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Etling, Hoyer do the passing at Pats' OTAs

By KEVIN DILLON, Springfield, Mass.

May 22. 2018 11:19PM

New England Patriots quarterback Danny Etling warms up during organized team activities at Gillette practice fields. (Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — As the New England Patriots took the field for the second time during OTAs Tuesday, it felt as if the whole gang was back together. Julian Edelman was making sharp cuts with his yellow Kent State shirt under his jersey, Devin McCourty was joking around with teammates and assistant coaches were yelling at anyone who dared make a mistake.

But there were a few noticeable differences — none more palpable than the absence of Tom Brady.

The Patriots’ passing attack did not do particularly well in 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 drills. According to stats compiled by Jeff Howe of The Athletic, backup QB Brian Hoyer finished 12-of-25 in passing drills with an interception. Newcomer Danny Etling was just 4-for-9, though he had a few impressive throws.

Neither quarterback is Brady, however. Without him, the offense lacked its normal precision. Perhaps that’s just a result of it being the second day of OTAs, and the team needs time to jell and find its rhythm. Hoyer indicated that he does not think Brady’s absence is a distraction.

“No, I don’t think so,” Hoyer said. “I’m focused on myself. My teammates — we are all focused on getting better each day. That’s all we can do. I don’t think it’s a distraction in any way at all.”

Hoyer noted how beneficial OTA practices are as well, citing the ability to go up against a defense as a key factor.

“It’s awesome, especially for quarterbacks,” Hoyer said. “There’s nothing like simulating going against the defense. You can go out and throw routes on air. You can go out and walk through plays, but there’s nothing really like going against the defense”

Tuesday was Etling’s first time speaking with the collected New England media in person. When asked if he has spoken to Brady since being drafted, he followed head coach Bill Belichick’s lead and dodged the question. When a reporter followed up by making sure Etling knew who Brady was, Etling couldn’t deny that.

“Yeah, I know Tom,” Etling said. “He’s a pretty great quarterback. Probably the greatest of all time.”

Unlike in past years, the Patriots had plenty of opportunities to get their third-string quarterback repetitions with the first-team offense. Etling was throwing to the same receivers Hoyer was in the practice, and was working on his mechanics and knowledge of the offense with assistant coaches. He was not simply working off to the side with fringe roster players, which could help his development.

Etling, who wears No. 58 while he still waits for the team to assign him a full-time number, is just happy to get the opportunity to grow with the Patriots.

“It’s been a fun time to just sit there and learn and continue to progress,” Etling said.

“I’m just learning to take it one day at a time, one meeting at a time, one snap at a time and continue to try and progress and learn the system. Just keep trying to work hard and try and become the player I want to be. That’s just going to take a lot of work.”

With Etling learning the ropes of the Patriots’ offense, it helps to have Hoyer around. While Brady is not around to offer any sort of mentorship to Etling, Hoyer is a veteran with plenty of different NFL experience to pull from.

The rookie is happy to have Hoyer around to help out.

“He’s been pulling me aside when I can and we run a rep or we run a play or have a meeting,” Etling said. “He’s given me helpful advice on how to operate the system, how to become more consistent and how to do my job better.”

From the looks of things, Etling might be working with just Hoyer throughout OTAs. While the two quarterbacks are likely to improve by the start of the season, the Patriots have to be happy that no games are played in May. They’ll need their starter back if they’re going to make another run at a Super Bowl.


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