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New England Patriots News 8-9, Camp Is All About Adapting

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
3 years ago at 5:00 am ET

New England Patriots News 8-9, Camp Is All About AdaptingGeoff Burke - USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 08-09 and AFC East notes this week. 

Well “training camp” is underway but in the new NFL world we live in, this is more like early spring OTAs with strength and conditioning workouts than a true training camp with pads and hitting and watching players conducting football drills and plays. All thanks to COVID-19. 

 Quick Hitters For the Pats, and the NFL:

Free Agent Visits: Former Patriot defensive lineman Darius Kilgo and Tampa Bay Bucs tight end Jordan Leggett were reportedly in Gillette for free-agent visits on Friday. Kilgo earned a Super Bowl LI ring as a member of the Pats practice squad. Leggett, who has caught 14 passes in his NFL career, was a member of the Jets. He wasn’t quite the tight end from Tampa that we’d hoped to hear was coming to New England. 

Training Camp Highlights? The new schedule as we mentioned above has everything in flux. However, the website posted a short ‘highlight’ video of some of the players doing conditioning runs…not the usual early August TC fare 

Patriots Salary Cap: Here is your Public Service Announcement (PSA) for the week/season. When it comes to the Patriots salary cap and trying to make sense of all of the nuances of it, there is Miguel (@PatsCap) and there is everyone else. Any questions about it are usually right on his timeline. And one of the great guys out there too. 

4th & 2 Podcast – If you’ve haven’t checked out our podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit (and yes we’re way overdue for a new one), please check it out. We recorded a video podcast recently about the QB position and how we see different scenarios playing out.  Please give it a listen. And we promise to get off our fourth point of contact and record another soon.

Russ Francis/ Chuck Fairbanks: The former Patriot tight end and head coach both should be in the Patriots team Hall of Fame…this will be on our Sunday posts until it happens.

Cam Newton Accepts Challenges Post-Brady, “Surreal” To Be in NE:

Say what you will but Cam Newton certainly isn’t shying away from the talk of replacing a legend at QB in New England. In his first publicly available press conference with the team, Newton was very forthcoming and accepted the challenge of replacing a legend with the Patriots. 

“Nobody really knows how excited I am, just to be a part of this organization, in many ways more than one,” he said. “Following up such a powerful dynasty, that is enriched in so much prestige, a lineage of success. A lot of people would hide from the notion to do certain things. But for me, I think this opportunity is something that I wake up pinching myself each and every day. It’s so surreal.”

Earlier he said that he still finds it difficult to fathom that he’s here as a member of the Patriots. “I’m still … I don’t want to say in disbelief at this particular point in time, but it’s a surreal moment,” Newton said. 

He said that his biggest challenge is not proving himself to anyone, but in meeting with his own high expectations. “I don’t have to prove nothing, especially not to nobody. I have to prove to myself. That’s a daily challenge,” he said. “I don’t think nobody’s expectations will ever surpass my expectations for myself.

“I’m just looking forward to the challenge. … My job is to come here, compete, put this team in the best situation to win. Do my part. Be as accessible to the team, and Coach Belichick, as well as Coach McDaniels, as possible. And to just get better each and every day.” 

Speaking of McDaniels, he said that his first impressions of Newton are very favorable. “I’ve talked to some people that have been with them in the past and he’s a very coachable guy. This guy wants to work and he’s worked really hard since we signed him, and he’s trying to gain every day, which is really all we can ask of him.”

“He’s a smart football player,” McDaniels said. “He’s played a lot of football. He’s seen a lot of stuff… He learns well and we’re in the middle of this process of trying to get him caught up along with a lot of the new guys to learn what we want him to do. We’ll just keep working at it every day.

Newton said he wasn’t looking back at his time with Carolina, nor overly worrying about replacing Brady. He said that he’s looking forward day by day. 

He sounds like he’s been here for years…

Belichick’s Press Conferences Haven’t Changed Due to COVID:

Not that anyone actually believed that they would, or that Bill Belichick would somehow change this season. He was smiling for his press conference on Friday. I wish someone would have asked him if he was smiling because he was all alone and didn’t have the normal media throng surrounding him. 

He did give the standard BB not-really-answers-to-your question a few times. Asked by Ben Volin of the Globe if he considered opting out of the season, Belichick responded, 

“I feel very good about the environment that we’re in, so I feel fine,” Belichick said without really answering the question, but did add that none of the coaching staff opted out.

Asked how much Cam Newton has grasped the Patriots playbook, he responded with the typical BB sarcasm. 

“We’re in phase 1. We’re presenting a lot of information. We have a daily walkthrough and that’s about it. The restart of football is going a slow pace. The training is ahead of the football.”

Asked how the team is handling the different and difficult circumstances regarding the COVID-19 protocols in place by the league, Belichick as he often does, is focusing on what the team can do. And gave a long answer.

“Again, I wouldn’t characterize our preparations as there are things that we can’t do. Again, pretty much everything that we’re doing is what we do do. The setup is a little bit different, but we do Phase One, we do Phase Two, we do Phase Three, we do training camp, we do padded practices, we do practices in shells, we do walk-throughs in training camp,” he said.

“We’ll be doing all those things, as we normally do. We won’t be playing preseason games, so that will definitely be one thing that we’ll need to prepare for differently than we prepared for in the past. We won’t be able to have those same kinds of game experiences that preseason games provide, but everything else is the same. It’s at a modified pace or schedule, but the drills themselves and the sequence of those are essentially what they’ve been, it’s just done in a different time frame and it’s done over a six to seven-week period instead of the three days a week in the spring and then the four days a week at the end, then a training camp period,” he added.

“Again, this is what every college team does. Every college team goes to training camp, whatever it is, three weeks, three-and-a-half weeks before their first game. And essentially, after we get past [these phases], when you start at the 17th, that puts us about in that four week period until the first regular-season game. One of those weeks would be preparation for the opener. So, it’s very similar to what the college programs have always done and what they’re doing now. We just have to modify what we do to be more similar or try to replicate it to a degree to what college teams do every single year.”

Training Camp Primer – Wide Receivers: 

Although training camp has “officially” began, the actual on-field work and competition have yet to begin, so we’re spacing these out a little bit until there is actually camp action to discuss rather than watching jogging and stretching. 

The Patriots wide receiver core isn’t getting a lot of love across the nation with the NFL analysts and they DO have a point.  Patriots’ wide receivers in 2019, ranked dead-last in average separation and tied for the second-most dropped passes (22). Yuck! During the second half of the season, the Patriots’ offense… stunk. 

However, (comma), not all is lost by a long shot. Injuries played a major role in that last year. Julian Edelman played virtually the entire year banged up. 1st round pick N’Keal Harry was banged up in training camp and missed half the season. And Mohamad Sanu played with an injury suffered soon after arriving that required offseason surgery. 

In (6): Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers, Mohamed Sanu, Matthew Slater, Jeff Thomas 

CUT: Quincy Adeboyejo, Damiere Byrd, Gunner Olszewski, Devin Ross, Will Hastings, Isaiah Zuber

Opt-Out: Marqise Lee

Edelman remains the go-to guy and although Newton has always favored bigger targets in his wide receivers, he has to love having a guy who caught 100 passes the year before. Which begs the question, what the hell were the voters of the Top 100 players thinking when a guy with shoulder, rib, and knee injuries all season still catches 100 passes for over 1100 yards? (Why I generally hate polls)

Sanu is healthy and looks like he’s 100 percent healed up and ready to go. He hired a live-in coach and is looking in tremendous shape heading into camp. That is a very positive sign for a guy who wants to be a much bigger part of the offense.

Harry also is healthy and has been working with a footwork coach to help him get better separation off the line. We’re looking for him to move pre-snap a bit more this season and get him with the ball in his hands downfield more. 

Jakobi Meyers has been kind of the forgotten man this offseason. He had a pretty solid rookie year and is a good but not great route runner. Due to his lack of top-end speed, he’ll need to be an even better route running this season to becoming a more viable target. But he’s smart (smaht!) and we feel he’ll push to get more reps. 

Slater is here for his outstanding Special Teams contributions, and he’s a WR in name only. Which leaves us one final roster spot. Byrd was the spring darling of many fans and media because of his speed, and he’s an absolute burner and can run in the high 4.2s, something that is sorely needed in this offense. But with 44 career catches in four seasons isn’t translating his speed to the game That’s why we feel that Jeff Thomas will be the guy to extend the Patriots UDFA streak of making the roster to 17 years.

Thomas has had off-field issues but was given an absolutely clean slate here. If he can keep his head screwed on straight and buy into the Patriots system, he can be electric with the ball in his hands. He’s small (5’9,175) but watch him run verticals and deep crossers and the possibilities of him carving out a role for himself are right there. 

As always, special teams ability could tip the scale for some guys, and the ability to run back punts and kickoffs could be the difference between being on the roster on Week 1 and being let go…  Look for one of these young players to create a niche for himself soon.


“There’s no more buffet lines for food… More plexiglass for sure. I’m not sure what the plexiglass bill is around here, but it’s got to be pretty high.”

Bill Belichick, with his noted tongue-in-cheek sarcasm during his video conference on Friday, was asked about what the changes were like at the facility due to the COVID-19 coronavirus. He would have been a natural on the Bob Newhart show.


“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 Stitcher as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens, and myself from discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.


Posted Under: 2020 Patriots 53-man Roster Projection
Tags: 53 Man Roster Projection Bill Belichick Cam Newton Jakobi Meyers Julian Edelman Matthew Slater Mohamed Sanu N'Keal Harry New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots wide receivers

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