With training camp beginning next Thursday, football season is finally upon us. So, it is time to talk actual football here. There are plenty of storylines to watch going into training camp, but none are as interesting or as important as what the Patriots will do with the first team reps at quarterback.
Historically, Brady has essentially taken, and wants to take, every single first team rep in practice, and gets the majority of the first team reps in the preseason games. Obviously that’s not going to be the case this time around. The easy answer would be to give Jimmy all the reps because he has next to no experience playing with those guys, but it’s not that simple.
Jimmy Garappolo will not be the starter for the entire season which makes this a very unique situation. The Patriots have get a quarterback who has never started an NFL game ready to start the first four games of the season, but they also have to prepare their franchise quarterback for the rest of the season, a season they hope ends in Houston on February 5th.
In practice I would expect the reps to be split evenly, with Brady spending a ton of time doing side work with Martellus Bennett and Chris Hogan. Brady has full confidence in the guys like Gronk, Jules and Amendola, but he needs to become comfortable with Bennett and Hogan if they are going to play the important roles in this offense that are expected of them. The Patriots offense is entirely predicated on option routes, which require the receiver and quarterback to see the field with the same set of eyes. There is no way to build that kind of trust in the week leading up to Brady’s first game back, so he needs to get as much work in with those two players this summer as possible.
Unfortunately, at the same time, Jimmy Garappolo needs to get as much work in as possible with the key offensive players so that he is ready to go on September 11th in Arizona, which is why I said to expect the practice reps to be split evenly.
Even though I think practice reps will be split 50/50, I do not expect Brady to play a single snap in the preseason games. Preseason games benefit Jimmy far more than they do Brady. Game action will allow him to get reps with the first team against live competition at full speed, something that just can’t be replicated in practice. Also, there is no point in putting Brady on the field behind backup offensive linemen to get killed when he can get the work he needs done during practice.
Gronk hasn’t played a snap in the preseason since 2012 and he has been just fine. If I know Bill Belichick like I think I do, this is how he will split up the time at quarterback this summer.