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Patriots News July 4, The Pass Rush Will Be A Key Spot to Watch

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
6 hours ago at 5:00 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary

Patriots News July 4, The Pass Rush Will Be A Key Spot to WatchTroy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 7-4 this morning. 

Happy Independence Day! We hope that you all enjoy a happy, healthy, and fun 4th of July weekend.  Thanks to Ian Logue for stepping in for me last week, we had a passing in the family and were out of town. Thanks to all who passed on their thoughts as well. While we didn’t answer every one, they were heard and appreciated. 

Be sure to check out our early 53-man roster projection as we’ll be adjusting it as time goes on and training camp begins.

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: 

Training Camp: Patriots fans will be at training camp for the first time in 2 years as the NFL has opened up facilities for all 32 teams. From the Patriots website: 

“The New England Patriots will conduct their first training session in front of fans in nearly two years when they open training camp on Wednesday, July 28 on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium. The Patriots also confirmed open practices on Thursday, July 29, Friday, July 30, and Saturday, July 31. 

“Exact times will be updated on the Patriots training camp website, and on the Patriots and Gillette Stadium apps once times are confirmed in the days leading into training camp. In addition, the Patriots announced that they will host two practices inside Gillette Stadium. The first will be the annual event for Season Ticket Members and Foxborough residents on Friday, Aug. 6. 

“The team will also host an in-stadium practice on Tuesday, Aug. 10 for the general public. Other dates and times for training camp practices will be announced at a later date and posted on the training camp website.” Welcome back 

Patriots Aircraft: The Patriots’ aircraft has been really visible during the off-season, whether it has been picking up COVID-19 relief supplies or ferrying U.S. troops, as the team rents its use out. This week some members of the South Dakota Army National Guard’s 196th Manuever Enhancement Brigade who were deployed to the Horn of Africa must have been pleased to see the Patriots aircraft pull up to take them home.

There weren’t any cramped seats with no leg room (as in flying economy today). The Patriots aircraft has business seating with extra legroom throughout. Welcome home to the men and women of the SDNG. 

Joshuah Bledsoe: The Patriots may have gotten a steal with the 188th pick in the 6th round of this year’s draft with Bledsoe, according to his coaches at Missouri. The Athletic’s Jeff Howe spoke with them and they loved his versatility, something Bill Belichick also values in his players. 

“He had to play a lot of different people man to man in the slot, had to fit in run schemes and play the middle of the field, so he’s definitely got some football versatility,” Missouri coach Eli Drinkwater said.  “He’s obviously going to be a guy who is going to compete to play on every special team and is a very smart football player, which I think is exactly what coach Belichick values – versatility, smarts, and football intelligence. I think it’s a good fit.”

Bledsoe was used in the slot, at deep safety, and was a core special teams’ player who rarely came off the field. 

“When I found out how good at covering in the slot that he was, that’s when I was like, OK, he’s got a chance to go play (in the NFL),” Mizzou Defensive Coordinator Walters said. “He’s faster than everybody thinks he is. He’s a wide-bodied big guy, so usually, those guys aren’t super fast. But nobody could really run by him.”

An awkward fall at the Senior Bowl resulted in a broken wrist so, Bledsoe was inactive for the vast majority of the spring due to the cast on his wrist. With a deep safety group, he’ll have his work cut out, but the feeling here is that he’ll be on the Patriots practice squad this fall. But he’ll be a player to keep an eye on, especially during STs sessions this summer. 

Joshuah Bledsoe (18) could be a steal for the Patriots with the 188th pick Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Ross Douglas: The former University of Richmond cornerback’s coach is joining Bill Belichick’s staff as a Quality Control Assistant. Douglas played safety and linebacker at Rutgers under Belichick’s good friend Greg Schiano. So, there is the connection. 

Washington Football Team: The WFT (with still no nickname) is a franchise that has been poorly run since Dan Snyder became the owner. That is no secret. But now it has been characterized as a “very toxic environment” by the NFL after a long investigation. 

The investigation found a “highly unprofessional” work environment in Washington, especially for the women employed by the team. “Bullying and intimidation frequently took place and many described the culture as one of fear,” the NFL said in a released statement, “and numerous female employees reported having experienced sexual harassment and a general lack of respect in the workplace. 

“Ownership and senior management paid little or no attention to these issues. In some instances, senior executives engaged in inappropriate conduct themselves, including the use of demeaning language and public embarrassment. This set the tone for the organization and led to key executives believing that disrespectful behavior and more serious misconduct was (sic) acceptable in the workplace. The problems were compounded by inadequate (human relations) staff and practices and the absence of an effectively and consistently administered process for reporting or addressing employee complaints, as well as a widely reported fear of retaliation. When reports were made, they were generally not investigated and led to no meaningful discipline or other response.”

But Park Avenue’s $10 million dollar fine, while the most severe ever levied against an owner, is pretty much pocket-change to Snyder. Will this change anything about the culture with Red—, err WFT? On the surface, yes, but we’re withholding judgment. The league didn’t provide a written report on the investigation, presumably to protect one of its owners. 

Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, the attorneys who represent 40 former employees of the team, blasted the NFL for not releasing a report on the investigation. 

“This is truly outrageous, and is a slap in the face to the hundreds of women and former employees who came forward in good faith and at great personal risk to report a culture of abuse at all levels of the Team, including by Snyder himself,” they said. “The NFL has effectively told survivors in this country and around the world that it does not care about them or credit their experiences. Female fans, and fans of goodwill everywhere, take note.”

Snyder named his wife Tanya, as co-CEO and she’ll run the day-to-day operations of the team for the next several months. Snyder released a statement acknowledging responsibility. 

“I know that as the owner, I am ultimately responsible for the workplace. I have said that and I say it again.

“I feel great remorse for the people who had difficult, even traumatic, experiences while working here. I’m truly sorry for that. I can’t turn back the clock, but I promise that nobody who works here will ever have that kind of experience again, at least not as long as Tanya and I  are the owners of this team.”

4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, please check it out.

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.

The Patriots Pass Rush Should Be Something to Watch For in TC:

The Patriots’ defense took a major step back in 2020. The run defense in particular was woeful at times. They lost Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy, and Elandon Roberts in free agency. Then Dont’a Hightower and Pat Chung opted out. So, not only the run defense but the pass rush was affected. And it showed on the field. 

But this year, they’ve addressed the front seven adding big bodies Devin Godchaux and Henry Anderson upfront while re-signing Lawrence Guy. Then they drafted the best interior DL in the draft, Christian Barmore, who can stop the run and push the pocket from the interior. 

For the pass rush, the team signed Matthew Judon, and brought back Van Noy, while welcoming back a slimmed-down Hightower. They also drafted Oklahoma’s Ronnie Perkins who could be a future cog in the defense. Coupled with an expected 2nd-year jump by Josh Uche and Chase Winovich, the team should have plenty of moving pieces to create matchups and put pressure on opposing QBs. Bill Belichick has always said pass rush and coverage go hand-in-hand, so this 2021 Patriots defense could be one of the top defenses in the NFL if all of the pieces blend together well. 

Matthew Judon is expected to be a huge part of the Patriots defense in 2021 Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

With much of the talk, this spring centered around the QBs and new offensive weapons, the signing of Judon has been…pushed to the back burner a little bit. But if you have any doubts about how much the Patriots valued him, take a look at how much money they ponied up for him. Judon signed a four-year $52 million dollar deal with $32 million guaranteed. 

He’s been a consistent, versatile pass rusher in his career with Baltimore. And he’s able to drop into the flat and cover running backs or tight ends, although it isn’t his specialty. But we mention it because we expect Belichick to create mismatches for his now deep array of pass rushers. One play during minicamp that stands out (as reported by Mike Reiss of ESPN) is that the defense lined up with many of the defenders standing calling out formations (Ameoba Defense). 

The offensive line struggled to identify where the pressure was coming from. At the snap, Judon recognized it and exploded through an open gap which would have resulted in a sack. He can just as easily drop off in the flat and allow someone else (Hightower, Van Noy) to charge up the A-gap. 

Uche is kind of an under-the-radar guy this season. Although he appeared in only nine games and few snaps as a rookie, his production in that small window has the team believing that he’s ready for a significant jump in snaps and production. 

Based on the number of snaps played and his production while on the field, Pro Football Focus (PFF) graded Uche as the second-best rookie edge rusher in the league last season, just below Washington’s Chase Young. Now it is up to Uche to put it all together on the field. 

He’ll have to improve in the running game and in coverage but he’ll have plenty of veteran help in mentoring him in his craft with Hightower, Van Noy, and Judon to study from. We know he has the physical tools and he seems much more comfortable in the defense this year as it was noted that he was flying all over the field during OTAs and minicamp. 

Uche was invited by one of his idols, Von Miller to attend Miller’s pass-rushing camp/summit this spring and Uche jumped at the chance to learn from one of the best pass rushers in Miller. 

“I’ve been looking up to Von since I was little,” Uche said. “For him to invite me … and just talk about our craft, pass-rushing, it was a dream come true.”

So, yes, we’re drinking the BB Kool-Aid here and with a pass rush featuring guys like Judon, Uche, Winovich, and Perkins outside, with Hightower and Van Noy playing off the ball linebacker and Deatrich Wise and Barmore providing some push from the interior DL, it is easy to believe this unit will be much improved in 2021. 

I for one can’t wait to see how the defense…and the pass rush all come together. 

_______________

“Cam [Newton]’s way ahead of where he was last year at this time. There’s no question about that. I mean, as you would expect, he has a good year of experience under his belt and he’s able to start the process at the beginning and not be in a catch-up mode like he was last year. I mean, he was really just starting at this point last season, but he’s well ahead of that just from the year of experience and from the succession of building blocks that he’s been able to stack up, like all the players have that have been here since the start of the OTA and the offseason program back in April, that they’ve been able to stack those days and those learning experiences together, ask questions on things that they need clarification on and build to the next level when they’re ready to put another brick on the pile. So, that’s good for all of us. It’s good for Cam. It’s good for all of the players who can go through that process.

“They’re all hardworking. They all put in a lot of time and ask good questions, really try to stay on top of the material and Brian [Hoyer], of course, has the most experience and Jarrett [Stidham] and Cam both have experience in a little different ways. Jarrett’s been here a little bit longer, Cam’s obviously had more NFL experience and had plenty of experience from last year and Mac [Jones] has the least amount, but he’s learning quickly and working hard at it. So, we’ll see how it all goes but they’ve done a good job of trying to process the information that we’ve given them. Josh [McDaniels], obviously, does a great job with the quarterbacks and Bo [Hardegree]’s helping him out there as well. So, we’ll again, we’ll see where it all takes us.”

Bill Belichick’s when asked about Cam Newton and the QBs overall during minicamp

_______________

“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 Commentary
Tags: 53 Man Roster Projection Bill Belichick Cam Newton Chase Winovich Christian Barmore Deatrich Wise Jr. Dont'a Hightower Josh Uche Kyle Van Noy Lawrence Guy Matthew Judon New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers Ronnie Perkins


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    Michael McGrath
    Michael McGrath
    1 hour ago

    Good morning. Good article. I like your style especially how you temper expectations and don’t tout this as the best DL or OL ever etc. but talk in potential or if the pieces come together. How many pages was the Deflategate report? But no desire to whitewash the WST hostile environment. How hypocritical. Sorry for your family loss.

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