Some news and notes for this morning:
1) Tom Curran spoke recently with Andy Gresh and Rich Keefe in an interview with WEEI and talked about the Stephon Gilmore situation, and he believes that a resolution should happen at some point during training camp.
Curran makes the argument that Gilmore is a critical piece of New England’s defense at a time where Bill Belichick is trying to turn things around coming off of a 7-9 season. He points out that Gilmore is a big key to their success this year and he believes they’ll figure it out before the regular season.
“The interesting thing too, though, is, at 69-years old and coming off a 7-9 season, and I’ve said this before, does Belichick really want to draw lines in the sand with his best defensive player, or actually, most important defensive player and possibly the most important player on this team?” said Curran. “He has to win this year for a variety of reasons – Not “has to’, I mean what’s going to happen if he doesn’t? He’s still the greatest coach of all time – but the point I’m making is, for Bill Belichick’s team to succeed, he needs to sign Gilmore.”
“If he has the money to do it and so does Robert Kraft and they have the room and the cap is going up, well maybe they do bend and buckle a little bit. I don’t think this is going to go through camp. I think this will be resolved by mid-August.”
Gilmore wasn’t part of the team’s recent OTAs and there’s no word yet whether he’ll be at Gillette Stadium when camp opens up in a few weeks. Aside from cryptic social media posts, Gilmore has remained relatively quiet this offseason and for now, he remains a big question mark that we’ll hopefully finally have an answer to in the coming weeks.
2) Another topic of conversation that came up in the same interview was what will happen if they don’t have Gilmore in the fold.
Curran talked a bit about J.C. Jackson, who he believes is a good player but nowhere near the level that Gilmore obviously is. He believes that on one hand, they need a top lockdown corner to reach a championship level but when it comes to someone like Jackson, if he eventually moves on, Belichick’s history has been pretty solid at bringing in guys who they can be successful with.
“If this team is going to have any designs, Rich, on going deep in the conference or even going to the Super Bowl, then you have to make sure that you have a lockdown corner,” said Curran.
“J.C. Jackson might be nice corner and a capable corner, but he’s not in the same vein as an Aqib Talib or a Darrelle Revis or Ty Law, the players the Patriots always had when they won Super Bowls. If you don’t have that, it’s hard to make it without that. They won one in 2016 with I believe Eric Rowe, as their lead corner alongside … [Malcolm] Butler on the other side. But those are few and far between for this franchise.”
“It’s similar in many ways to the Malcolm Butler situation. You’ve got a guy who was a talented player, for a litany of reasons, didn’t have a spot on an NFL team. Same thing with J.C. Jackson, he’s now developed himself into what you would arguably say is a borderline Pro Bowl-level corner, but there are limitations to him. He’s short. He is so similar to Butler in the things that he is able to do. He’s a ballhawk, not a technician, the way Gilmore is. I’m surprised nobody made a run at him this year as a restricted free agent. And I know it’s a whacked year in terms of what teams could do, but I think the Patriots will also be, Gresh, comfortable that they can continue to bring cornerbacks in because if there’s one place that Bill kills it, it’s corners.”
Curran also believes that Jonathan Jones and Joejuan Williams will be key guys to watch this preseason, as between the Gilmore situation and Jackson’s potential future moving forward, they could be critical to the club’s success should things not play out the way the Patriots might want them to.
Folk appears to have a battle coming up to try and keep his job as the club’s kicker.
3) Meanwhile, much of the talk coming out of minicamp centered around how impressive kicker Quinn Nordin was as he tries to potentially unseat Nick Folk for the job.
Folk, who tested free agency and returned on a one-year deal back in March, is coming off a solid year with the team after missing just two field goals all season. The veteran was a perfect 13/13 from 20-39yds, 11/12 from 40-49yds and 2/3 from 50+. But what Folk has lacked in the past has been range on long kicks, which Nordin appears to have. Most reports coming out of minicamps and OTAs was how the ball was “exploding” off his foot and the incredible amount of power he’s shown so far.
98.5 The Sports Hub’s Bob Socci, the new voice of the Patriots along with Scott Zolak, does a podcast and recently sat down with Nordin’s kicking coach, Brandon Kornblue, to talk about the undrafted free agent.
Kornblue, who like Nordin is also a Michigan alumni, has his own interesting backstory. He was a kicker himself who grew up wanting to go to Michigan and actually ended up playing with Tom Brady. He was on a competitive team that was deep at the position during his tenure there, as he was behind Jay Feely and several others. He only ended up with one field goal, but he said during the interview that Tom Brady was his holder.
He’s gone on to become a pretty terrific kicking coach and he’s worked with many different players. However, after watching Nordin work his way up and seeing everything he’s been willing to do, he believes Nordin is something special and that he’s going to surprise people in the NFL.
“He was at Michigan five years, he redshirted, and then was there four years and had another year of eligibility, but for some guys, just, six years in college is a lot,” said Kornblue. “And I encourage guys to stay in college for as long as they can to keep developing, but he was ready – mentally, physically – for that next chapter. He’s one of the most physically gifted kickers I’ve ever been around if not, the most. Coming out of high school, he was the most recruited kicker, really, that I’ve ever heard of in college football history. Over 20 Division I scholarship offers, could have gone pretty much anywhere he wanted to go.”
“Had a great experience at Michigan. It was not, by any means, a clear, ideal college career for him. He had a lot of ups and downs throughout. Again, just like what I experienced. He had a kicker behind him that they recruited, put on scholarship two years after he got there, Jake Moody, who is going to be an NFL guy as well. So that was part of it, but there’s a number of factors. This past year, Cam Cheeseman was going to be their starting snapper for his fifth year and with all the craziness, he left the team. He left, I think it was in August, I believe, didn’t give them any time to replace him, so that made it really tricky for this year with the whole operation of snap and hold. So he’s just gone through obstacles throughout his career, as many guys do, but he’s always fought them head-on. He doesn’t shy away from anything, any challenge, he’s mentally strong, he’s a competitor, he is so driven to be the best.”
Kornblue said that he’s been staying in touch with Nordin and said the rookie has been in great spirits so far and appears excited for the opportunity ahead of him in the coming weeks.
“I talked to him about once a week, since he’s been there,” said Kornblue. “After the last four months of being down here in Florida training and getting ready for his Pro Day and this opportunity, I have never heard him so happy. He is in such a groove because of the expectations and the way that they run their program. He’s got to make his kicks to stay there, obviously, but yeah, he is just lovin’ it. He’s just trying to make the most of it and he wants to be there as long as he can.”
4) Getting back to another interesting comment from Curran’s interview, he talked about who he thought might become the next key Patriots fixture with this team and quietly become a key to their future moving forward was Jakobi Meyers, who he believes is going to quietly develop into an impact player.
The answer was pretty surprising.
“I’m going way off the board, and I’m going really young, but I’ve got a guy and it’s Jakobi Meyers,” said Curran. “If this team wins a couple of titles and he is a fixture, a 60/70 catch guy who can continue to be a factor the way he was last year, even as they bring other people in around him, he fits the bill as the kind of player that the Patriots have been built on.”
Despite his earlier comments about Jackson, Curran also believes that both he and Dugger could join Meyers as players who could be key pieces on the other side of the ball moving forward.
“J.C. Jackson would be another. Who knows what happens next year and going forward, but he could be another,” said Curran. “Kyle Dugger, I think, again, is one of the best young players that I’ve seen in his first and second year with this team over the last 10 years. I think he’s going to be fantastic. So those are some of those building blocks, I think, that they’re going to have going forward that, you know, might get a red jacket.”
5) ESPN’s Jeremy Foweler did an article on ESPN+ looking at the NFL’s top edge rushers and while the Patriots didn’t have anyone in the top 10, they did have a player who made the list.
Newly-added free agent Matt Judon was among players who reportedly received votes, with one AFC defensive coach giving him high praise as a guy who can just do everything while saying, “I’m partial to complete football players and this guy can do it all vs. run and pass.”
Cleveland’s Myles Garrett topped the list, followed by Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt, along with the Chargers’ Joey Bosa.
As for Judon, he’s coming off a year where he finished with a safety, two passes defended and six sacks and has been vocal about how excited he is to be a Patriot.
“Just a learning experience, learning different calls, different plays, different schemes, different systems every day,” Judon said last month. “It just continues to build and build, and I’m enjoying it, though. It’s been fun. It’s been different than Baltimore. But at the end of the day, it’s football. So right now, I got to just continue to learn and continue to apply the film to the teachings that I get from my coaches and take that out onto the field to execute.”
Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: Aqib Talib Bill Belichick Darrell Revis Gillette Stadium J.C. Jackson Jakobi Meyers Joejuan Williams Joey Bosa Jonathan Jones Kyle Dugger Malcolm Butler Matt Judon Myles Garrett New England Patriots Nick Folk Quinn Nordin Stephon Gilmore T.J. Watt