Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 06-14 and AFC East notes this week.
Quick Hitters For the Pats, and the NFL:
Training Camp: The Patriots will open training camp on July 28, which is when the league posted that the teams can all begin. However, there may still be some additional protocols from the league due to the COVID-19 coronavirus, such as lockers being spaced out, etc….which would be impactful considering the locker room is always a crowded place in training camp.
Shorter Preseason? A Possibility: With the new protocols being put in place, there is a chance that the 2020 preseason may be scaled back. In a report by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the NFL and the NFL Players Association are “discussing the possibility of shortening the 2020 preseason” from currently four to two contests.
With no rookie minicamp, no OTAs, and training camp possibly shortened, it really puts those late-round draft picks and UDFAs behind the 8-ball. It is tough enough for those players to make the roster on an average year, this season it is magnified x5. Here’s hoping the league makes some kind of roster exemption or protection where the 32 teams can keep many of the players around for the entire 2020 season so that they all can get a fair shake.
Say it Ain’t So Joe…: Rep. Joe Kennedy running for the Senate against fellow Democrat Ed Markey, earlier this week said that the NFL should apologize to former 49ers AB Colin Kaepernick…and that the Patriots should sign him.
Towards what end? To make a political statement or to appease the PC crowd? That is the worst reason to sign anyone let alone Kaepernick.
From a football perspective, the Patriots have had a ton of opportunities to sign Kaepernick… and they haven’t. If the coaching staff felt that he could help the team, they would have already signed him. It isn’t like they’ve shied away from signing players with off-field question marks before. Does Antonio Brown ring a bell?
4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, please check it out. Last Friday Russ, Derek, and I talked about some of the offseason issues with the team. Please give it a listen.
Russ Francis/ Chuck Fairbanks: The former Patriot tight end and head coach both should be in the team’s Hall of Fame…this will be a frequent sight on our posts until it happens.
McCourty an “Ultimate Role Model” Says Belichick:
The Patriots’ owners Robert and Jonathan Kraft, put their money where their mouth is and donated $100,000 to the social justice initiative that Devin McCourty is involved in, (Boston Uncornered) in the name of McCourty. It is just a small part of the $1,000,000 they have pledged to grassroots organizations that are fighting for change.
But at the virtual fundraiser this week, it was the remarks of Patriots coach Bill Belichick that turned heads. Belichick referred to McCourty as an “ultimate role model,” also said that he is a “great example of the impact that someone can have with great wisdom, leadership, courage, and passion.” That is significant because those are the type of comments Belichick rarely uses on active players but normally reserves for those who are retired. Belichick added that McCourty’s lead in the social justice realm has motivated him to become more involved.
“Conversations across our country and within our team will help lead to paving the way for a better future. Following your lead, and the example of other incredible men on our team, I look forward to increasing my role in this process,” Belichick said. “Healthy discussion leads to actions. And the actions that you have brought to the forefront have resulted in progress.”
It has been widely reported that the George Floyd situation across the country spurred widespread conversation in the Patriots virtual meetings that the coaches have been running. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. It is a Bill Belichick mantra that everything is about football once the season starts, and that will no doubt continue.
But as this situation developed, ignoring it won’t make it go away, it would only fester and possibly become a distraction down the road. By addressing it now, it serves two purposes. One it gets it out into the open where the players can feel comfortable in addressing how they feel and at the same time, giving the coaches and front office a valuable barometer on how their team is feeling. And it also ensures that the team knows their head coach isn’t turning a deaf ear to things and will deal with anything the players feel is bothering them before things get worse.
This is one of those small things that Belichick does that keeps his players from “tuning him out” as it so often happens with coaches who have been in the same position for a long time.
Brady Also Compliments McCourty:
Former Patriot QB Tom Brady also taped a message to McCourty saying that McCourty has taught him a lot more than Brady taught him.
“I know sometimes you wouldn’t think I’d be looking up to you, because I’m a lot older than you. But the reality is, I have. I’ve learned more from you than you’ve probably ever learned from me,” the 42-year-old Brady said. “You’re using all the wonderful things pro football has taught you to bring a voice to those who don’t quite have the voice that we have. You fight for people that can’t often fight for themselves. It’s a very endearing quality about you, among other things.”
As a guest on the excellent “Locked On Patriots” podcast this week with good buddy Mike D’Abate, we discussed the impact that guys like McCourty and Matthew Slater will have this season in the locker room, on the field and publicly. This is just a prime example of this.
Sony Michel Recovering From Offseason Foot Surgery:
The Patriots third year running back had foot surgery during the offseason… Mike Reiss of ESPN reported it as more of a “maintenance type of surgery… but oh boy, the “he sucks, he blows” camp will be having a field day with this one. Which if it were many other players, it wouldn’t raise an eyebrow, as many players have nagging injuries that require a procedure in the offseason.
But Michel has been a lightning rod for criticism since he was drafted in the 1st round a few years ago. Many people, media, and fans alike make it a common occurrence to comment on Belichick’s drafts… “GM Bill is hurting Coach Bill!” yadda, yada…retch.
The bottom line is without Michel there wouldn’t have been a Super Bowl run two years ago. Someone went so far as to say Brandon Bolden could have done the same things on the field. With all due respect to Bolden, whom I think the world of…if he could, then he’d have been on the field. And before anyone tweets, “Bolden wasn’t on the Patriots two years ago!” Yes he was and he was released…a mistake but he was released.
The naysayers will point to Michel’s subpar 2019 season as “proof” he was drafted too high. That is far too simplistic. The Patriots were missing their starting center David Andrews who missed the entire season. After losing their starting LT in free agency, 2nd-year player Isaiah Wynn missed half the year with an injury.
They also lost two outstanding blocking tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen. Their replacements were not anywhere up to their level. And with James Develin out for the year with a neck injury that forced his retirement, Jakob Johnson took over until he too went down. They moved LB Elandon Roberts into the backfield. But please tell me again how this is on Michel?
There could be a sticking point with Michel if he were to begin this year’s training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. The team under Belichick has always utilized a running back by committee approach. Last year, James White led the way, playing in 42.7 percent of the offensive snaps. Michel was second with 36.6 percent while Rex Burkhead was a distant third with 23 percent.
We wrote recently that other than Burkhead, the other backs are somewhat one-dimensional, with Michel on the field the Patriots run about 70 percent of the time. With White, they pass about 80 percent. If Michel isn’t ready to go, it could open the door for Damien Harris who like Burkhead can do both, to step up and earn some snaps.
Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:
Bills Ranked #1 in Continuity for 2020:
The Buffalo Bills are now the poster children for stability in the NFL. For most of the last two decades, the Bills have dealt with constant change but no more.
With a team that won 10 games a season ago, the Bills have the most continuity in terms of returning players and their snap counts than any other team in the league. The Kansas City Chiefs are 2nd with 85 percent
Buffalo Bills: 88.0% snaps returning
Offensive snaps returning: 95.4% (1st in NFL)
Defensive snaps returning: 80.4% (7th)
Starters returning: 23 (10 offense,10 defense, 3 special teams)
Non-coordinator assistants returning: 20 of 22
Coordinators returning: 3 of 3
This is a team that the coaches and front office have been building for the past couple of seasons that is devoid of any major holes. The 2020 season is a big one for Buffalo, many people (here included) have them pegged to win the division. But they’ll have to prove it on the field.
Van Noy, Lawson Figure to be Key Dolphins’ Pass Rushers:
Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores made great strides at the end of the 2019 season after the rumors that Miami was “tanking for Tua” proved false. Miami finished strong and now there is growing excitement in South Beach as to the direction the team is headed.
One area that Miami definitely needs help with is their pass rush. In 2019, the Dolphins were 23rd in the league in that department, and they parted ways with their leading sacker from last season, Taco Charlton who was a disappointment. But the team is excited about interior DL Christian Wilkins as well as former Patriot Kyle Van Noy and former Bills DE Shaq Lawson.
Lawson should love playing for Flores who will look to take advantage of his talent and put him in the best position for success. With Wilkins playing inside and generating a lot of attention, this is a great opportunity for Lawson to have a big year.
Van Noy was a versatile piece for the Patriots and expect Flores to do the same thing in utilizing his talents. Look for Van Noy to be the leader on the field for Miami this year and the big three on the front seven should be fun to watch… Week 1.
Jets CEO Engages Players in Meaningful Dialogue:
The New York Jets, as we mentioned above with the Patriots conducted a thorough discussion on social inequalities and use their platform to unite communities led by CEO Christopher Johnson.
Johnson has taken a hands-on, pro-player stance since taking over the team in 2017, especially on social justice issues, and with the events unfolding in the United States, this was important for all involved. But it is a process and the team is working together on it. But the players were impressed.
“He expressed his concerns and pretty much let us know that anything we needed, he was there to help,” MLB C.J. Mosley, one of the Jets’ most respected players in the locker room said.
Mosley added that the lines of communication must remain open as the team and the NFL navigate what will be a difficult season. Mosley wants to see more of the players talking to other players, and players talking to ownership.
“Well, there’s not many that do more behind the scenes than Devin does,” Belichick said. “He just does a tremendous job in every area. He’s been a team captain for multiple years, team captain his second year, which speaks a lot for his leadership and the respect that he has from his teammates. [Jerod] Mayo is in that category, but it’s a short list.
“Devin’s a great teammate that works extremely hard, does his job well, very supportive of all his teammates, good communicator, hard worker on and off the field, works great in the weight room, film room, practice field, tough mental player on the football field. He’s played corner, he’s played strong safety, free safety, been involved in pretty much everything in the kicking game: kickoff, kickoff return, punt returns, field goal rush, he plays a lot of snaps over the course of the season, a lot of different responsibilities, working with linebackers and corners and the safeties.
“I can’t say enough about the job that he’s done this year, and every year really. He’s an outstanding player and an even better person and better teammate. I couldn’t be prouder to coach a player than Devin McCourty.”Patriots head coach Bill Belichick who raved about Devin McCourty this week, in some other comments about the safety from back in February.
“So, how was your week?”
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Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 53 Man Roster Projection Bill Belichick Buffalo Bills Devin McCourty James White Kyle Van Noy Miami Dolphins New England Patriots New York Jets NFL Patriots Rex Burkhead Sony Michel