When Tom Brady first lined up with his offense, it was noteworthy who was and who wasn't on the field. Flanked to his left, out wide, was undrafted receiver Jakobi Meyers. In the slot was 2018 sixth-round pick Braxton Berrios. Out wide to the right was undrafted receiver Gunner Olszewski.
The combined number of NFL games played for that group is zero.
Inside the Titans facility, the Patriots had Julian Edelman (thumb), Demaryius Thomas (Achilles), N'Keal Harry (leg injury), Maurice Harris (unknown injury) and Phillip Dorsett (hand/thumb wrapped). The experience gap between the injured receivers and the ones actually practicing for the Patriots is eye opening.
In the final 11-on-11 period, veteran Dontrelle Inman replaced Meyers to line up with Olszewski and Berrios. Brady went 3 for 8 to close out the practice with that group. The war of attrition has taken its toll on the Patriots receiver depth chart.
"Those guys are working hard," Brady said. "Training camp is an interesting time with a lot of bodies. There's a lot of guys in and out. Some years, you might have three guys set or four guys set. I think this year we really haven't had that. It's good work for the quarterback just to make a read, make a throw. Whether we come up with it or not, at least we're going to the right place and making a good deceive play. There's still a lot to be gain with guys moving in and out. It's just the way it's been."
If the Patriots were healthy, they'd look a lot different. Without Edelman, who's dealing with a broken thumb, the Pats have given more opportunities to unknown players. Sometimes that pays off and sometimes the lack of experience is evident.
Meyers, for example, has looked like a gem of an undrafted free agent. The rookie has been the best receiver on the Patriots this summer and it hasn't been that close. On Thursday, he looked the best during 1-on-1 drills, where he won two of his three matchups.
Of course, there have been some rough moments. Brady yelled at Berrios on Thursday after the receiver appeared to run the wrong route. The ball sailed right as Berrios broke left. Brady's offense has often looked behind the Patriots veteran laden secondary and on Thursday, the group had a tough finish.
"I don't think that's really in my control. The guys who are out there, they are trying to get the work they need to do," Brady said. "I think it was good competitive work. They're going against Malcolm (Butler), Logan (Ryan), Adoree (Jackson). Those are pretty good corners. They have two very good safeties ... Whoever is in there has to get the work. It was a good couple of days."