Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 07-05 and AFC East notes this week.
Here’s hoping that everyone had a healthy and happy 4th of July celebration. Independence Day represents all of us in this, the greatest if the still imperfect nation of ours.
Quick Hitters For the Pats, and the NFL:
Dalton Keene: The rookie tight end took umbrage with hot take artist Skip Bayless (who doesn’t?) over his characterizations of the Patriots tight end group on his show on FS1 this week.
Bayless, who never fails to make over the top statements slammed the new tight ends the Patriots took in Round 3 of the 2020 NFL Draft. “They took (two tight ends) in the third round and you can’t name them because nobody knew them in college football,” Bayless said. “Are they diamonds in the rough? … So one of those guys is going to just rise and shine and become the next Rob Gronkowski or even the next Greg Olsen? Ah, stop it. No, not going to happen.”
How did Keene react? Simply… “Keep it coming…” No bold predictions, or chest-thumping histrionics. Quiet confidence is an admirable trait…and for the record no one expects or needs the two rooks to be Gronk to be successful.
David Njoku: Speaking of tight ends, It didn’t take long for the Browns young and talented tight end to request a trade and then have that set tongues wagging for the Patriots to sign him. Njoku, according to his agent Drew Rosenhaus, wants out of Cleveland before training camp.
The 23-year-old had a breakout year in 2018 with 56 catches, for 639 yards and four touchdowns. He possesses good size, (6’4, 250) and speed (4.6 time in the 40) for the position. But he missed all but 4 games in 2019 and has a $3 million dollar cap hit in 2020. Normally, that would be no issue at all but the team’s limited cap space, it would present issues. And of course, what would Cleveland want in return for the former 1st round pick?
But having just invested in two rookie tight ends, it doesn’t seem likely that the team will invest in another one this soon. But never say never.
OBJ: Another of the Browns receivers shot down some of the endless rumors of his coming to New England. Odell Beckham Jr. who has worked out with Cam Newton in the offseason denied wanting to come to New England saying he has unfinished business in Cleveland. After several people tweeted at him to join Cam in Foxboro, OBJ answered on Twitter. Beckham replied, “U can find me in The LAND homie! We got unfinished business.”
4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, please check it out. We recorded a podcast on Cam Newton’s signing and the punishment handed down by the league. On Friday, Russ, Derek, and I recorded a video/podcast and talked about some of the offseason issues with the team. Included in that were bits about Joe Thuney, the Patriots Offensive Line, Jarrett Stidham, and more. 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.
How Will the Patriots Offense Look Like With Cam, Who Benefits? :
The Patriots offense is going to look different in 2020, we said that last week. And that’s going to be even more pronounced if Cam Newton does indeed win the starting job and is under center when the season opens.
The offense that the Patriots have been running for decades, a modified version of the Perkins-Erhardt System, isn’t a fit for Newton. Because of Newton’s ability to run the ball and make plays with his feet, Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels will no doubt try to work in some of the power running and zone reads from the position. Of course, as we already pointed out here, that all depends on if Newton is healthy and can learn the offense well enough this summer.
While a lot of people believe that Newton will utilize Julian Edelman and Mohamad Sanu the most in the offense, arguably the biggest benefactor of his starting would be N’Keal Harry. When he was healthy (especially his shoulder), one of Newton’s signature plays were those deep sideline comeback throws. And those are exactly what the Patriots and Harry were working on during the 2019 training camp. And that is the big 2nd-year wide receiver’s biggest strength.
And Harry should really help in an area that the team has struggled mightily in, the red zone, especially inside the 10-yard line. This is an area where the combination of Newton’s running and the size and physicality of Harry should work in perfect harmony. Again, if Newton is indeed the starter in Week 1, Harry should really benefit. I’d expect those two to be working closely together.
History DOES Matter, NFL Spanks Patriots For Filming Violation:
The NFL released the punishment for the fiasco with the Patriots filming the Bengals sideline last season, just after the Patriots announced the Cam Newton signing on Sunday night. The timing was curious, as it was on a Sunday night during one of the quietest nights of the offseason.
And unlike other punishments handed down by Park Avenue, this one offered no explanation of the punishments as per their M.O. Normally, the league will review the evidence, disclose the penalty, and explain the connection between the conduct and the consequences, where Roger Goodell or Troy Vincent will blather on about the league protecting the “integrity of the game” or other such things.
Not this time. Other than confirming the punishments handed down, there was nary a peep from Park Avenue on this one. One thing that already is well known is that the league was trying hard to and was quite frustrated (reported earlier this winter), that they were not able to establish a link between the film crew and football operations.
Rest assured, if there was the slightest inkling of a link between Bill Belichick’s football operations and the film crew, the league would have had them front and center. So, without any link, why was New England fined $1 million, and a 3rd round draft pick?
History…and the Patriots, as we’ve mentioned here before, have no one to blame but themselves. That was a dum-dum move by the team and despite the junior G-man actions of the Bengals drone in the booth, they earned this one.
However, Park Avenue, as Ricky Ricardo says, “still has some ‘splaining to do”. The league handed down the punishment, now they need to release all of the details of what their investigator’s found, and explain why the investigators tried to direct a narrative from the beginning rather than just see where the facts led. Do we expect that? Nope.
But as we all know, that there are many in the league offices that A. Don’t like the Patriots and B. Can’t stand their coach. So, there was never any doubt that they were going to come down hard on the team. They did, but this was all very avoidable.
Pass Rush Will Be an Area to Watch in 2020:
The Patriots lost some key cogs on the defense this spring. Especially in the pass-rushing department, losing both Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins which leaves a sizable hole to fill. Collins started off 2019 on fire but tailed off late in the season. Van Noy will be harder to replace as he developed into a very versatile, important piece on the defensive front seven as he could play a multitude of roles.
But, those players have never considered anything akin to one of the top pass rushers in the league. But historically under Bill Belichick, they’ve eschewed going after those high-priced pass rushers and opted for scheme and versatility. The Patriots were the #1 third-down defense in the league and finished 7th in sacks despite not having a player with more than 7.
The team runs plenty of stunts, twists, and overloaded pressure to keep opponents off balance. Often times they’d run a zero blitz, relying on outstanding coverage by the secondary which would invariably hold up when needed. Belichick always says that pass rush and coverage go hand-in-hand.
Being able to attack offenses schematically relies on having players versatile and smart. That’s why we expect to see more of Chase Winovich who had a pretty productive rookie season in 2019. How he will be able to handle more on his plate will be a key area to watch this year.
Two rookies, Anfernee Jennings from Alabama and Josh Uche from Michigan will also be two players to watch. Belichick usually eases rookies into the system during their first year as they’ll contribute on special teams and learn the intricacies of the defense. But the talent and experience (Jennings played in a similar system of Nick Saban’s) could see the two contribute right away. Jennings could eventually be a Van Noy replacement.
“So, how was your week?”
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Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 53 Man Roster Projection Anfernee Jennings Bill Belichick Buffalo Bills Cam Newton Chase Winovich Dont'a Hightower Jamie Collins Josh Uche Julian Edelman Kyle Van Noy N'Keal Harry New England Patriots Patriots edge rushers