Some news and notes for this morning:
1) Mulitple reports on Monday revealed that defensive back Stephon Gilmore was not present for the team’s mandatory minicamp, which obviously lets us know that his situation remains in question heading into this season.
Gilmore, who has been involved in multiple trade rumors throughout the offseason, is in the final year of his contract which is set to pay him just $7 million this season. That’s well below the market value for the position, along with the fact that the 31-year old is likely looking for an extension that will provide him some stability as he heads into what will potentially be the final years of his career.
News of Gilmore’s absence obviously made its way around the NFL, with the Rams Jalen Ramsey seemingly trying to get his attention as the Rams made some big changes of their own this offseason and Ramsey would probably love to have Gilmore next to him in their secondary.
Meanwhile, the player to keep an eye on is J.C. Jackson, who will likely be the player the Patriots are factoring into whatever decision they ultimately make with Gilmore. Jackson is coming off of two seasons where he’s totaled 14 interceptions, including 9 in 2020, good for 2nd in the league behind only Miami’s Xaien Howard, who had 10.
Jackson was a restricted free agent this offseason and the club opted to put a second-round tender on him, which will pay him $3.38 million this season. The decision to put a second-round tender on him instead of a first-round tender cost Jackson just under another $1.4 million in salary, which probably didn’t sit well. Jackson did ultimately sign it but barring an extension before this season, he could end up hitting the market next offseason.
The idea of being without both Gilmore and Jackson moving forward is somewhat concerning, especially given the luck they’ve had at that position prior to finally getting some solid players in their secondary. Hopefully, they get one or both back in the fold for the long-term and we’ll just have to see how it plays out.
2) Jarrett Stidham likely was disappointed by the addition of first-round pick, Mac Jones, but he appears to be taking things in stride.
Stidham has reportedly looked good early on as the team starts getting back to work and he told reporters on Monday that the addition of Jones has caused him to work even harder.
“It definitely fires me up,” Stidham said on Monday when asked about his reaction to the Patriots’ pick of Jones. “Last year, bringing in Cam before training camp, that fired me up to continue to get better and continue to grow as a player. Definitely fired up to be competing against Mac, Hoy and Cam. It’s a great room, so it’s a lot of fun to be in there. But, yeah, definitely fired up to compete against those guys every day.”
His role has clearly changed quite a bit and while it’s been mentioned here a few times, it’s still funny to see how drastically things have changed for him compared to this time a year ago. What will happen to him moving forward is definitely going to be interesting to follow but for now, Stidham is just trying to remain focused on the things he can control and he’ll let the chips fall where they may.
“I can control what I can control, whatever role that is,” Stidham said. “My goal is to be the quarterback here and to start football games for a really long time in this league, so the mindset of that has never changed. It never will change. Like I said, I’m going to continue to work as hard as I possibly can to really improve and continue to do what I need to do in order to get better and help this team.”
3) Cam Newton was back at practice on Monday, apparently recovering just fine after suffering an injury to his throwing hand about 10 days ago.
Newton previously suffered what a few reports called a “bone bruise” on his hand and it ended up allowing Belichick to change things up with his quarterbacks, which saw him elevate Stidham up the depth chart in Newton’s absence as the head coach continues preparing his team for the 2021 season.
So far, most indications seem to point to Newton starting the season under center but Jones has been making strides. Considering that much of what’s been going on to this point has been getting players up to speed in the club’s system as they implement things, it’s a little early to make any evaluations.
However, that still potentially sets up an interesting situation next month when training camp starts and we could see quite a competition going on between the two players.
With the rain coming down yesterday, Jones already appears to have the edge over Newton when it comes to accuracy:
The Patriots QB competition commences on day one of mandatory minicamp. Looking like Mac Jones had a slight edge over Cam Newton in terms of accuracy with the rain coming down. pic.twitter.com/m9sM73Menm
— Patriots on NBCSB (@NBCSPatriots) June 14, 2021
Whether or not that would be enough to give him any type of edge remains to be seen, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be some entertaining practices ahead.
4) Down in Tennessee, they’re obviously excited to have Julio Jones in the mix and wide receiver coach Rob Moore believes that Jones’ addition definitely makes things tougher for opposing teams to game plan against.
Jones joins a talented receiving corps that also includes A.J. Brown and Moore is excited to see how it plays out.
“You know, to get him and A.J. (Brown) on the field at the same time, it’s some opposing defenses may have some decisions to make,” said Moore.
Acquiring Jones helps at least add an impact player to their offense, which saw Jonnu Smith depart for New England this offseason in free agency. Smith reportedly suffered a hamstring injury in yesterday’s Patriots practice session, but nevertheless, his loss has stung for the Titans, with tight end coach Luke Steckel also admitting that losing a player like Smith leaves a void that they’re going to have a difficult time filling.
“I think it’s a task for the entire room to up our game and do it as a group to replace that production that Jonnu leaves behind,” said Steckel. “Because it certainly is a lot, and that is going to be one of the challenges this year.”
5) Down in Carolina, they’re quietly excited for the upcoming season and they believe they’ll be a pretty solid football team.
One of the main reasons is they believe their defense is one of the best in the league. David Newton of ESPN points out that the club took down Aaron Rodgers five times last season without having to substitute personnel, largely because of the versatility they have.
The progress they’ve experienced so far this offseason appears to be significant, with Coordinator Phil Snow saying his group is “way ahead” of where they were last year. He believes that it’s just a matter of trying to put his guys in the best position to succeed and he’s enjoyed the process so far.
“The big thing is, I’ve got to utilize the talent here,” Snow said. “So we do some things different than we did a year ago. So we’ve added some stuff, thrown out some stuff. … So this is a fun time.”
Offensively, the addition of Sam Darnold obviously changes things down there and the Panthers are already putting a major focus on doing something that the Jets didn’t do, and that’s keeping him upright.
Quarterback’s coach Sean Ryan talked about that last week, with Ryan pointing out that when players are kept away from the quarterback’s feet, that plays a major factor in his success and that’s what Carolina is focused on with Darnold.
“The process would be like any other quarterback I’ve worked with — you start from the feet up,” Ryan said. “When your feet are right, when your lower half is right, there’s a really good chance the balls are going in the right spot.”
Ryan also said that helping Darnold get better at moving around when the situation does call for it has been a focus, with the intent on being to reduce his movements in order to help him be more accurate under pressure.
“Sometimes people miss subtle movements, in-the-pocket movements,” Ryan said. “To me, less moving parts equals more accuracy. So I think it’s a subtle movement up in the pocket, or to the side in the pocket, but I’m still in a great throwing position. And we’ve done a lot of that this offseason.”
It should be an interesting year for the former Jets QB, who at least down there appears to have the support that was lacking with his former team. Whether or not he takes advantage of it is a different story, but the Panthers at least appear confident in what they’ve seen so far.
“Just seeing him make reads, just seeing the throws, seeing him play off schedule, seeing him in the pocket identifying protections,” offensive coordinator Joe Brady said. “It’s not like you’re getting a guy that’s brand new. You’re getting a veteran, a guy that just so happens to be young. That was extremely enticing to us.”
Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: Bill Belichick Cam Newton Carolina Panthers J.C. Jackson Jalen Ramsey Jarrett Stidham Jonnu Smith Julio Jones Luke Steckel Mac Jones New England Patriots Phil Snow Sam Darnold Sean Ryan Stephon Gilmore Tennessee Titans