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Friday is the end of the typical work week but for the Patriots, it merely marks the beginning of the toughest part of training camp. Next week, the Patriots will be holding joint practices with the New Orleans Saints in preparation for the preseason game at Gillette Stadium on Thursday, August 12th.
Day 9 ended with the Patriots' 17th practice overall. Friday's key observations include: back up quarterback Brian Hoyer development and red zone improvement.
With the receiving squad being a major focus for the first week of camp, for this edition Kisha's Key Point, I examine Holt's performance and his chances of earning a spot on the 53 man roster.
Brian Hoyer Solid at Back Up
While Tom Brady stood back and observed, second year quarterback Brian Hoyer took the lead on the majority of Friday's snaps.
The 2009 free agent has only played five total games as a Patriot but has shown a substantial amount of development since. Hoyer explained "...I feel like I'm in the best position to learn because I think Tom's the best in the game at moving around in the pocket, subtle little movements, and that's the thing I try to do.."
Hoyer's vision of the backfield has improved as he connected several times with Randy Moss, Brandon Tate and short passes to both Julian Edelman and Wes Welker.
Hoyer's performance in Friday's practice showed two things:
- Hoyer's confidence in the pocket has enabled him to make better offensive decisions.
- The Michigan State alum has gained a better understanding of the Patriots offense and entire system.
With his first year over and another rookie quarterback, seventh round pick Zac Robinson, to mentor, Hoyer has plenty to look forward to in the upcoming season.
Red Zone Improvement
As with the earlier practice sessions, the red zone was a main focus for Friday's training camp. Quarterback Brian Hoyer managed to connect on several occasions on both sides of the endzone with many of the receivers.
Brandon Tate made an amazing diving catch in the endzone after leaping for one of Hoyer's passes that was lobbed too high for normal receivers. Tight end Alge Crumpler had noteworthy success today acting as a blocker enabling rookie Aaron Hernandez to create separation from the defenders to make another solid catch. Rob Gronkowski showed slowness in his footwork, struggled with his blocks and allowed the defense to get past him for what could've been a sack of Brian Hoyer.
On the defensive end, linebacker Eric Alexander reeled in a tipped ball that was the result of Hoyer being pressured inside the pocket. Hoyer's intended target was Alge Crumpler.
Cornerback Kyle Arrington continues to show significant improvement as he maintains close coverage on every play. Quickness, strength and pressure off the line should make for Arrington to be solid at the cornerback position.
Kisha's Key Point: Hope for Holt
Having veteran experience on a team vital. For the Patriots, having experience in every position is a necessity. Almost every analyst has dubbed the 2010 Patriots "young and full fresh talent." Youth is found in excess within the Patriots' wide receiving department but still the average age of the receivers is 26 with Moss, Holt, Aiken and Welker having the most experience in the league.
As far as being the number one receiver goes, that job undoubtedly is won by Randy Moss. But from what I've seen in camp, Holt does bring something a little different to the younger receivers.
With 11 receivers on the roster, Holt has definitely got his work cut out for him. Even with the competition though, the former St. Louis Rams playmaker always finds time to tutor the younger talent.
Second year wide receiver Julian Edelman explained to the Taunton Daily Gazette, "If you do something wrong he's going to let you know. It's great to have him there." Edelman continued, "...He's not going to yell at you, but he's going to take you aside and just critique and let you know. I know where he's been in his career and the more help I can get, the merrier."
On top of being an all-around team player, the veteran can still catch remarkably well.
In 2009 while Holt was part of the Jacksonville Jaguars, he had 51 receptions for 722 yards. His performance may be drastically lower than his "Greatest Show on Turf" days, but Holt still shows promise in the offense, whether it be on or off the field.
The Patriots have canceled all practices for the weekend. Camp will continue on Monday with one session scheduled.
Kisha Tapangan is a contributing writer for PatriotsInsider.com She also maintains her personal blog Necessary Roughness and can be found on Twitter @KishaT. Be sure to check in all camp long for regular updates by Kisha from Foxboro