This morning I had the joy of attending the Patriots first open to the public training camp of the year. The stands and lawn were packed as expected, and the heat certainly didn’t halt anyone from coming out.
A few of the things I was looking forward to seeing was watching Brady in his 20th camp of course, observing the new rookie running back Damien Harris, and seeing how the new faces on the receiving corps mesh with the offense.
I did end up getting to observe all of these things, however, to my surprise, the person that captivated most of my attention was none other than last years seventh round pick, “quarterback” Danny Elting.
Now, you may be wondering why I put quarterback in quotation marks. Well, that’s because it seems to be that Danny is making the transition over to wide receiver.
The first sign of this came when Danny trotted out in a white jersey, the color that all offensive skill players wear. All three other quarterbacks were dressed in the typical red jerseys, indicating non-contact.
Next, Etling spent the duration of practice running routes and catching passes, which then made it obvious that he was beginning the journey of changing positions. It makes sense, with the Patriots having drafted rookie quarterback Jarrett Stidham to fill the third spot on the depth chart, there is really no room for Etling anymore.
The first thought that came to my mind when thinking of how this role change will go was a comparison to a breakout star from New Orleans last season, Taysom Hill. Hill lined up at a handful of positions for the Saints last year, including quarterback, running back, and of course wide receiver. He was actually a huge part of their offense in some games. He finished the season with almost 200 rushing yards, 2 touchdowns, and an average of 5.3 yards per carry. Defenses did not know how to strategize and defend plays when Hill was in the game, because they simply didn’t know if he was going to run, pass, or catch the ball.
Etling and Hill are almost exactly the same size. Both are 6’2, and weight 218 and 221 pounds, respectively. If Etling can keep getting better in camp and during preseason games in this new role, I think it would be a win for the team given the confusion on the receiver depth chart after the first couple spots.
After going over the Taysom Hill comparison with a couple people around me, I then realized another late pick receiver who made the same transition a while back. That’s right, Super Bowl LIII MVP himself, Julian Edelman. I’m probably getting too ahead of myself there, but hey, sky’s the limit.
Etling was one of a few guys who came over to sign autographs once practice wrapped up. Luckily, I was in the front leaning on the rope and got him to sign a shirt. I asked him if he was transitioning to wideout as well. In Belichick-esque fashion he replied “I’m just playing football, man.” Love it, I’m totally here for Etling to become a household name, are you?