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Five Things to Know: Patriots and NFL Thoughts For 2/24

Ian Logue
Ian Logue on Twitter
3 months ago at 8:25 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots News

Five Things to Know: Patriots and NFL Thoughts For 2/24Winslow Townson - USA TODAY Sports

Some thoughts on this Thursday:

1) With all the talk going on about J.C. Jackson, the obvious question is if the two sides can’t reach an agreement, their depth becomes a huge question mark.

As it currently stands, they’re sitting on a just handful of guys in their defensive backfield, with their next best cornerback being Jonathan Jones likely one of the potential next men up in 2022.  He’s not the same type of player, but he was having an outstanding season prior to getting hurt and was definitely one of their better coverage corners.

Jalen Mills had an up and down first season, but while he appears to just be a very good player, he’s obviously not at the level of Jackson.  We saw Myles Bryant see extended action last season and he still has some work to do, while Justin Bethel also saw some snaps but his value has been primarily on special teams and he struggled when he did see time in the secondary.

Joejuan Williams did see a fair amount of snaps last season, but he was inconsistent.  From there, the team made a deal with Baltimore last season for last year’s 5th round pick, Shaun Wade, and reports seem to indicate that Wade could be among young players competing for playing time this season.

Wade was a Consensus All-American in 2020 for Ohio State, as well as a team captain, finishing his final season with six passes defended, including two interceptions.  The belief in Baltimore when he was traded, despite just being selected in the draft months earlier, appeared to center on the fact the Ravens had a crowded defensive backfield and that simply made Wade expendable.

The rookie also appeared to have some issues settling into the defense during camp, although Baltimore reportedly knew his development was going to take some time.  However, it seemingly reached a point where there just wasn’t a role for him, and given the other guys they had, it left them with a difficult decision.  That’s why when New England apparently inquired, Baltimore was willing to make the deal because as it was, they were concerned he wouldn’t clear waivers.

Wade did see action last season, quietly playing in 11 defensive snaps.  The only “memorable” moment that stands out for him was the fact he gave up what could have been the game-tying score against the Giants after allowing a 43-yard touchdown in the closing seconds of the game that pulled New York to within a 2-point conversion at 22-20 (it did look like there might have been an offensive pass interference penalty after replay showed the receiver appeared to push off, knocking Wade to the ground).  However, Wade forced an incompletion when the Giants tried to tie it on the 2-point attempt on the ensuing play, allowing New England to hold on for the win.

Whether or not he’ll factor into the mix this year remains to be seen, but it’s obvious that the Patriots have some tough decisions to make and Jackson’s future remains the one we’ll all be watching.

2) The Patriots official site had a nice bit on Mac Jones, who sat down for a brief interview to talk about the Pro Bowl, attending the NFL Honors Ceremony, as well as his offseason plans.

For those who missed the video, here’s a quick transcription of the bits where Jones talked during the segment:

On being at the Pro Bowl:

“It was really fun to be there with my teammates too that we had there from the Patriots, [it] was awesome.”

On being at the NFL Honors Ceremony:

“When I was watching the honors ceremony I was thinking about how cool it was to be up there watching people get inducted into the Hall of Fame.  Even someone like Tony Boselli, for example, who I knew from being in Jacksonville, was up there.  LeRoy Butler, how he got inducted … his high school coach was my high school coach so things like that … Richard Seymour from the Patriots, it was just really cool to see the whole nine yards of people and all that.”

On what he’s looking forward to about the Offseason:

“I want to be back close to home in New England during the offseason because we obviously have our place there and …. just figure out ways to become a better quarterback and then do whatever we can to put more points on the board so we can win more games.”

On having a full season under his belt:

“I think back to my freshman year at Alabama, you know, you’re kind of figuring everything out.  And then you get older and yet you’re just more experienced with everything … the media, the games, everything.”

On getting a chance to recharge:

“I think that’s the fun part about everything.  The offseason is, you get a second just to catch your breath and figure everything out and this has definitely been the longest year.  It’s been almost two years of football.  I love football and I love to keep going as best I can, but it’s always good to step away and evaluate what you can get better at too.”

Jones already looks energized heading into his second season and after a solid rookie campaign, it should be fun to see how well he performs in his sophomore season.

3) One terrific story came out on Wednesday about head coach Bill Belichick, who has stayed busy during his brief time off this offseason by instead focusing on his charity, which is doing some great things.

According to a release that Adam Schefter highlighted in a Tweet, Belichick’s foundation is distributing $385,000 in scholarships and grants to various underprivileged youth and sports programs in need.

Belichick has talked about his foundation on multiple occasions and has outwardly expressed how important it has meant to him to be involved in the community.  He established the foundation back in 2013 in honor of his late father, Steve Belichick, and the release points out that it provides coaching, mentorship, and financial support to individuals and organizations.

Of the total amount given out, 13 were awarded to students who participated in athletics and excelled academically, while 32 other programs across the country also received a grant from his foundation.

“As many programs are still affected by the pandemic, we are grateful to have the opportunity to distribute scholarships and grants to help deserving student athletes.  Our aim is to lesson the burden of tuition and various costs of running athletic programs, such as equipment, field space, lockers, transportation, coaching and registration fees,” said Linda Holliday, who is also the president of his foundation.

For a coach who already has a lot on his plate this offseason when it comes to football, his mantra of “no days off” has continued and he’s clearly also making quite a positive difference off the gridiron.

4) Following up on yesterday’s mention of Pittsburgh’s JuJu Smith-Schuster in this column, I came across an article out of Pittsburgh where they looked at their free agents and found an interesting tidbit.

After the Steelers beat New England at Heinz Field in 2018, Bill Belichick took time to seek out the then 22-year old receiver and praised him for his 4 reception, 40-yard performance during his club’s win over the Patriots.

That moment resonated with Smith-Schuster, who Tweeted about it after the game.

https://twitter.com/TeamJuJu/status/1074484531036471296

Prior to the match-up, Belichick had high praise on the Friday leading up to that game, calling both Smith-Schuster and Antonio Brown, “elite”.

“Yeah, you’re not going to get anybody better than these two guys, plus the quarterback,” said Belichick. “They’ve got a lot of other guys, too, but I mean, these two receivers are elite — elite, elite.“

Obviously, the opportunity to bring Antonio Brown to New England came but we all know how that ended.  Hopefully, should the Smith-Schuster end up here, the results turn out a little differently.

The 25-year old is coming off of a difficult season where an injury held him to appearing in just five games, with the receiver finishing with just 15 catches for 129-yards.  Down in Pittsburgh, they don’t seem to be entirely sure what the future holds.  He went into last offseason as a free agent coming off of a 2020 season that saw him catch 97 passes for 831-yards and 9 touchdowns.  He nearly signed with Kansas City but according to reports, the market was apparently soft for him and he couldn’t get a multi-year deal.  Both Kansas City and Pittsburgh reportedly offered him a similar one-year deal, so he returned to the Steelers for another season.  Unfortunately, things didn’t work in his favor after his shoulder injury ruined his season.

Meanwhile, the idea of him even landing with the Patriots would be a longshot if the team decides to hold on to N’Keal Harry for another year. With Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers, they already have three solid receivers and it would take parting with Harry to even make room for someone like Smith-Schuster.  Unless that happens, we likely won’t see him – or anyone else for that matter – end up here.

For now, Belichick clearly laid the groundwork and the two each seem to have a good relationship.  Whether or not that leads to him in a Patriots uniform will be one of many things we’ll all be watching this offseason.

5a) While we’re on the subject of “what ifs”, I came across one that was certainly a little interesting.

With Pittsburgh now having to deal with life after Ben Roethlisberger, the speculation has already started over how they might end up replacing him.  One potential scenario was thrown out there by Pro Football Focus, which would see the Steelers make a deal with Las Vegas for Derek Carr.

In the trade, the Steelers would reportedly give up their 2022 and 2023 first-round selections for Carr, while receiving the Raiders’ 2022 third-round pick.

It’s an interesting notion, but it seems unlikely a deal like that would happen with Josh McDaniels heading into his first year with the team.  McDaniels has already had high praise for Carr, who while he’s not in the realm of Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers, he’s a very capable top-tier quarterback who is also fairly well-respected by his teammates and the fans.  The former Patriots coordinator told Sirius XM Radio in a recent interview that he has a lot of respect for Carr and he was looking forward to working with him.

“Derek’s impressed me for a long long time,” McDaniels said via SI.com. “Getting the opportunity to speak to him the other day, you could just sense how important his faith is, his family is, and the game of football. He pours his heart and soul into those three things, and it’ll be a really fun experience for me to have the opportunity to continue to build this thing with him as our leader.

“He’s certainly capable of doing a lot of great things. He’s done them before in his career, and I’m just looking forward to getting to know him — how he learns the best, what he does, and how we put this thing around him the best way we can to help him be successful and help our team ultimately achieve our goals.”

Down in Pittsburgh, the overall feeling seems to be that Mason Rudolph will likely be the favorite to start the season, although they’re expected to tender restricted free agent and former first-round pick Dwayne Haskins in order to bring him back for another year.  From there, the belief is that they’ll explore the market and likely add a veteran, with Marcus Mariota and Mitchell Trubisky among names that are being tossed around.  GM Kevin Colbert also said the team hasn’t ruled out potentially drafting a quarterback.

For now, they’re in the same boat the Patriots were two years ago as they try and move on from their franchise quarterback.  We’ll get a first-hand look at whoever they end up with, as both Pittsburgh and the Raiders are among opponents New England will face in 2022.

5b) We’ll close out with this little bit of news.  As Bruce Arians ponders life after Tom Brady, he’s apparently becoming slightly dillusional after he recently talked about Blane Gabbert potentially being the answer for their future.

Arians recently talked up Gabbert, with Arians saying the veteran QB, “has never played with a team this good.”

“People may not like the overall record, but Blaine had eight head coaches and eight coordinators his first eight years,” Arians said. “He beat Jacksonville their best year and beat Tennessee their big year for us in Arizona. And he’s been in the system now. I don’t have a problem there and let Kyle continue to grow. Either one. (Gabbert) has never played with a team this good. He’s got all the respect in the locker room that he can have.”

While there might be some truth to that, ask any Jaguars fan how they feel about Gabbert and their words will likely not be kind.

With Brady out of the picture, the Buccaneers are already limited at QB.  As it is, Gabbert is a free agent this offseason and they have just Kyle Trask behind him, who spent his redshirt season seeing limited reps, with most of those coming on the scout team.  However, the Tampa Bay Times reports he was the first player out at practice each day and spent quite a bit of time working to improve himself heading into year two.

As for Gabbert, he played last year behind Brady on a salary of $2 million.  Since teams will likely not be breaking down the doors for his services, and the fact it sounds like Arians want him, the Buccaneers certainly appear to be the obvious choice.

Good for Gabbert if that’s the case.  But Arians’ idea of him leading them back to the promised land seems incredibly unlikely and it’s probably safe to say that he might be headed for quite the reality check this season if it’s indeed Gabbert starting under center when things kick off next season.


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