Some news and notes for this morning:
1) The big thing that stood out during the team’s recent OTAs is the fact that so far, Mac Jones seems to have fit in better than people might have expected.
Better yet, it’s happened on both fronts. We’ve obviously heard about the mental challenge New England’s offense presents when it comes to wide receivers and Jones is really the first quarterback coming in where the expectations aren’t to compete for a backup role, it’s for the former Alabama QB to eventually take over as the starter.
So far, Jones appears to be off the charts in terms of his mental acuity. According to Mike Reiss of ESPN, Jones showed “little, if any, indecisiveness” last week and that’s the sort of thing that tends to stand out if a player isn’t completely comfortable with where to go with the football.
Mechanically, he’s looked solid. We got a look at all four quarterbacks thanks to videos that appeared on Twitter and Jones quietly stood out from the crowd, showing a fairly quick release and good accuracy, along with solid footwork.
— Jim McBride (@globejimmcbride) May 27, 2021
Hype(d) to be at practice. pic.twitter.com/a1X9JBeuVT
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) May 27, 2021
But one other thing that stood out also was a mention by Greg Bedard who spotted a moment that you definitely don’t usually see from a rookie.
Jones came up next … he identified the Mike and also tagged on a slide by the offensive line.
Ok, now I’m paying attention. That’s another step up.
Then, Jones and the receiver, Nelson Agholor, both identified what the defense was doing — a weakside blitz — they looked at each other, Agholor pointed.
Then Jones said, “I know.”
The ball was snapped, Jones probably didn’t even have the laces and fired the ball on the slant into wide-open space.
Jones saw what the defense was going to do, he and the receiver made a slight adjustment, and the Patriots exploited it for a big gain.
That’s the freaking Patriots’ passing offense.
That’s what you want to see. Jones is already recognizing what he needs to do in an offense that’s all about reacting to what the defense is doing. And he was doing it in OTAs.
The overall consensus is that Jones appears to be mentally ahead of schedule, which is already more than half the battle. The next challenge is going to be getting himself physically where he needs to be. Most criticisms seem to focus on the fact that he doesn’t yet have the frame for the NFL just yet, but that will obviously come in time and fortunately, the Patriots already have Cam Newton to start the season if that’s how it has to be.
But from all indications, with three months before the season kicks off, Jones is already ahead of the curve and it appears that he could potentially be a factor a little sooner than we might have expected, which would certainly be a positive for this team heading into 2021.
2) I’m a little late with this because my wife was on vacation starting at the end of last week, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the retirement of former Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri, who announced last week on the Pat McAfee show that he was retiring from the NFL.
Vinatieri holds a special place for me personally, as I did his website for him not long after he joined the team and he was just a terrific guy. Watching him and hearing about his backstory, which saw him overcome quite a bit during his path to the NFL (ending obviously with unseating one of the best in Matt Bahr), I really liked him as a player. So I wrote him a letter, letting him know I was a fan and that I wanted to do a site for him because I didn’t know of many kickers who had their own website. I also thought it would be a good way for him to connect with other fans as well.
A little cheesy, I know, but I was in my 20s and your perspective is obviously a lot different at that age. But back then (this was in 1998), the internet also wasn’t what it was now.
I didn’t know if I’d hear from him but if you can believe it, he actually called me Christmas Eve and left a message, telling me he got my letter and he asked me to call him and the rest is history. I called and talked to him and then I spoke to his local marketing agent and sent them a sample of what I put together and they loved it.
The archive still has what it looked like. Again, this was long before things evolved, but that’s what the internet was back in those days.
I was working with Rivals.com back then on my days off from my real job (that’s a story for another day) covering the team and had media access during that period, so I would stop at his locker after finishing whatever work I had to do for that day and we’d chat for a few minutes. We also had a form on his page for an “Ask Adam” section where people could email in questions and he would answer them and I would post the responses on his site.
One of the funny things is that when he would call the house, my wife would answer and he would always say, “this is Adam Vinatieri of the New England Patriots.” As if saying, “Hi, it’s Adam Vinatieri” wouldn’t have been enough. That still makes my wife smile whenever it comes up.
It was a lot of fun and I did it for free and never asked for anything. And looking back, he was just a really down-to-earth guy who happened to play in the NFL…it was just a cool experience. I probably called him a little more than I should have during part of it, but again, I was young and it was hard at times, especially after they started winning championships, to not get a little caught up in it.
I did it all the way up until his last couple of years, which saw him change marketing agents and there were certain things that I just couldn’t do. By then, my kids were also older and life shifted for me and I got busy, and we sort of lost touch.
Then he moved on to Indianapolis after what had been a contentious offseason for him the previous year. It was tough to see him go, but knowing he’d be kicking in a dome made me think it would probably prolong his career and I was happy for him. I knew he was a terrific kicker, but I never imagined he would go on to play as long as he did and the fact he kicked until he was 47 is still pretty incredible.
He finishes as a four-time Super Bowl champ and he retires as the league’s all-time leading scorer in both the regular season and postseason. Not bad for a kid from South Dakota who slept in the back of his pick-up while chasing his dream. He’s living proof that hard work really does pay off and it’s definitely a nice bookend to an unbelievable career.
But more importantly, he’s just a great guy, and seeing him have the success that he did and go out on his terms was certainly fitting. He joked with McAfee about helping his son, who is a punter, get to the next level. As a result, keep an eye on that in the years to come.
3) There seems to be a lot of speculation about the future of Matt Patricia with the team, with people trying to figure out what the end game is for the former defensive coordinator.
Coming off of his head coaching stint in Detroit, Patricia’s stock certainly isn’t all that high around the league and his return to the Patriots marks another former coordinator Bill Belichick has brought back coming off a similar situation. He did the same with Josh McDaniels after he was fired in Denver, with McDaniels returning just one season removed after working as a coordinator for one year in St. Louis.
So far, Patricia has seemingly slid into the role Nick Caserio held, which has seen him involved both in practice and in helping with contracts. It’s been a good fit, and it could potentially be the right role for him long-term. Some have wondered whether or not he’ll eventually succeed Belichick, but that would be hard to imagine. The fact McDaniels walked away from his head coaching opportunity in Indianapolis and has since remained here still leads me to believe that door isn’t closed yet and he’s probably the best suited for the job if that’s what it comes down to.
With McDaniels as coach and Patricia in the front office, that definitely provides some pretty solid continuity moving forward when the day finally comes that Belichick has had enough with the game. But with Jones now in the fold and the future looking bright, the odds of seeing him walk away any time soon definitely seems unlikely.
4) One thing to watch this week around the NFL is going to be what happens starting tomorrow after the calendar passes today’s date, June 1st.
That date marks the threshold where NFL teams can split salary cap hits over two seasons if a player is released or traded after that time.
Two players who fall into that category that we’re all curious about are Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and Houston’s Deshaun Watson. Those two have remained adamant that their futures with their respective clubs are over, but the financial hurdle that prevented it from possibly happening sooner is about to be removed. If either one is going to get dealt, we may finally learn a little more in the coming weeks as you would have to think a deal would happen sooner than later since they would each need time to acclimate prior to training camp.
The bigger domino would be Rodgers, since it’s likely the Packers would ship him out of the conference and he’d end up as a roadblock the Patriots could end up facing in a postseason match-up. He’s been rumored as a possibility to end up in Denver, although things have been quiet on that front recently.
As for Watson, his legal troubles remain and it’s going to be interesting to see how long this drags out. Reports seem to indicate that his legal team can start deposing plaintiffs who have filed a case against the Texans as soon as September, although Watson apparently can’t be deposed until late February of next year.
The league is reportedly still investigating things, which could also mean potential disciplinary action could still be coming.
Meanwhile, Julio Jones is another potential post-June 1st move that people locally will be keeping an eye on as the Falcons are expected to trade him. Most indications here seem to point to him not ending up in New England, which makes sense given what would be a financially difficult situation to make it work.
But after a quiet few weeks, there are certainly some interesting storylines to keep an eye on that should make at least the early part of June a little less boring.
5) Out in San Francisco, that situation has started to play out and Jimmy Garoppolo, so far, has looked like a guy who is up to the challenge.
Garoppolo admitted he felt “a million emotions” when he got the news about the 49ers plans, which included the thought of possibly asking for a trade and a fresh start elsewhere.
Instead, he went the other way. He texted newcomer Trey Lance shortly after he was drafted to congratulate him and he’s just decided to embrace it. So far, according to reports from the Bay Area, he’s done just that and has looked the part early on.
The former Patriots QB looked sharp in recent practices and seems like he’s ready to prove that he’s not handing the job over any time soon. While it’s not the ideal situation, Garoppolo said he intends on making the most of it.
“It took a little while to process everything,” Garoppolo told the media recently. “But once I did, it was just, ‘go out there and ball.’ You’ve just got to attack it.”
“The NFL’s a crazy business. Things happen, but you’ve just got to attack it day by day and make the best of it.”
Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: Aaron Rodgers Adam Vinatieri Bill Belichick Cam Newton Denver Broncos Deshaun Watson Green Bay Packers Houston Texans Indianapolis Colts Jimmy Garoppolo Josh McDaniels Julio Jones Mac Jones Matt Patricia Nick Caserio Pat McAfee San Francisco 49ers St. Louis Rams Trey Lance