 7-on-7 work before kicking it into gear for 11-on-11s, where he hit on 17-of-21 passes and even drew a pair of pass interference penalties. Two of Brady’s incompletions were drops, which came when Thompkins slipped out of his break and Amendola let a potential touchdown toss clang off his hands.
The offense’s greatest stretch occurred during a no-huddle session that started near its own goal line. Brady marched down the field with ease and completed all eight of his passes to six different receivers, including the scoring toss to Amendola.
There was magic in the variation, too. Throughout the course of 11-on-11 work, Brady hit Kamar Aiken in a soft spot in the zone, found running back Leon Washington on a wheel route up the left sideline, struck Thompkins with a laser on a deep throw, dumped off a throw to Amendola on a check-down, nailed Boyce on a deep pass through two safeties and lofted a nice touchdown pass to tight end Zach Sudfeld after he beat linebacker DeMeco Ryans over the middle.
Brady took what was given at times, and there were other plays when he and a receiver teamed up to make something happen. The numbers weren’t just a reflection of a dozen dump-offs to Amendola or the running backs.
Brady was happy enough with the performance to deem it one of the offense’s best sessions of camp. It was also an extension of a long walkthrough at the team hotel, so the Pats clearly executed after emphasizing certain areas of importance.
While Brady was the showstopper, he needed his receivers to finish the job. Boyce had his best practice in terms of completing difficult catches, and Thompkins has continued to emerge as a solid possession receiver with nice route-running ability and sneaky speed. His workload even increased after Dobson was benched for an early shoving match with Eagles cornerback Cary Williams.
Brady and his new cast of receivers have shown plenty of moments of promise during camp, though there have also been some noticeable growing pains along the way. Tuesday, with the chance to take on a new defense, Brady and the offense made their most impressionable strides. The offensive captain said a lot has gone into that improvement.
“I’m probably a pain in their butt at this point,” Brady said. “I’m always harping on them about something. I don’t let off very often, so I’m sure it will be nice for everybody to get to the games and get competitive.”