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Patriots News 02-20, Groh, Schematic Changes on Defense, Coaching

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

Patriots News 02-20, Groh, Schematic Changes on Defense, CoachingBrett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, here are your weekly Patriots news 02-20 and NFL notes.

While all of us here are happy to see Brian Flores get another coaching job in the NFL, the simple fact that he’s a defensive assistant and linebacker coach that he’s vastly overqualified for speaks volumes about his lawsuit and how it kind of proves itself. But good for B-Flo and for Mike Tomlin. Tomlin just hired a new DC in Teryl Austin on Feb. 6, and having an experienced hand with Flores along with Tomlin will make Austin’s transition a much easier one.

Before we get to the team news, RIP to the Patriots’ oldest fan, Myrtle Milledge who passed away this week at the age of 106. Milledge, from Mexico, Maine, was honored by the team earlier this month and was given a Patriots jersey with the number 106 on it. She was the Grand Marshall of the Patriots Super Bowl parade there in 2019.

Josh McDaniels took out a full-page ad in the Boston Globe to thank the Patriots and fans for all of his success here after taking the head coaching gig with the Las Vegas Raiders. (more below)

Key Dates for the NFL 2022 Offseason: 

  • February 22: First day to designate franchise or transition tags
  • March 1-7: NFL Scouting combine in Indianapolis
  • March 8: Franchise/transition tag deadline
  • March 14-16: Legal Tampering Period for pending unrestricted free agents
  • March 16 (4 p.m. ET): Free-agent deals can be signed, and trades can be officially conducted. The league year begins
  • March 27-30: Annual league meeting in West Palm Beach, Florida
  • April 4: Teams with new head coaches can begin offseason conditioning programs
  • April 18: Remainder of teams can begin offseason conditioning programs
  • April 22: Deadline for restricted free agents (RFAs) to sign offer sheets
  • April 27: Deadline for teams to exercise the right of first refusal on RFAs
  • April 28-30: The 2022 NFL Draft in Las Vegas

Quick Hitters For the Pats, and the NFL: 

Josh McDaniels: The former Patriots offensive coordinator took out an entire full-page ad in the Boston Globe to thank fans, Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft, and of course Tom Brady as he’s now the head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. He also mentioned former OL coach Dante Scarnecchia, RB coach Ivan Fears, and late team front office official Nancy Meier

“I will miss you, all of you Patriots fans, more than you know. You are the epitome of resilience and the definition of support,” McDaniels said. “I will never forget snowballs flying around after the ‘tuck’ game, the way you embraced Matt Cassel after TB’s 2008 knee injury, the LOUD way you expressed a ‘never say die’ attitude in the second half of our Super Bowl against Atlanta and, most of all, you enthusiastically lining the streets for our half dozen duck boat parades. There is a reason they call Boston the best sports city in the world.”

“The person who gave me my start in professional football, who gave me my first shot at coaching a position group, who named me OC at age 29, and who graciously welcomed me back to the Patriots after my three-year sabbatical in Denver and St. Louis is another GOAT: Bill Belichick. My father Thom, a Hall of Fame high school football coach in Canton, Ohio, taught me the game of football. Bill taught me how to teach others how to play this game I love, and sculpted me into the coach I am today. Bill’s brilliance has been matched in my life only by his generosity, his willingness to share with the invaluable coaching axioms that have shaped and will continue to shape my career and my life immeasurably.”

“I had a front-row seat to watch TB12 play the most important position in all of team sports better than anyone has ever played it. Far more personally significant, almost 2 decades of sharing a game day trench with Tommy forged a close relationship of trust and gave rise to a priceless friendship. Tom is as great as it gets on and off the field, and I appreciate how he’s made me better in so many ways.”

He thanked the people of the region for turning him into a “wicked savvy New Englanduh.” Classic.

Eric Bieniemy: The Chiefs offensive coordinator, whose contract ran out at the end of the playoffs was the subject of an eye-raising piece by “Chiefs Kingdom”, an operation that has been around for 25+ years and has broken several stories from inside sources within the team. 

The report, which has since been taken down,  stated that the relationship between Patrick Mahomes, Bieniemy, and HC Andy Reid, hasn’t been all rosy and that things came to a head during the AFC Championship Game. According to the piece, Bieniemy blamed Mahomes’ poor Super Bowl performance against Tampa Bay a year ago as the primary reason why he didn’t get a head coaching job.  

Bieniemy, who was quoted as saying of Mahomes “He’s a great kid, but he’s a competitive prick,” only added fuel to the fire. Tyreek Hill immediately came to Bieniemy’s defense on Twitter, But the only way we’ll truly know how much of the story is true is if, KC resigns Bieniemy since he didn’t land a head coaching gig again this offseason. 

Patriots 4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, please check it out. Russ, Derek, and I discussed the team’s free agents a couple of weeks ago and the Brady retirement news. We’ll get back in the studio ASAP.   

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.

Could the Defense Be Looking At Schematic Changes in 2022:

Patriots’ linebacker coach Jerod Mayo last week said that the goal for the defense in 2022 was to get faster and more explosive and get more playmakers on the field. Mike Reiss of ESPN, who seems to always have great insight on the pulse inside Gillette Stadium, intimated that schematic changes could possibly be coming in 2022. 

Mayo’s comments from last week are repeated once more: “Now, we have some guys who were new to the system last year which I expect going forward they’ll have a better understanding of that. Also through the draft and through free agency, we’ll definitely look to get faster, look to get more explosive, and look to put more playmakers on the field.”

Reiss’ piece poses an intriguing question. While a lot of people expect the team to target an athletic linebacker in the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft, it isn’t like the team hasn’t attempted to do so in recent years. The team drafted Josh Uche, Chase Winovich, Anfernee Jennings, and this year drafted Cameron McGrone, although they knew he was injured and wouldn’t play in 2021, and then signed free agent Raekwon McMillan who like Jennings was placed on IR this past season. 

Uche and Winovich were invisible last season. And Uche who was one of the standouts during training camp and preseason particularly seemed poised for a breakout year. 

But when Reiss stated it is “possible that what the Patriots are doing scheme-wise is not allowing the natural abilities of young linebackers to be maximized.” It raises an intriguing question. Does their system need to change to keep up with an NFL that placing a premium on speed? 

The team certainly has a plethora of off-the-ball linebackers who could thrive in the league, if the system is playing to their talents in the best way possible. While Winovich may have been in Belichick’s doghouse and could be traded this offseason, before they invest in more young talent, they may be looking at ways they can better utilize the talent that is already here. While Belichick is on record as saying that the system has to remain in effect, the team could be looking to tweak that. It is what makes the offseason so intriguing. 

How Will Matt Groh’s Promotion Play Out in 2022:

This winter the Patriots lost Dave Ziegler, the Director of Player Personnel to the Las Vegas Raiders to be their new General Manager. Ziegler had only been in the position a year after Nick Caserio bolted to the Texans to be their new GM. But the team promoted Matt Groh, who has been with the team for 11 years to take over for Ziegler.

Ziegler and Bill Belichick had a pretty impressive 2021 draft, something that the departed Ziegler helped Belichick fashion. Groh comes from the scouting side of the house. He worked his way up through the ranks (a Patriots’ must), from scouting assistant in 2011, an area scout from 2013-2018, and national scout from 2019-2020 before becoming the team’s national scouting director last year. 

He should be working closely on the draft side of the house with draft consultant Eliot Wolf and in free agency with the director of pro personnel Steve Cargile along with Belichick in shaping how they want to construct the 2022 version of the team. It remains to be seen if Matt Patricia will be involved in personnel decisions as he was in 2021 or, if recent rumors are true, that he will take a more active role in coaching in 2022 (more below). 

The continuity of promoting from within, however, remains in effect. Groh and Wolf were in Mobile for the Senior Bowl recently. And Groh will have a lot of say now when it comes to the upcoming free agency period. But for now, the team needs a new national scouting director. 

Coaching Changes Will Continue to Develop:

Bill Belichick and the Patriots are used to seeing the coaching staff poached every spring. But this year, over half of the offensive coaches have been snatched away. Josh McDaniels, Bo Hardegree, Carmen Bricillo, and Mick Lombardi are all gone. Longtime RBs coach Ivan Fears, who actually predates Belichick is thought to be close to retirement. Changes are coming and the staff will look very different in 2022. 

Joe Judge is back after being fired from the Giants. His official designation is “offensive assistant” but the former STs coordinator and WR coach will probably have a say in calling the plays. Tight ends coach Nick Calley is also a possible name for Belichick to groom as the next OC. Vinnie Sunseri (asst RB coach), and Troy Brown (asst WR coach) should also see an uptick in responsibilities this season. 

While the rumors have swirled back and forth that the Patriots would try to rehire former OC Bill O’Brien, rumors continue to circulate that Belichick, who always relinquished control to McDaniels in offensive playcalling, would take a more active role in that aspect of the team. That would lead to which coach would get the most of the play-calling responsibilities as Jeff Howe of the Athletic posted. 

Matt Patricia is also rumored to be a candidate for moving into a coaching position for the offense, however, while some think that Belichick could move him into an OC-type of position with play-calling responsibilities, as Howe pointed out, it may make sense to place Patricia as the offensive line coach, where he was Dante Scarnecchia’s assistant in 2005, to give time for Billy Yates, the current assistant to work into the role. 

One thing that won’t change is the system. That is Belichick’s hard and fast coaching philosophy, while it is a fact of life in the NFL that coordinators may come and go, the system has to remain the same. And with 2nd year QB Mac Jones’ development something to watch this year, it is the reason why Belichick hiring outside of the team rather than internally, is probably not going to happen. This is why hiring guys like Adam Gase or even Eric Bieniemy, who some were calling for this week, is a pretty low possibility. They don’t want their QB to have to learn an entirely new system, each time a coordinator comes in the door. The current Patriots offensive system hasn’t changed since Belichick took over the helm in 2000. The OC has gone from Charlie Weis, to McDaniels, to O’Brien, back to McDaniels. Now they are facing some uncertainty. 

They’ll add to the staff as the spring wears on, but unless they were to bring back O’Brien, the staff will probably all get promotions up from their current jobs. They have traditionally promoted internally and that won’t change much as long as Belichick is at the helm.  

_________________

“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.

 


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Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: Anfernee Jennings Bill Belichick Cameron McGrone Chase Winovich Josh Uche Mac Jones Matt Groh Matt Patricia New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots Coaching Staff Raekwon McMillan Troy Brown


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