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Lazar's summary of training camp


mike_usagisan

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@Zuma posted this in one of the training camp threads, but it's a great summary of training camp and the progression of the offense. Even if you've been paying attention to the camp news, it's great to see it in one place.

I like Lazar and this is a really, really good read. I'm going to try (and fail) to not quote the entire thing and only post the highlights:
New offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien has come as advertised, adding a little more each day to a scheme that's really encouraging. Based on the first week-plus of the summer, O'Brien is aiming to return New England's offense to an efficient short and intermediate passing game that'll hopefully produce explosive plays with yards after the catch and supplement that with marrying the run game to under-center play-action — it's an updated version of the 2011 Patriots offense.
Even under McDaniels, the Pats weren't utilizing motion at the snap (example: jet motion) or run-pass options (RPOs) as much as other modern offenses around the NFL, and O'Brien is adding more of that into the scheme. Along with other BOB staples such as empty formations, receiver stacks and bunch alignments, and option routes, New England's offensive install has been extremely impressive, with plenty of motion/window dressing and pre-snap control for quarterbacks. It's been apparent in recent days how the system puts stress on the defense.

As exciting as the scheme is for this football nerd to dissect, player execution during full-team drills has come in the form of baby steps as the players learn a new system. Admittedly, it's difficult to avoid riding the roller coaster during training camp, where the actual results can seesaw day-to-day, especially when installing a new offense.

In the first week of camp, the Patriots red zone offense was suffocated by a projected top-ten defense. There were some ugly periods, but we've seen steady progress as the Pats began moving the action outside the red zone and eventually back inside the 20

With the group turning the page from play installation to perfecting execution, the results are starting to come, even in the red zone, where they've shown significant progress. At this point, you're beginning to recognize O'Brien's staple concepts, and the group is challenging a really good defense on the practice field. It's a healthy back-and-forth, which wasn't the case last summer when the offense struggled to find its way, let alone play chess against a Belichick defense.
The offense, and the quarterback agrees, has enough skill talent to move the ball when they're being put in a position to succeed by an experienced offensive coordinator. From this perspective, the Pats undoing won't be the quarterback or his pass-catchers but rather an offensive line searching for continuity and reliability.
Mac either needs to hold/account for the boundary defender jumping the route or find an uptick in velocity to drive the ball into the closing window. This issue has accounted for most of Jones's turnover-worthy throws in practice.
Let's make one thing clear: there isn't a quarterback competition in terms of the Week 1 starter in Foxboro. Mac is the starting quarterback, taking all the competitive first-team reps, and he's been far more consistent than backup Bailey Zappe.
However, Jones is clearly better than Zappe in the short and intermediate areas, while the second-year QB has taken too many sacks by holding the ball. Ultimately, it's Mac's job unless he loses it in the regular season.
Ty Montgomery has missed seven-straight sessions with an apparent leg injury he suffered in practice. Montgomery is valuable as an RB/WR hybrid who can create intriguing personnel mismatches, but his durability is a real issue. It's too bad. He flashes when he's out there.
JuJu Smith-Schuster and DeVante Parker are as advertised. Neither wows you with speed. But they're sturdy receivers with great hands, body control, and the experience shows. Smith-Schuster feels like a guy who will be even more productive in games when he gets into YAC mode, while Parker continues to win his fair share of jump balls. These are your top two WRs. Assuming they're healthy, they'll play a lot.
It's fair to start worrying about second-year WR Tyquan Thornton's development. He started to flash in team drills on second-team reps but was going against Shaun Wade and rookie Isaiah Bolden. Other than that, he's either been unavailable or struggling to stand out.
Boutte doesn't have much separation quickness on horizontal cuts, though, and he is blocked by Bourne, JuJu, and Parker at the X/Z spots. I could see him making this team, but Boutte would be more of a stash for 2024 and injury depth, whereas Douglas has a clearer path to playing time because his skillset is different than the others.
Tre Nixon remains a roster long-shot due to the locks at the position.
Hunter Henry looks terrific entering his third season with the team and has been the most reliable pass-catcher for Mac in team drills. Henry creates separation with his craftiness and ability to use his frame to shield the catch point, while his chemistry with Jones is outstanding. The ball leaves Jones's hands earlier throwing to Henry than any other receiver by a mile. The anticipation with these two is off the charts.
Gesicki could lose snaps as an early-down receiver because TE Matt Sokol is climbing the depth chart. Listed at 258 pounds, Sokol is the roster's best in-line blocking tight end.
Anthony Firkser has also sometimes mixed in as a second blocking tight end. Firsker has more versatility than Sokol to make blocks on the move from wing positions and play a more flex role. He's also working with the core group on the side field during special teams periods. It's a good battle between Firsker and Sokol for the third tight end spot.
David Andrews has been the only fully healthy starter throughout the summer, and it doesn't look like he's relinquishing the starting center job to the young guys yet. Andrews has been rock-solid in the middle of the line, even playing next to a revolving door at guard.
The battle for the starting right tackle job between veterans Riley Reiff and Conor McDermott could make or break the season for this offense.
I'd give the edge to McDermott over Reiff, but I'm not overly enthused by either option at the moment.
Mafi is a cinder block who uses his stout frame and impressive bend to get underneath defenders in the running game. He also has some pop in his hands to throw stiff punches in pass protection. Mafi isn't a great lateral mover, and I wouldn't recommend highlighting him in space, but he plays the Pats brand of right guard. It wouldn't shock me to see Onwenu at right tackle with Mafi sticking at right guard. That might be their best five.
If Sow can master the fundamentals at tackle, the foot speed appears to be there, but it's a longer-term project. I'm not expecting Sow to be an option as a starting tackle this season.
Kody Russey has gotten more looks at guard lately as the Pats try to put their best healthy five in front of Mac Jones. Russey is undersized for the interior but moves well and has a sturdier base than expected at 295 pounds. The next/new James Ferentz?
I would love to see Calvin Anderson out there before camp is over, but Belichick didn't sound too optimistic about that.
Rookie Keion White's ability to convert speed-to-power using his first step and length is apparent. The rookie can dent the pocket, and his outside-inside move on Conor McDermott during one-on-ones was filthy.
Marte Mapu is a linebacker.
Rookie CB Christian Gonzalez looks terrific in press-man. He has lost a few times to DeVante Parker at the catch point, but he has mostly suffocated Parker and JuJu. He still needs to work on his anticipation and recognition in off-coverage and zone, especially when the offense purposely floods his zone, making him midpoint routes and break on the ball. I'd also like him to trust his long speed more to sit on underneath throws in off-man. None of these Pats receivers are running by him on the outside.
My concern level at free safety, where the Pats are replacing Devin McCourty, is growing. The communication has been fine, and the versatility to spin the dial is intriguing. But there isn't a true center fielder in the group.
 

Pape

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Thanks for posting all of that... good stuff...

The Mafi/Onwenu comment is extremely interest worthy... Could we see Onwenu kicked out to right tackle, with Mafi at right guard?

Be interesting to see if the do that in the first preseason game
 

mike_usagisan

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And another okay writeup from patriots.com about the state of the defense
Nine Thoughts on Patriots Defense Through Three Padded Practices
Speaking with the media on Friday, Jerod Mayo pointed out that tackling is something that has to be worked on in camp. "If you look at the season and look at just the tackling issues, the missed tackles, you have to start doing that before you get to game one," said Mayo. "And honestly, the only way you get better at tackling is tackling, so that's what we're trying to get these guys to do."
Jabrill Peppers played just 35 percent of the defensive snaps in 2022 but after the departure of Devin McCourty it looks like Peppers is not only going to play a far more significant role in 2023, but is also emerging as one of the defensive team leaders.
Dugger, like the rest of the safety group, has been lining up all over the place, as it appears he's ready to truly put it all together in his fourth season with the team.
Isaiah Bolden has seen an increase in reps while the team continues to experiment with different combinations at cornerback, with Marcus Jones and Jonathan Jones both splitting time between the slot and outside in recent days, and Myles Bryant continuing to get slot reps as well.
 

mike_usagisan

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The Mafi/Onwenu comment is extremely interest worthy... Could we see Onwenu kicked out to right tackle, with Mafi at right guard?

I wonder if that combo has been used, and how stout it looked, if so...
Yeah, that was the first time I heard that suggestion. But we haven't seen it in camp because Onwenu has been out.
 

turkeyneck

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Nice info here. Speaking as not a fan of BoB the first time around I have to say he's a breath of fresh air after the raging amateur hour of last year.

Liked hearing Mayo's emphasis on tackling.

Mac either needs to hold/account for the boundary defender jumping the route or find an uptick in velocity to drive the ball into the closing window. This issue has accounted for most of Jones's turnover-worthy throws in practice.
This concerns me. If Lazar can see it so can every DC and DB in the league. Mac needs to focus hard on fixing this if we don't want to see a pick-6 fest.
 

Sam Bam Cunningham

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Great analysis from Lazar.
Overall, still lots to be concerned with on the OL and with receivers in terms of separation and speed. Yes O"Brien has brought a lot to the table, but the building blocks are not there and fully expect Pats to struggle on offense. Their OL is one or two injuries away from being abysmal.
Counting on Thornton to be the vertical speed deep threat may have been "pie in the sky". I think Thornton is a key to the offense. If somehow he can take the leap and be a reliable deep threat the offense as a whole will be markedly improved. If he is a bust, the offense will struggle, although be less predictable than last year, which will help.
 

mike_usagisan

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Great analysis from Lazar.
Overall, still lots to be concerned with on the OL and with receivers in terms of separation and speed. Yes O"Brien has brought a lot to the table, but the building blocks are not there and fully expect Pats to struggle on offense. Their OL is one or two injuries away from being abysmal.
Counting on Thornton to be the vertical speed deep threat may have been "pie in the sky". I think Thornton is a key to the offense. If somehow he can take the leap and be a reliable deep threat the offense as a whole will be markedly improved. If he is a bust, the offense will struggle, although be less predictable than last year, which will help.
I’m not quite as down on the receiver group, as the Pats have rarely had that great speed/downfield threat. It’s going to be the short game again with Ju Ju, Henry and hopefully Demario doing a lot of work.

The OL could be a disaster. But if Mac can get the ball out fast, he can hide some of the OL deficiencies, like we saw Brady do.

Disclaimer for those who need it: I KNOW that Mac is not Brady and we don’t know if he can perform in a comparable way.
 

Triumph

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Disappointing about Montgomery after he started out so hot.

I read that Terez Hall ran into him.
 

turkeyneck

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The stack of

OL
|
Mac
|
Thornton

is what I'm most interested to see in live action.

Can the OL protect Mac long enough to make the long ball to TT work?

Can Mac keep his head when the protection breaks down and still get the long ball out?

Can TT actually pull the ball in if it gets near him?
 

mike_usagisan

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The stack of

OL
|
Mac
|
Thornton

is what I'm most interested to see in live action.

Can the OL protect Mac long enough to make the long ball to TT work?

Can Mac keep his head when the protection breaks down and still get the long ball out?

Can TT actually pull the ball in if it gets near him?
I really think we’re going back to the offense where we take 1 or 2 shots downfield a game. The rest is going to be short gains and YAC.
 

Betterthanmost

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I liked that a lot but I got to some part and was wondering if BB will be happy with all of this being giving out there for easy access for say someone like the Eagles. I want them watching last year’s tape lol.
 

Toofy

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If our defense is going to be elite, we can take it slow and go for shorter screens and intermediate passes to kill clock while overcoming our interior line weakness and gas their defense before trying the deep shots in q3 or q4.

I feel demario is going to be huge for us. If he can get separation quickly then he is going to be mac's number 1 guy along with henry and possibly rham / strong . I anticipate a James white role for strong .

I have a feeling the first 8 games will be slow, run first philosophy with stifling defense and the second half as we gain health and stability go for the deeper balls and firepower offense .
 

mike_usagisan

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If our defense is going to be elite, we can take it slow and go for shorter screens and intermediate passes to kill clock while overcoming our interior line weakness and gas their defense before trying the deep shots in q3 or q4.

I feel demario is going to be huge for us. If he can get separation quickly then he is going to be mac's number 1 guy along with henry and possibly rham / strong . I anticipate a James white role for strong .

I have a feeling the first 8 games will be slow, run first philosophy with stifling defense and the second half as we gain health and stability go for the deeper balls and firepower offense .
I like that idea, but Lazar wasn’t sure about Strong’s pass blocking.
 

Pape

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Great analysis from Lazar.
Overall, still lots to be concerned with on the OL and with receivers in terms of separation and speed. Yes O"Brien has brought a lot to the table, but the building blocks are not there and fully expect Pats to struggle on offense. Their OL is one or two injuries away from being abysmal.
Counting on Thornton to be the vertical speed deep threat may have been "pie in the sky". I think Thornton is a key to the offense. If somehow he can take the leap and be a reliable deep threat the offense as a whole will be markedly improved. If he is a bust, the offense will struggle, although be less predictable than last year, which will help.
One of the keys for this offense will be first down... We can't continue last year's trend of 2nd and long... If that becomes less of an issue, and we arent starting 2nd down 2nd & 6 on a regular basis, we know that BoB is putting the O in a better position to succeed...
How do you fix arm strength?

Velocity has been an issue from day 1.
timing... getting the balls out quickly helps... when playing an uptempo game, that speed carries thru the play... qb knows he has to get the ball out, receivers know they need better routes and sharper cuts...
 

Noexcusesfornumber5

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I liked that a lot but I got to some part and was wondering if BB will be happy with all of this being giving out there for easy access for say someone like the Eagles. I want them watching last year’s tape lol.
If the Eagles or any other team is coaching against the Pats based on whatever an Even Lazar says, well be undefeated for the rest of time.
 


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