FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Wanted: another Tom Brady binkie.
The quarterback needs someone. It’s going to be pretty tough having a potent offense if Julian Edelman is the only receiver he trusts.
With training camp opening, Edelman on the shelf with a broken thumb and Rob Gronkowski happily sporting a lighter frame and retired for now, it’s a prime opportunity for someone to emerge and win over Brady.
Who took the baton on Day One? Who won over Brady?
No one, really.
The Patriots cornerbacks were too good during the competitive drills. Brady’s favorite receiver on the day was running back Rex Burkhead, who had three catches.
However, there was one bright spot from the receiving corps. During a couple of side sessions where Brady and N’Keal Harry worked alone, the rookie was impressive. There were no defenders, of course, unless you consider offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels marking him at the line.
Harry continued to work hard to get in sync with Brady, making a number of leaping back-shoulder catches. Before the first side session even started, Brady was in his ear, chatting him up, giving direction. He looked really good in this phase.
During the competitive sessions, he caught only one touchdown pass from Brady, and it brought the house down. So all in all, there were signs of progress for the Patriots’ first-round pick.
“He’s going to be great,” fellow receiver Phillip Dorsett said of Harry, who signed autographs and wasn’t available to the media Thursday. “(He’s a) big body. Once he learns how to use his body, play professional football, because there’s a difference between college and the pro level, one thing I can say, is he’s going to be really good.”
For now, however, he’s still a work in progress. He’s still learning the offense, and learning exactly what Brady wants, and where he needs to be on routes.
At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, Harry is huge for a receiver. He doesn’t get off the line particularly well, which has been obvious watching him through the early camps. But if you get the ball anywhere near him in a crowd, he’ll usually come down with it.
Maurice Harris, who stood out in the spring, flashing a good set of hands and an ability to high-point the ball on routes down the field, didn’t get to showcase his talents as much with the Patriots working the offense only in the red zone in competitive drills.
He’s tall (6-foot-3, 205 pounds) but not quite as imposing as Harry. He didn’t catch any balls from Brady in the 11-on-11 drills. Neither did Dontrelle Inman.
“Every rep is important, putting the pieces together one step at a time,” said Harris, the former Redskin. “It was good to get reps (with Tom) in minicamp and continue on now. I think we’re just going to continue to build and maximize every day.”
Dorsett, the lone familiar face in the receiver crowd for Brady, led the wideouts with two catches from the GOAT during the 11-on-11 session.
Undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers flashed, making a few catches with Brian Hoyer and is someone to keep an eye on.
Given Edelman’s absence, Dorsett was asked if the receivers were looking at this as an opportunity to get to click with Brady a little better, and pick up the slack.
“We all know what we have to do. We all know at the end of the day we have to try and get better no matter who’s out here, no matter who’s up,” said Dorsett. “Jules is our leader. We know that. We told him we’re going to have to step up for him. He talked to me. He told me to lead the group while he’s gone. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Dorsett was aware the day didn’t go all that well for the receiving group as a whole. There’s added pressure on the group now to rise up, or at least have a few of them emerge.
Dorsett advocated having a little patience.
“Day One, obviously, there’s going to be some mistakes, there’s going to be some good things, there’s going to be some drops. Everything isn’t going to go our way,” he said. “But at the end of the day, we can’t really worry about the bad stuff. We just have to be able to overcome it.”
He knows many are already dismissing the receiving corps, especially without having Gronkowski to lure coverage his way, and now, not having Edelman.
“If you’re a football player, stuff like that always adds a little fuel. People are going to say what they’re going to say,” said Dorsett. “We know what we’re capable of. The only thing we can control is what we do on the field, and just try and get better every day.
“You try not to read social media, but it gets to you,” Dorsett went on. “We just block it out, and go play football. We heard worse last year.”
That’s when the Pats signed Josh Gordon. He’s on indefinite suspension. Maybe he gets to come back. Until then, Brady is still short on binkies.