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Patriots News 06-20, OTAs, Minicamp Is About Belichick Teaching

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
4 months ago at 5:00 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots News

Patriots News 06-20, OTAs, Minicamp Is About Belichick TeachingPaul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 06-20 this morning. 

Happy Father’s Day to all the great dads out there. Biologically, anyone (male) can be a father, but it takes time, patience, and teaching by example to be a dad. Spend time with yours today.

The Patriots held its three-day mandatory minicamp this week between June 15 and June 17. And they got a ton of work in that wasn’t available to them a year ago. 

Be sure to check out our early 53-man roster projection early this week, hopefully, tomorrow (Monday), as we’ll take a look at the roster before training camp and try to make sense of who may stay and who may go (cut, trade, or practice squad). 

Have you checked out our team news feature for all 32 teams yet? It is a great resource to keep up with what is going on all across the NFL. 

 Quick Hitters For the Pats, and the NFL: 

Ernie Adams: Wednesday the Patriots bid a fond farewell to longtime Patriots staffer and an even longer friend of Bill Belichick, Ernie Adams as the wrap of minicamp also marked the end of his career as he’ll enter retirement. 

And Bill Belichick, to honor Adams, put his friend where he is least likely to place himself…right out in front. Adams has been a hard-working and loyal lieutenant for Belichick but has never sought the limelight, and insisted to the media that he is “no man of mystery.” 

Belichick turned over his regular press conference to Adams who answered “most” of the questions posed to him. One question that he left to mystery, was what the infamous “Pink Stripes” that was written on a whiteboard behind him during a “Do Your Job” video that the team filmed a few years ago. 

“Well, I go back to my Wall Street days,” Adams said, “when everything we did we said was proprietary trading information. So, I’ll leave it at that’s strictly an inside joke and proprietary football information.”

Then at the conclusion of practice, Belichick once again turned things over to Adams and had the team give him an emotional send-off. (More below)

Vince Wilfork: Sad times for the Wilfork family this week when it was reported that Wilfork’s son, D’Aundre Holmes-Wilfork, 23, was arrested and charged with stealing $300,000 worth of Wilfork’s jewelry and selling it, including two of Wilfork’s Super Bowl rings. 

Wilfork didn’t realize the rings were even missing, believing them to be in storage until May 10, when he told authorities that he said he received an email from a Patriots fan informing him that his Super Bowl rings were for sale in a memorabilia group, which led to a police investigation. 

The seller online told police that he purchased the rings from Wilfork’s son and assumed that the sale was okayed by Wilfork. The rings have now been turned over to the police. 

Stephon Gilmore: The Patriots’ Defensive Player of the Year from 2019 is coming off of quad surgery and on the last year of his contract. Tongues were wagging (and rightfully so) when he was a no-show at not just voluntary OTAs but the mandatory minicamp that just wrapped up this week. 

Gilmore counts more than $16.3 million against the cap this season but has just a $7 million salary in 2021 when he’ll turn 31 in September. Gilmore is seeking a new contract or an extension but still remains under contract for this season, which is a key factor. 

The feeling here is that the team and Gilmore will work something out either before or during training camp, at least for the 2021 season. Why? Several reasons. 

#1 is that he does turn 31 in September. If a team was interested in trading for Gilmore, who is still an elite corner, would they be willing to pony up the compensation the Patriots would ask for? Quite probably not…

#2 is that the Patriots rebuilt defense has (on paper) the potential to be very special. And with Gilmore on the field, they are much, much better. While not a jab at J.C. Jackson, right now, he’s an outstanding #2 corner, but when Gilmore was out and he was thrust in the top position, he was not ready for that. Is he now? That would be the big question. The team picked up Jalen Mills this offseason, but a 1-2 of Gilmore and Jackson is a better duo than Jackson-Mills. Mills had a strong spring but in a perfect world, I see Belichick moving Mills around between corner and safety this year. 

#3, the Patriots have plenty of cash ($15 million + according to Miguel aka @patscap) so, reworking Gilmore’s deal wouldn’t strap them for cash. And the Patriots a year ago knew they’d be in the position, as they shifted about $4 million of his base salary from 2021 to last year, acknowledging that his 2019 DPOY earned him a bump up in pay. 

Patriots captain Devin McCourty chimed in on Gilmore’s status after minicamp on a conference call with the media and sounded positive that Gilmore would return. 

“What Gilly can do and what he brings to the table, it’s still a huge part of the defense. And when he gets back, that’ll be what it is, and all of that will work itself out. But obviously, still fully part of this team a lot of guys have talked to him this offseason and keep in contact with him.”

So, while he could still be moved in a trade, the feeling here is that he’ll return. 

Roberto Aguayo: The veteran kicker along with long snapper Wes Farnsworth were released after the minicamp that ended on Wednesday. Both were considered long shots to make the roster.

The release of Aguayo leaves the team with veteran Nick Folk and undrafted rookie Quinn Nordin to compete for the starting kicking job this season. The 36-year-old Folk is coming off of one of his best statistical seasons and was 26-for-28 on field goals and 30-for-33 on PATs with the Patriots in 2020. Nordin has a very powerful leg which was on display during minicamp but needs to be more consistent.

Jonnu Smith: The Patriots’ new tight end tweaked a hamstring during the first day of minicamp and while he didn’t play any more snaps, he remained on the field and helped coach and encourage the other tight ends. He and Hunter Henry will be a big part of the offense this season. 

“He was a beast, and he still is a beast,” safety Adrian Phillips said, via Zack Cox of NESN. “That’s what I got from that. When you watched him play with the Titans, you see a guy who can literally run everything. His route tree is wide-open. And then he gets here and you see that firsthand in practice, it’s just crazy. He moves like a receiver, but he’s big, he’s fast and it’s a real matchup problem.”

4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, you should check it out. The three discussed OTAs and will be getting back together soon to talk about the upcoming training camp.  

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.

OTAs/Minicamp Is About Belichick Teaching:

The Patriots’ minicamp is in the books and despite what a lot of people say, there is a minimum of player evaluation going on with the vast majority of it being used by Bill Belichick and the coaching staff to teach. 

Bill Belichick speaks to the meda at minicamp a few years ago. (SBalestrieri photo)

Belichick in his press conference described what he felt the team accomplished during the offseason workouts and minicamp this week. 

“We started with a foundation and a lot of individual fundamental type things and gradually built those into group settings and as you’ve seen the last couple of days, more team-oriented things, whether it be punt protection and blitz pickup and things like that, that are kind of moving forward that we didn’t engage in a couple of weeks ago, wouldn’t have been ready to deal with at that point. 

“So again, we have a long way to go. We have a lot of things to cover, but at least we’ve, I’d say we’ve gotten a start into the majority of things that at least we started on them, two-minute, red area, third down, special teams units, those kinds of things, so I feel like at least when we get to training camp, will be the first time through on that stuff.”

But Belichick is at his best when he’s teaching. He’s the best coach in the NFL and arguably one of the best coaches of all time. And his methods are always fascinating to watch. He knows when to put the hammer down and when to lighten up. With the unseasonably hot temps the other day at Gillette, he eschewed the normal running of the hills after practice. 

In training camps, it is always fun to watch the other team’s reactions during joint practices when after practice, the Patriots take to the hills behind the practice field and run sprints. Those sprints are a teaching point, the hills run in July/August will help the team win games in December and January. 

This week, he was teaching Mac Jones how to handle calling out the protections by throwing several different looks at the rookie QB, several times showing multiple looks and even the “Ameoba” look a few times. Jones has learned a lot in a short amount of time, (more to that below). After each series, Jones would talk with Josh McDaniels and David Andrews and discuss the calls that he made, which is a good sign. 

One of Belichick’s other teaching moments, that we’ve seen many times took place on Monday. At the end of practice, the Patriots were going into a field goal session. And despite the driving rain, Belichick walked over to where long snapper Joe Cardona was lining up over the ball and poured half a bottle of water on the ball. He then poured the other half over the holder and punter Josh Bailey’s hands. So, what’s the point of this?

Belichick grew up at the Naval Academy at Annapolis and grew up with great respect for the military and their method of teaching and training. And two of the time-honored military adages always stand out for the Belichick Patriot’s teams. 

“Good commanders (coaches) don’t demand respect…they COMMAND respect.” 

“The good ones work out, the GREAT ones OUTWORK.”

I always find it amazing that Belichick never seems to garner any attention to the Coach of the Year Award, with it going to the coach du jour…it should be named after him. 

Quarterback Competition Begins in Training Camp:

The spring workouts are over, minicamp is in the books and by all accounts, the QB competition should be fun to watch this summer when training camp begins. Because regardless of what transpired this spring, camp is where that will be settled. 

The Patriots will have to decide between Cam Newton and Mac Jones on who will lead them. No offense to Jarrett Stidham or Brian Hoyer, but for either of them to get the starting nod at QB, there would have to be a catastrophic type of summer for both of the former QBs. 

Cam Newton

Cam Newton throws a pass on Wednesday at minicamp (Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports)

However, Bill Belichick has made it clear that Newton is the starter until someone outplays him. But the rookie Jones has made great strides in learning the offense, something we had no doubt that he was going to put the time in to do. Last year, with COVID-19 wiping out Alabama’s offseason, Jones buried himself in the film room and taught his girlfriend the playbook so he could call out the protections. 

And while Jones has shown that he is capable of wresting the starting job from Newton, he hasn’t done that yet, and (as Bill Belichick often says), he has a long way to go. And again, it is up to him to unseat Newton. 

OTAs and minicamp are passing camps, training camp will be where Newton can show his skill at running with the ball and scrambling, something where he has a clear advantage over Jones. That aspect of the Patriots’ offense can’t be practiced in the spring. 

When it comes to throwing the ball, Newton had a terrible 2020 and in the spring, he still had some issues with his accuracy, especially on Day 1 of minicamp where in the driving rain, he was still recovering from a hand injury he suffered at the end of OTAs. He was more inaccurate than Jones, who had a much better start to the week. 

However, there is another aspect to what fans were seeing, especially on that first day. There was a video that cherry-picked a couple of throws that showed Newton badly miss a couple of throws and Jones hit them spot on. 

Mac Jones

Mac Jones had a very good spring but still has a long way to go. (Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports)

And there are a lot of people who have an agenda that they want to see Newton fail, and honestly, IMO this has more to do with Belichick than Newton, but we could talk about that for days. This video was shared seemingly thousands of times during the week. And the message was “Jones is winning the QB battle.” 

But on the day, in the pouring rain, Jones completed one (1) more pass than Newton with each of them throwing the same amount (20). Nobody is winning anything in the spring. 

Jones was the better QB on the first two days, but Newton ended the spring and minicamp with his best day on Wednesday. So, as I said in the above post, the teaching phase is over, and when the team comes back, that’s when the competition will really get going. 

According to multiple reports, both QBs will be working with their respective throwing coaches until camp begins in earnest in about 5-6 weeks. Newton will be working on his mechanics and accuracy while Jones will try to cut down on the turnovers he suffered. 

Let the games begin.  

_______________

“Ernie’s had such a big impact on our success here with the Patriots in so many different ways,” Belichick said. “I leaned heavily on Ernie for 21 years here and going back to Cleveland and New York and our relationship, which started at Andover more than 50 years ago.

“Ernie’s been a great friend. He’s certainly been a great asset to this organization and to me personally. I think a lot of things he’s done have also been recognized by other coaches and other staffs in the league…his versatility, ability to do so many different things, his passion for football are really second-to-none.”

Bill Belichick’s when asked about Ernie Adams on his retirement.

“Basically, my job is to figure out as many things as I can to help the New England Patriots win football games. In the end, that’s what we’re all about here. That’s what we do. So, whether it’s strategy, personnel or anything else. The thing that’s been great about my job, is I’ve never really had any constraints put on me. I could go in any area I thought would help us and hopefully I’ve made some positive contribution.”

Ernie Adams on what was his job description. He was then asked if did he enjoy being a man of mystery during his career?

“Well, I don’t think I’m a man of mystery, particularly inside the organization with the people I work with and I’ve always felt that the best thing you can have on a football team is to have fewer voices speaking because if you get multiple voices speaking, there’ll be inevitably some inconsistencies develop and then there’ll be a what he said, what he said. We’ve just tried to eliminate all the distractions.”

_______________

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

 


Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: Bill Belichick Cam Newton Mac Jones New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots QBs Stephon Gilmore


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    David
    4 months ago

    Rather than giving Gilmore a bump for this year, I would like to see a 2 year deal. Otherwise the Pats could be looking at the absence of both starting corners next year.In order for this to happen Gilmore has to be realistic about his age and recent injury rather than holding the team hostage. We’ll see!

    David
    4 months ago

    :Let’s embrace the Cam saga. What a story it would be for Cam to make a comeback from last season. Any way you look at it, the Patriots continue to be the most interesting team in the NFL.

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