New England Patriots News 7-07, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
July 7, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 07-07 and AFC East notes this week. 

We hope that everyone had a happy and safe Independence Day celebration. Just 18 more days until the hard work begins for “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door.”

 Quick Hitters:

Bernard Pollard – is the latest, “look at me” ex-player who is trying to get himself a gig on television or radio. If you think otherwise, you’re kidding yourself, but there is never a shortage of people who feed the monster and fall all over themselves giving these hot take artists their air time. 

Rob Gronkowski – told Rich Eisen in an interview this week, that he reserves the right to change his mind about returning to the NFL once the season starts. In the interview, Gronkowski said this will be the first August in 15 years that he won’t be playing football. But judging from his leaned out frame recently, I still say that the chances of the big guy returning this year are remote.

Jerod Mayo – may not be calling the defensive plays just yet for the Patriots this year. Jeff Howe of the Athletic wrote that Bill Belichick will be calling the plays. Mayo who was seen calling the plays in minicamp this June. 

N’Keal Harry – leads the Patriots rookies with a 74 grade on Madden 2019 that was released recently. Cornerback Jojuan Williams was second with a score of 70 while Damien Harris and Chase Winovich were next, tied with a grade of 69.

Tom Brady – is preparing for training camp and continues to defy Father Time. He posted a video of his workouts where he was running sprints. While Brady will never be considered remotely anything close to a sprinter, he did, however, beat his own time at the NFL Combine, which is pretty impressive for a player about to be 42 in less than a month from now. 

Tom Brady Pt2 – With all of the talk centering around Brady from the hot take artists every summer, one has to dig thru many oysters to find a pearl. Or in this case, I didn’t have to do anything at all since it was handed to me. Our good bud, @PatriotsSBLIII has always shared great stuff with us, and he never fails to use common sense in a frequently senseless debate when it comes to #12. He sent me this a few weeks ago but right now seems a perfect time to share this.

Tom Brady’s last 16 playoff games (2013-18)
13-3 (.813) 3SBs
452/702 (64.4%)
5,230 yards
7.45 Y/A
43.9* Att/gm @CSimmsQB
31 TD
12 INT
94.4 PR

Only 3 players in NFL history have had a 16-game regular season on this level. (Brady, Brees 2011; Manning 2013)

And for those anti-Brady types out there, not one of those games was against any team from the AFC East but all against playoff teams in the Divisional Round and beyond which makes those numbers even more impressive. Thanks again to @PatriotsSBLIII for the always great stuff and being a sounding board for constructive criticism. 

Tedy Bruschi Suffered a Stroke on July 4:

The former Patriots linebacker who has been a regular on ESPN was just given a promotion this week, being added to their pregame broadcast. It was reported that Bruschi, who had a stroke after the Super Bowl in Feb. 2005, recognized his own symptoms and reported it right away. Robert Kraft and the Patriots released the following statement:

“While shocked to hear of his recent stroke … we are relieved to learn that he recognized the early symptoms and immediately sought and received treatment,” the statement says. “On behalf of the entire Patriots organization, we extend our love, thoughts and prays to Tedy and the Bruschi family while we wish him godspeed in a complete recovery.”

Bruschi created a runners club called Tedy’s Team to raise awareness for the American Stroke Association. He has run the Boston Marathon three times, including in this spring. He is expected to make a complete recovery.

Damien Harris Could Be a Big Contributor For the Offense in 2019:

We were quite excited with the possibilities for the offense after the selection of Damien Harris in the 3rd round of the draft this spring by the Patriots. Harris was locked up for four years with a $3.6 million dollar deal. 

Harris should fit in extremely well in the Patriots running back by committee positional group. While in Alabama, he played with a multitude of very talented running backs that are now in the NFL. Alabama also played with RB committee under Nick Saban and Harris played with the likes of Derrick Henry, Bo Scarborough, Kenyan Drake, Najee Harris, and Josh Jacobs while with the Tide.  

With Sony Michel coming off of a minor but another knee procedure, Harris can more than fit the bill for the Patriots penchant for running the ball between the tackles. A couple of key numbers should be remembered when thinking about Harris:

  • 2 (Two) The number of fumbles Harris had in 477 career carries at Alabama. Bill Belichick loves sure-handed running backs and Harris is definitely that.
  • 6.4 – The average yards per carry Harris had at Alabama. That kind of average always puts the offense in a position to succeed. 
  • 3.2 – Yards Harris averaged after contact. This number can’t be overstated and when the offense needs to pick up those 3rd and 4th and short-yardage situations, it helps to have a back that can easily do that.

Harris isn’t a threat to take the ball to the house on every carry, he doesn’t have that breakaway speed but he is a perfect fit for the Patriots offense. He hits the hole quickly and has very good vision and will follow his blockers thru the point of attack. He then shows the ability and confidence to make a cut and go.

With a thickly built lower body, he’s tough to bring down, will get the yards after contact and has little wear on his tires after playing in a similar committee approach at ‘Bama. He’s a very good and willing pass blocker, something the Patriots insist on for their backs. And he is a good if underrated pass catcher out of the backfield with soft hands and the ability to move outside into the slot if needed. 

With Michel out of the picture during minicamp, Harris and Brandon Bolden got quite a few snaps in the running game. Look for that to continue thru training camp and into the preseason. He could be a very valuable addition to the offense as a rookie. 

Patriots Coaches Learn The Old Fashioned Way Under Belichick:

One of the ways that Bill Belichick likes to fill out his coaching staff is by hiring young coaching assistants. Then molding, training and develop them by increasing their responsibility by putting more and more on their plates.

This is the way everyone is trained, including Nick Caserio, Josh McDaniels, and Joe Judge who started at the bottom and worked their way up. It also includes his two sons who it seems always get mentioned it seems as benefits of nepotism more so than hard work. If one can remember back to the early days of Belichick’s reign as head coach in New England, they’ll see his sons on the sideline, charting plays and soaking in the experience, very much like Belichick learned from his father at Navy. 

And one of the things at all of the young coaches get tasked to do is to learn by “padding games.” So, what the heck is “padding games” and what does it entail, you ask? Nothing nefarious (sorry BB haters). 

Padding of games for Bill Belichick is about not only learning the game inside and out but more importantly for the assistants, it is learning the game thru the prism of the head coach’s eye. They learn the way that Belichick views the game and therefore they’ll be able to better support him in his game planning. That includes his sons.

Steve Belichick, the Patriots safeties coach, calls it his father’s “Football 101.”

Belichick will assign young assistants one or several games of an upcoming opponent. Then, watching the All-22 coaches tape, they will chart every snap on paper. The assistants have to chart the movement of every single player on the offense and defense on separate pieces of paper.

They must identify each player’s responsibility as well as formations, splits, routes from receivers, protection schemes and what each team is attempting to accomplish on each given play. Given that the length of games will involve so many plays, padding a single game will take from several hours (for someone who has been doing it) to several days for one game. 

McDaniels, in an interview during Super Bowl week with Yahoo cited padding games for three years as instrumental in learning the intricacies of the game. “I think the most important thing young people have got to understand is, it’s not punishment,” McDaniels said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity to learn how important everything is at this level.”

Thus, the assistants learn what concepts, both offensive and defensively will work against an opponent. The younger Belichick has charted hundreds of games by his own account and sees the value in it. 

“You get to learn about football, different schemes, different styles of play. You understand how different and creative you can be to win … I used to get excited to pad the good teams and I learned what not to do from the bad teams.”

This is the way the assistants learn how Belichick breaks down tape and how they all get on the same sheet of music. Bill’s famous attention to detail will invariably entail numerous sticky notes on each page, identifying things missed or wrong and what the assistant has gotten right. 

It is the way that the younger coaches grow and develop and gives them the attention to detail and exhaustiveness that Bill Belichick demands from himself and his assistants. There is no secret formula, it is just hard work…and doing your job.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Sticking With McCoy (for now) as Starting RB: 

When the Buffalo Bills entered the offseason, many thought RB Shady McCoy had played his last game in a Bills uniform. After suffering his worst season as a pro, on the wrong side of 30 and with a lot of wear on his tires, it seemed McCoy’s days were numbered for Buffalo. 

The Bills then brought in the ageless Frank Gore, to go along with T.J. Yeldon and rookie Devin Singletary and fullback Patrick DeMarco. And things seemed, on the surface that McCoy was soon to be phased out. But not so fast…

GM Brandon Beane has stated all spring that entering the season, McCoy was the starting running back. Something McCoy has been quick to echo. 

Perhaps with a move to the quick passing game utilizing Cole Beasley, the Bills are hoping with the addition of Gore, Yeldon, and Singletary that McCoy, with less work will rediscover his game. Holding onto him for trade value doesn’t make much sense at this point. Training camp will be interesting to watch this summer.

Dolphins’ Kendrick Norton Loses Arm in Horrific Car Crash:

The Miami Dolphins defensive lineman Kendrick Norton was seriously injured in a car crash early Thursday morning when his pickup truck crashed into a concrete barrier and ended up on its roof. 

EMTs reportedly had to amputate Norton’s arm before taking him to the hospital. He also reportedly suffered head injuries but while the damage to him was very serious, he is expected to survive. His condition was upgraded to good on Saturday morning. Norton was a 7th round draft pick of the Panthers in 2018, Miami scooped him off of Carolina’s practice squad last year and was expected to compete for a roster spot with Miami in training camp.

Sources from Norton’s family said on social media that another driver, behind the wheel of a 2015 Maserati cut off Norton and caused the accident. But that hasn’t been confirmed from the Florida Highway Patrol. They have yet to issue a report. That driver who has been identified as Jessie Pena, 30, was not injured in the crash.  And her car sustained minor damage.

Jets Hoping For a Big Year From Robby Anderson:

The New York Jets are hoping for bigger things from 2nd year QB Sam Darnold this fall. Adding RB LeVeon Bell to the Jets stable should definitely help take some of the pressure off of him. But beyond that, they’ll need better production from their wide receivers in 2019. 

The Jets current WR depth chart includes Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, Jamison Crowder, Josh Bellamy, Charone Peake, Deontay Burnett, Greg Dortch, Valentine Holmes, Quadree Henderson, J.J. Jones, Jeff Smith, Tim White, and Deonte Thompson.

The first three players are locks to make the roster and they’ll need those and some of the latter wideouts to step it up this year. Barring a trade or a signing for an established wide receiver, these players, especially Robby Anderson will have to increase their production.

Both Anderson and Enunwa suffered injuries last year but should be fine come the beginning of training camp. One area where Anderson is expected to increase his production is in his usage. The Jets have used him as a deep threat mainly, however that is expected to change under Adam Gase. 

With Crowder and Enunwa’s injury history, depth may be an issue, but the biggest question this summer will be, can Anderson produce in a contract year and stay out of trouble? As the #1, he’ll draw the opponent’s often best cover corner. 

________________

“There are no shortcuts to building a team each season. You build the foundation brick by brick.”Bill Belichick

“So, how was your week?”

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.



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