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Daily Patriots News and NFL Notes: 5 Things to Know – 7/1

Ian Logue
Ian Logue on Twitter
2 weeks ago at 9:46 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots News

Daily Patriots News and NFL Notes: 5 Things to Know – 7/1Raj Mehta - USA TODAY Sports

Some news and notes for this morning:

1) Jordan Dajani of CBS Sports took a look at all 32 NFL rosters and ranked them by talent heading into 2021, which had a few interesting takes.

The top two were no surprise, with Tom Brady and the Bucccaneers coming in at #1, while the Chiefs came in at #2.  What was surprising is he actually has Cleveland ranked at #3, with a defense that he believes could be one of the best in the league, along with an offense he feels is just as talented.

Number four was a surprise as well, with Dajani putting the Rams in that spot as he believes they’re ready to compete for a Super Bowl “right now” with new quarterback Matthew Stafford at the helm along with a defense that is loaded with talent.  The biggest wild card is going to be Stafford, who hasn’t had much luck in the postseason and will likely be under the microscope out there in Los Angeles.

As for the Patriots, Dajani had them at #19 behind the Seahawks, with the obvious situation at quarterback and receiver being two big unknowns heading into this season.

From his column:

Bill Belichick and the Patriots will be motivated to attack the 2021 season after Tom Brady won a Super Bowl last year, but can they rebound from the embarrassing 2020 campaign? I’m not sold at the quarterback position with either Cam Newton or Mac Jones, and while they added some talent at wide receiver, are Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor enough? What could mark a new beginning for the Patriots offense this season are their new tight ends in Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. Both could be top 10 players at their position and Belichick obviously has some insight into how to turn tight ends into stars. The defense made some big additions as well, as they signed Matt Judon and Jalen Mills in free agency, and return Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower. I like the secondary, but keep an eye on the Stephon Gilmore situation.

Obviously, most fans agree with some of his concerns as the quarterback and receiving corps remain the biggest question marks heading into training camp.

2) Circling back to the Browns, it appears there’s more buzz about them league-wide, with Marc Ross of NFL.com taking a look at the top five “complete teams” and he has Cleveland ranked in the top spot.

The offense is an area that Ross believes will be one of the best in the NFL because they’re stacked “from top to bottom” and he expects big things from them this season.

Here’s his take:

The Browns have been building a respectable roster for several years now. But heading into the 2021 season, they aren’t just good — they’re loaded with Pro Bowl talent from top to bottom, featuring multiple high-level players at almost every position group. The offensive success no doubt stems from an O-line that returns all five starters from a unit that Pro Football Focus ranked first in pass blocking and second in run blocking in 2020. Cleveland’s offense also returns all of its star power — a quarterback in Baker Mayfield who made a big leap in Year 3 to help the Browns earn a playoff berth and first-round win, the league’s top running back duo in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt and a talented receiving corps that gets Odell Beckham Jr. back after an injury cut his 2020 short. This offense should be even better in Kevin Stefanski’s second season after having a full offseason to understand and expand the playbook.

He also believes that their defense only got better this offseason, adding Jadeveon Clowney, Takk McKinley and Malik Jackson, along with John Johnson and Troy Hill.

Needless to say, it’s going to be interesting to see if Baker Mayfield can build on last season but it’s obvious that many seem to be high on them heading into this year.  The same old Browns?  Apparently, not anymore.

3) Staying with the ranking theme that seems to be going on, NFL.com’s John Breech took a look at what he believes to be the league’s 10 best coaching match-ups this season and Bill Belichick made the list – twice.

He has the Week 12 match-up between Belichick and Tennessee’s Mike Vrabel ranked at #5, with Breech writing that Vrabel is one of the few opposing coaches who was able to “out-Belichick Belichick”, citing the playoff game two years ago during Tom Brady’s last game in New England.

Bill Belichick is arguably the greatest coach in NFL history and one reason he’s so good is because no coach in the NFL exploits the rule book as well he does. As a matter of fact, whenever I’m watching the Patriots play, I spend half the game wondering if any opposing coach will ever be able to out-Belichick Belichick. The twist here is that one coach did out-Belichick Belichick one time and that coach was Tennessee’s Mike Vrabel, who did it during a Titans playoff win over the Patriots in January 2020, which is also known as Tom Brady’s last game with the Patriots.

Breech also has the match-up in Week 3 between Belichick and New Orleans had coach Sean Payton ranked at #1, topping this the list for what he believes will be the best of the year.

It’s not often that we get one of the greatest defensive minds in NFL history going up against one of the greatest offensive minds in NFL history, but that’s exactly what we’ll be getting in this game. Belichick and Payton have been so successful for so long that they’re currently the two longest tenured head coaches in the NFL (Belichick has been in New England since 2000 while Payton has been in New Orleans since 2006).

The game will mark just the fourth time that Belichick and Payton have coached against each other with Belichick holding a 2-1 advantage. The most fascinating aspect of this game is that there’s a good chance it’s going to come down to coaching. When these teams met in the past, Belichick could count on Tom Brady to make a big play or Payton could count on Drew Brees. With Brady no longer in New England and Brees now retired, the Saints against the Patriots is going to be a true coaching battle that’s going to involve two of the best coaches in NFL history.

It should be interesting to see how that one goes.  That game, fortunately, will be played at home at Gillette Stadium one week before Brady and the Buccaneers are set to visit, so it’s an important game to try and build some momentum heading into what is obviously going to be one of the biggest match-ups of the season.

Mac Jones
Jones is already off to a great start in New England.


4) Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts had some comments on former teammate Mac Jones, with the two playing on the same Alabama team during their time under Nick Saban.

Jones had to sit back and watch both Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa lead the team before finally taking over in 2020, where he threw 41-touchdowns and guided the University to a National Championship.

Hurts, who is expected to be Philadelphia’s starter this season, spoke to WVTM 13 out of Birmingham and he believes that if Jones has to sit back and watch to start his NFL career, just like in college, he’ll probably be just fine.

“Mac Jones, he had the opportunity — I think the best way you can learn is to watch,” Hurts said via NFL.com. “Watch, take note of those around you, kind of learn the lay of the land, if you will, and learn that way. Mac had a very unique college career where he had to stay patient, and it worked out for him. And I’m happy it did. He was able to watch me, (and) Tua go through that, get him some burn here and there, and ultimately when it was his time, he took off with it. And now he has a great opportunity for his future.”

Barring a disastrous camp by Newton, the likelihood of Jones starting the season may not be strong but it’s possible we could see him midseason.  He’s been off to a good start and already looks like a player who will be able to compete in this league.  Right now, it just appears to simply a be a matter of when that will happen.

5) Another ranking by NFL.com looked at nine players guaranteed to play better in 2021 and Gil Brandt had one big name at the top of who he feels should improve this season.

In a ranking of players “who are guaranteed to play better”, Newton took home the honor, with Brandt saying that having an entire offseason should make him better heading into this season.

Don’t just take my word for it. The fact that Bill Belichick re-signed Newton to a one-year deal suggests the greatest head coach in NFL history believes Newton is ready to rebound from a rough season. Newton’s 2020 included a bout with COVID-19, a 7-8 record as a starter, a subpar touchdown-to-interception ratio and an average of just 177.1 passing yards per game, easily the worst of his career. There are multiple reasons for optimism heading into 2021. First, Newton will benefit from spending the entire offseason with New England — last year, he didn’t sign until the end of June, giving him comparatively little time to adjust to the first team change of his NFL tenure — and from having some time in Josh McDaniels’ offense under his belt already. Second, the Patriots significantly upgraded the NFL’s worst group of skill-position talent by signing Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. Finally, while I expect Newton to remain the starter heading into the season, first-round pick Mac Jones will be lurking on the Patriots’ depth chart, meaning Newton should be motivated to prove he can still be a No. 1 quarterback in 2022, whether in New England or elsewhere.

Let’s hope he’s right.  Newton has been working hard all offseason and with Jones addition, seems to be driven even further.  However, it’s still going to come down to wins and losses and Belichick already has made enough moves this offseason to make you believe that the leash will likely be shorter this time around, especially depending on how the coming weeks play out when training camp opens later this month.


Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: Bill Belichick Cam Newton Cleveland Browns Mac Jones New England Patriots Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tom Brady


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