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Patriots News 02-27, Mac Jones, 2nd Year Players Time To Shine

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
February 27, 2022 at 5:00 am ET

Patriots News 02-27, Mac Jones, 2nd Year Players Time To Shine(PHOTO: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports)

🕑 Read Time: 9 minutes

Good morning, here are your weekly Patriots news 02-27 and AFC East notes.

Starting on Tuesday and running from March 1-7 will be the annual NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. It was good to see that the bubble restrictions were able to be worked out. While the testing is always important to see how the prospective players can perform in the UnderArmour underwear Olympics, the interviews for the players are of very real importance. 

It seems like the Patriots will NOT be playing in Germany in 2022. Although it seemed that they would be one of the favorites to play in Allianz Arena in Munich since the team has FB Jakob Johnson from Germany in the NFL International Player Pathway Program. Because of that, the Patriots are one of the most popular teams in the country. 

But the Tampa Bay Bucs are the team that was selected to be the “home team” in the contest. Their opponent has not been released, however, the Patriots won’t be that team as the teams don’t meet in 2022. 

Quick Hitters For the Pats, and the NFL: 

Ben Coates: The former Patriots and Ravens great was honored by being named to the HBCU Hall of Fame. Coates played at Livingstone College in Salisbury, NC. Drafted in the 5th round by the Patriots in 1991, he spent all but one season with the Patriots, but in his final season with the Ravens, was a member of the Super Bowl XXXI winning team. He was a member of the 1990s ALL NFL Second Team. Congrats.

Kara Doolittle: The Patriots honored Doolittle, a die-hard Patriots fan who is battling cancer for an insider tour of Gillette Stadium along with meeting owner Robert Kraft and players Damien Harris and Byron Cowart. 

She drew the interest of the team when she learned she had cancer, she tweeted that if Brandon Bolden can beat cancer, then she could. Bolden responded to her and that set the ball rolling. Nice move by the team, and all the best to Kara. 

Cap Space: The go-to guy when it comes to the salary cap for the Patriots is Miguel Benzan (@patscap). Benzan posted an intriguing look at how the Patriots can increase their salary cap space and said this:  “Bottom line – Patriots have several ways to create cap space. This is a list of possibilities. I do NOT think all will happen.”

And Benzan isn’t advocating for any of this to happen nor predicting that it will, but just that these are the options available for the team. 

Mac Jones: The Patriots starting QB, in an interview with the team’s website said that he’s planning on eating healthier this year, part of his preparation for being a better-rounded QB next season. 

“This offseason will be a big, big part of it, just getting stronger and cleaning up on my diet and all that,” Jones said. “So there’s a lot that’s gonna go into it before next season even starts. That’s the important part, attacking that, and then hopefully a lot of big changes will come, with whether it’s mechanics or the playbook. I have a lot of time now to kind of digest everything and kind of take it over, how I want to do it.”

You have to chuckle a bit at the silly click-bait stuff that called out his work ethic, which is not now and has never been an issue. There are rumors that he’s begun work with throwing guru Tom House, and if that is the case, then it is a very good sign. 

Something else to keep in mind, last spring and summer, Jones was not getting first-team reps, those went to Cam Newton. Jones will be getting all of those once the spring workouts begin, and he gets a bit of a breather after a long rookie season. 

Of course, without Josh McDaniels, he’ll be spending a lot of time with Joe Judge this offseason and I’d expect that will also include TE coach Nick Calley. It will be intriguing to see how well the group gels this year. Jones’ development will certainly be an area to watch in 2022. 

Never Say Never…But: We’ve seen a lot of mock drafts already hitting the internet, but until free agency has really kicked in, it is rather difficult to state where the team is headed in terms of the draft. However, while everyone’s favorite draft binky du jour seems to be Ohio State’s WR Chris Olave, it would seem doubtful that the Patriots would spend their first-round pick on WR for a couple of reasons. 

First, WR is not the biggest need for the team, you can easily make the argument that CB, OL, or LB is more pressing. And secondly, there are plenty of WRs who can be impact players into Rounds 2-4. Not that I would be against Olave on the roster, quite the contrary. But will they take a WR in Round 1? Never say never, but… 

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 latest on free agency and the coaching staff 

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.

These Patriots’ Draft Picks From 2021, Will Be Players to Watch:

The Patriots had a very productive draft in 2021 with three out of their four top draft picks (Mac Jones, Christian Barmore, and Rhamondre Stevenson) playing key roles for the team. And those three are expected to be even better in their second season. 

But there were three other draft picks and a traded player that didn’t play a role at all in their rookie seasons and with two of them, the team drafted them knowing that they weren’t going to get any involvement at all in 2021, due to injuries that were suffered before the draft. The fact that the team drafted them anyway makes them intriguing as Year 2 awaits. However, first up is:

Ronnie Perkins was drafted from Oklahoma in the 3rd Round of the 2021 NFL Draft (96th overall). He’s an athletic edge player but with a talented, veteran-laden group ahead of him, the rookie was inactive for 13 games before landing on IR with an injury. He didn’t appear in any regular-season games. 

He did, however, benefit from being in the meeting rooms and at practice all season long and should be in a much better position to compete for reps as a situational pass rusher in 2022. With Matthew Judon playing nearly every snap last year, he was burned out down the stretch. Perkins, Josh Uche, and Chase Winovich should all be vying to see more of those types of snaps in 2022. 

Cameron McGrone: With all of the talk surrounding the team’s need to get faster and more athletic at inside linebacker after the debacle of the final two games against the Bills, the Patriots arguably got a steal when McGrone was available in the 5th round of the draft, (177th overall) after he suffered a torn ACL in Michigan’s 5th game of the season in 2020. 

The team drafted him knowing that he probably was not going to be available at all in 2021. He did return to practice late in the season but was never activated off of the NFL. Slightly undersized at 6’1, 238, his defensive coach at Michigan, Don Brown was asked about McGrone and offered this assessment:

 “The guy loves football. Absolutely loves it. Took over the Mike linebacker position in the second game of the year in 2019, had an outstanding season. He’s 238, 237 pounds, but I know we had him running a high-4.4 40. The guy can flat-out run, the guy is a smart football player and I think he’ll be a tremendous fit in Coach Belichick’s system.”

With Dont’a Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley, and Jamie Collins all free agents this spring, the Patriots linebacker position may be in for an overhaul this year. And McGrone, Raekwon McMillian, and Uche may all be vying for more reps. 

Joshua Bledsoe: Another player drafted late in the draft (6th Round, 188th overall) due to an arm injury suffered in Mobile last spring, Bledsoe was a Swiss Army Knife for the Missouri defense. If there is one thing that Bill Belichick covets in his players is versatility. 

Bledsoe is athletic enough to play deep safety, stout enough against the run to play in the box, and physical enough to play dime linebacker. However, his best chance for carving out a role, at least early is to play the slot or in the box and contribute on STs.

But Devin McCourty was impressed by the rookie as he too was on the practice field for a short time late in the season, before getting injured. “For me, it’s been impressive seeing him get on the field and how fast he’s played — executing and understanding techniques,” McCourty said to the Boston Globe. “That comes from you obviously (being) locked in. Paying attention in meetings, going home, re-watching film.”

Shaun Wade: Wade was not a Patriots draft pick, he was drafted in the 5th round by the Baltimore Ravens but they cut bait with him in training camp, and he was then traded to the Patriots. He possesses good size at 6’1, 196, with 33.5-inch long arms, but would he compete and fit as a boundary corner, or is his best position playing in the slot?

He only played in 11 snaps last year, so he’s still basically a red-shirt rookie as well, but he also was able to soak up the team’s defensive playbook and given the state of the cornerback position with the uncertainty surrounding J.C. Jackson (see below), Wade will certainly have an opportunity to compete for reps this spring/summer.  

Not Time to Panic About J.C. Jackson’s Status…Yet:

Many fans and media members were hitting the panic button when the window for placing the franchise tag on CB J.C. Jackson opened and the Patriots didn’t immediately hit him with it. “Are the Patriots Going to Use the Tag on Jackson or Not?” and of course, other teams’ media sites were already talking up scenarios of signing “Mr. INT” to their respective teams. 

To quote Mr. Drama Queen himself… R-E-L-A-X. This is quite typical of the Patriots. When they tagged Joe Thuney, they waited until the last day of the window to do so. I wouldn’t be shocked to see the team do that once again. The Patriots have until March 8 to place the tag on Jackson or any of their other free agents, although realistically, the only true target of the tag, if the team is going to use it, is Jackson. 

But waiting is just a negotiation tactic, just like they’ve done in the past like with Thuney. 

Jackson inflamed the masses with his comments to Phil Perry from NBC Sports Boston this week when he said, “I guess they feel like they don’t need me,” Jackson said. “I guess I can’t be that important to them. I know I am, but they’re not showing me.” Jackson did say that if the Patriots place the franchise tag on him (worth $17.3 million), he’d play under the tag. 

One thing to keep in mind before grabbing your torches and pitchforks and heading to Belichick’s home is that Jackson said that the Patriots had made an offer for an extension to him last season. So, at least it shows the team is interested in keeping him in the fold. Does it automatically mean that Jackson will be a Patriot in 2022? Hardly. 

But something else to consider is that the Patriots don’t have a backup plan in place, at least for the present. When they let Malcolm Butler walk in free agency to Tennessee, they paid big money to Stephon Gilmore during free agency. But, the supporting CBs on the roster, at least right now, would leave one to believe that Jackson is going to get tagged, but probably closer to March 8 than March 1. 

With that being said, I think that the tag/trade scenario for Jackson, while a possibility isn’t going to happen. I think the Patriots find a way to keep Jackson in New England and with a deal that lessens his Year 1 cap hit. But nothing that happens here in New England is never a shock, so we’ll just have to wait and see how it all plays out. 

_______________

From October 2021, Bill what made Richard Seymour a Hall of Fame player?

“Everything.”

“Richard was a tremendous player. He had a tremendous skill set. He had great length. Explosive. Very quick for his size. He could do everything,” Belichick said.

“He started his career at the nose, which was not really his best position, but he could play it for sure, and we needed him there in ‘01. Then we moved him back to his natural position of 5 and 3-technique. He played some on the nose in passing situations, but he was really more of a defensive end than a nose tackle, but he played there because we needed him, and then after we got Ted [Washington] and [Keith] Traylor and Vince [Wilfork], then he ended up outside.”

“It was a tough matchup for the interior linemen,” Belichick said. “He could win with speed, and against some of the quicker guys, he could win with power. Smart player. Richard was very smart and had good awareness. He was a good situational player and certainly helped our linebackers a lot because he was either able to get penetration or able to draw blockers and tie up blockers that couldn’t get to the second level on some of our off-the-ball players.

“He was a very disruptive force. Good in the kicking game. Played in the punt return and had some big plays for us. Going back to ‘01, like Troy’s [Brown] punt return against Cleveland. He had a huge block on that. He was an excellent field goal blocker. He had a lot of roles. He played in a lot of different situations. We won a lot of games with him. He was a great player.”

Bill Belichick, on the induction of Seymour into the Patriots team Hall of Fame, praising him  for his athleticism, intelligence, and versatility.

 _______________

“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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About Steve Balestrieri

A former US Army Special Forces NCO and Officer, Steve has been following the Patriots since their days at Fenway Park. Steve has worked in the film industry and wrote as an Military Editor at SpecialOperations.com, 1945.com as a reporter for the Millbury Daily Voice, Millbury-Sutton Chronicle, and the Grafton News. He's also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)


Tags: Bill Belichick Damien Harris Dont'a Hightower JC Jackson Mac Jones New England Patriots NFL Patriots edge rushers Stephon Gilmore

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