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Patriots News 04-17, Special Teams Facing Big Changes in 2022

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
1 month ago at 5:00 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots News

Patriots News 04-17, Special Teams Facing Big Changes in 2022Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, here are your weekly Patriots news 04-17 and some NFL notes.

Happy Easter Sunday to everyone, we hope that it is a safe and happy one for all of our friends and relatives today. 

The Patriots will begin their offseason strength and conditioning workouts tomorrow, which is the first step to football coming back this summer.  Friday is the deadline for restricted free agents to sign their tender for the upcoming season. 

And the 2022 NFL Draft is just 11 days away and runs from 28-30 April. One of my favorite times of the year, when many of us will be glued to the television for three days. Most draft analysts have the Patriots sliding back in the first round. But a few more recent mock drafts had the Patriots moving up in Round 1 to snatch a top prospect. 

That would be intriguing, to say the least… It isn’t like they haven’t done this before. 

Friday was the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing. We all will not forget  Martin Richard, Lingzi Lu, Krystle Campbell, Sean Collier, and Dennis Simmonds. #BostonStrong

Quick Hitters For the Patriots, and the NFL: 

Bill Belichick:  The Patriots head coach turned 70 years old yesterday and shows no signs of stepping away from the game any time soon. On Friday, Belichick was in Tennessee and visiting with Vanderbilt baseball coach Tim Corbin.

Corbin is from New Hampshire and has been a guest at a Patriots training camp in the past. Belichick has ties to Vandy, his father Steve coached there for three years and Bill was born in Nashville and named after the head coach of the Commodores football team at the time. Belichick and his long-time girlfriend Linda Holliday also have a home in nearby Franklin. 

Brady “Final TD Pass” Ball: The ball that Tom Brady threw to Mike Evans for a 55-yard TD in the NFC playoffs, which was thought to be the last TD pass of his career was sold in March for $518,000, just 24 hours before he unretired. 

Leland Auctions which oversaw the auction of the ball has since rescinded the sale because Brady is expected to throw many more TDs this season. 

“We wanted to do the right thing,” Lelands said to ESPN. “It’s the most unique situation that we’ll probably ever encounter in our lifetimes — at least when it comes to sports memorabilia. We’re still not to the end of the book yet; we’ve written a chapter.”

Matt Patricia: The Patriots’ senior football adviser to Bill Belichick was reportedly largely involved in bringing home the trade for Miami WR DeVante Parker, according to The Athletic. 

The team’s new director of player personnel Matt Groh spoke about Patricia’s role in landing Parker earlier this week. 

“The Dolphins weren’t just going to be able to keep everybody, and when a player became available, I would say Matt Patricia did a great job of being on that early and kind of getting the information to us as quickly as he could,” Groh said, via TheAthletic.com. 

“And we were in on that early, and it really came together well for us, and we’re really excited about having DeVante here.”

Jabrill Peppers: The Patriots signed the defensive back to a one-year contract earlier this spring. He’s recovering from a torn ACL he injured in October. He’s expected to be ready to compete this year and could possibly be utilized in a variety of ways including returning punts in 2022.

He was asked what drew him to New England and his answer was simple: Bill Belichick.

“Playing for Bill, his understanding of the game, what he’s done for the game, the moment I had an opportunity to come learn from him I definitely wanted to jump at it,” Peppers said earlier last week.

“He’s seen a lot of ball. He’s coached in a lot of eras. So I’m just more so excited to pick his brain, see things how he sees it, curious to see how he watches film or breaks down opposing offenses.”

“I just want to go into that safety room and be another asset they can move around and disguise looks and different things. It’s great having guys with similar skill sets because you can confuse opposing coaches and quarterbacks,” Peppers said. 

Peppers sounds like a Belichick-type of player. 

Tom House: The former MLB pitcher and pitching coach is now one of the throwing gurus for pitchers and QBs and had some interesting comments about developing arm strength, (especially when it comes to a certain 2nd yr QB who many nay-sayers have said will never develop enough arm strength for the NFL). 

House was quoted in our good friend from SI Mike D’Abate’s column this week where he said that Jones can most definitely increase his arm strength. 

“From what I know about dealing with quarterbacks and pitchers, when they show up, very few of them have maxed out their genetic capacity to throw,” House said.  “I don’t know the farthest that Mac has ever thrown a football, but I guarantee you we can train him to do it. We can re-pattern and retrain his delivery to handle consistent 60-yard throws if necessary … I could look Coach Belichick in the face and say, ‘If you need him to throw five 60-yarders this game, he can do it for you.”

And House at the end of March went further about developing arm strength:

Stephon Gilmore: The former Bills, Patriots, and Panthers cornerback has signed a two-year deal with the Colts that is worth a maximum of $23 million, with $14 million guaranteed. 

The 31-year-old was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2019 with the Patriots and should help the revamped Colt’s defense in 2022. The Colts also added safety Rodney McCleod this past week. They traded Rock Ya-Sin to the Raiders for edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue.

Scott Pioli: The former Patriots front office exec knows what Bill Belichick and the Patriots covet in 1st round draft picks and he shared it on NFL Network this week. Asked if the team could target a big OL or DL in the 1st round in two weeks, Pioli has some interesting things to say about drafting “clean” players and leaders on and off the football field. 

“During those nine seasons, we made sure when we went in the first round — we took Richard Seymour, Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, and then Logan Mankins — every single one of those guys were not only big, physical and tough but they were extremely dependable,” Pioli said.

Patriots 4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2” in a bit, please check it out. Derek Havens and I posted a video of some front seven and secondary prospects on two separate podcasts this week. 

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.

This year, the nominated players and coaches were Vince Wilfork, Wes Welker, Mike Vrabel, Logan Mankins, Bill Parcells, Lawyer Milloy, Julius Adams, Fairbanks, and John Smith.

The fact that Parcells still gets love from the voters is surprising, and this is from one of Parcells’ biggest fans as a coach. But when you spend the week before the Super Bowl, planning your exit to another team instead of preparing for that Super Bowl, you don’t belong in that team’s Hall of Fame. Just my 2 cents from the cheap seats. 

Who do I think gets in? Wilfork (no brainer), Welker, and Vrabel. 

Patriots Special Teams Facing Big Changes in 2022:

The Patriots have traditionally been among the league leaders in STs since Bill Belichick took over as the team’s head coach in 2000. They spend a great deal of time practicing it and have a large number of players on the roster who are primarily or only ST performers. 

But 2021 was a much different year for the team’s special teams. The team had three punts blocked, which is unheard of in today’s game, especially for a Belichick-coached team. Breakdowns in coverage were far too frequent and Gunner Olszewski, who was an All-Pro in 2020 was largely ineffective. Jake Bailey played through a knee injury and was not the same kicker he has been in past seasons. 

Nick Folk and Matthew Slater, the two greybeards on the unit were some of the only bright spots for the unit last year. So changes were bound to come. 

Olszewski was a restricted free agent who wasn’t offered a tender and signed with the Steelers. Brandon Bolden, who has been a stalwart on STs and filled in for James White as the team’s 3rd down back signed a free-agent deal with the Raiders. And just this past week, STs ace Brandon King, 28, signed a deal with the Colts. 

King played 7 seasons with the Patriots and appeared in 85 career games (73 regular-season games and 12 postseason games) and was a member of two Super Bowl-winning teams. He was the 2021 recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award. 

Bolden and King both played on the majority of the special team’s snaps and will be difficult to replace. It will fall to players such as Harvey Langi and Jahlani Tavai as well as newcomers Ty Montgomery, Mack Wilson, and Jabrill Peppers to pick up some of that slack. 

Of course, the draft has several players with positional versatility that play a position, as well as return kicks or be a gunner covering kickoffs and punts. 

One other possible move could be the Patriots moving away from Bailey in the final year of his rookie contract, something they have done in the past. San Diego State’s Matt Araiza has been frequently named as a possible Patriot target in the draft. Like Bailey, he has a monster leg in both kickoffs as well as punts. If the team were to move away from Bailey this summer it would save the team $3.021 million in salary-cap space according to our resident salary cap guru Miguel Benzan aka @patscap

Special Teams coach Cam Achord took a lot of heat last season and deservedly so but this is a new season and the team will have some new faces to work with, they’ll have some big shoes to fill with Bolden and King gone, but time marches on. They will still have stalwarts such as Slater, Folk, Adrian Phillips, and Cody Davis to rely on. 

_______________

“Just like some of the great players in the past, whether it be Tedy Bruschi or Logan Mankins, and go right down the line — Willie McGinest and Vince Wilfork. Jerod Mayo. Troy Brown. We all know it’s not going to last forever. Other leaders need to develop. These guys all stepped in for somebody before them. And somebody will step in for them in the future. It’s the NFL. …

“I think Mac will step into those roles eventually. Start with that.”

Bill Belichick, when asked about long-time captains Matthew Slater, James White, and Devin McCourty returning in 2022, nearly at the end of their careers. Happy Birthday again coach.

_______________

“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: 2022 Patriots Draft Bill Belichick Brandon Bolden Brandon King Cam Achord Jake Bailey Mac Jones Matthew Slater New England Patriots Nick Folk Patriots special teams Stephon Gilmore


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