Daily Patriots News 5/5: Five Things to Know & NFL Notes
Some news and notes on this Thursday:
1) This may end up being one of the longest stretches in-between when players hit the field for training camp thanks to one of the more seemingly unorthodox NFL Drafts we’ve seen in recent memory by the New England Patriots.
We’re already one week removed from last week’s start of the 2022 NFL Draft and Cole Strange continues to be a name people are questioning, with the reactions remaining about as strong over social media as they have the night he was taken.
If the former standout from Chattanooga was looking for a warm welcome from the region where he’s about to spend the next 4-5 years of his NFL life, it’s been a little chillier of a reception – to say the least – than he was probably expecting.
Needless to say, every bad situation tends to sometimes have a positive outcome, and this is likely putting quite the chip on Strange’s shoulder. One can expect that Bill Belichick is probably just fine with it, with Belichick most definitely printing each negative headline about him. The rookie can probably expect one to be posted in his locker daily between now and forever because there have certainly been plenty of them.
Make no mistake, Strange is a terrific player. However, he seems to have been blessed with the same curse that fell on Sony Michel after he was selected 31st overall in Round 1 back in 2018. Michel was a guy who did little to give people a reason to criticize him as a player. He ran the ball well, didn’t turn it over, and was part of a winning formula during his rookie season.
The problem was, he was just really good. He was never great, he wasn’t explosive, all the words that people tend to associate with first-round selections.
It’s a weird dynamic, and Michel never quite got out from underneath all of that enough to live up to the expectations people had for him. Had he been a 2nd or 3rd round pick, he probably would have been viewed differently.
Either way, his addition turned out to be a good one. Michel was a solid player who played a key role in their championship run back in 2018 after rushing for nearly 1000 yards and scoring six touchdowns. The problem was that the Patriots took Michel in lieu of Georgia’s Nick Chubb, which ended up being the bone of contention people never got over, which stayed with Michel all the way until they eventually traded him to Los Angeles during last preseason.
Fortunately, it worked out for him. He ended up also being a solid role player for them last season and he ended the year by earning his second Super Bowl ring.
Strange will likely face the same scrutiny, but who he is as a player should at least help some forget about that.
ProFootballFocus rated him with an 86.9 grade in the run game and an 83.4 pass-block grade in 2021, which was among the best in college football. To put it in perspective, the departed Shaq Mason, who was traded to Tampa Bay this offseason, rated at 85.3 as a run blocker and 73.1 as a pass blocker. The argument around Mason has been that they shouldn’t have traded him only to replace him with the former Chattanooga standout. However, by doing so they now have a player in Strange who if they can end up getting the same or potentially better play, they’ll have him at a much lower cost for the next four years and potentially a fifth, with one of the perks of him being a first-round pick being that they could pick up a fifth-year option.
That would mean he’ll possibly be here into Jones’ sixth season, which is a win for a club that gets to cross off a player on the interior line as a concern. Better yet, the Patriots can now shuffle what they would have paid Mason into retaining or adding players at the tackle position for the immediate future, which still has its own question marks.
Was it perfect? No, but given Belichick’s reaction following the selection, it’s clear that who they may have wanted in Round 1 may not have been there and Strange was their next choice. NFL Media’s Mike Giardi confirmed what Belichick had said during his press conference shortly after that there was a concern Strange wouldn’t have lasted had the club traded back.
“On Cole Strange, I’ve learned, per source, there was a team in the 40s that had their eyes on Strange,” Giardi tweeted. “Would they have traded up had he began Day 2 still on the board? That part is unclear. Strange definitely was getting picked in round 2 regardless.”
So rather than take that chance, Belichick essentially treated the #29 selection as an early second-round pick and took him off the board.
That may be a fact that continues to frustrate people, but the reasoning behind why Strange was selected is starting to make a little more sense. Considering that the NFL is a long-term game, if he lives up to the expectations people have on him as a player, it might be looked upon a little differently down the road.
2) Speaking of Michel, he’s currently a free agent and ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports that he made a visit with Miami yesterday and he’s heading to New Orleans today to meet with the Saints.
It’s hard to say how new head coach Mike McDaniel might view him, as Michel is a solid runner and showed some flashes as a threat out of the backfield, catching 21 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown in 2021, which is something that McDaniels’ offense tends to use quite a bit.
The Dolphins already have a fairly crowded backfield, with Myles Gaskin, Chase Edmonds, Salvon Ahmed, and this year’s 7th-round pick, Gerrid Doaks. So Michel would have his work cut out for him to break into that line-up.
Michel’s acquisition by the Rams saw him end up as a stop-gap addition after their backfield was decimated by injuries. He rushed for 845 yards and 4 touchdowns last season with Los Angeles, but their backfield features Cam Akers, and Darrell Henderson and the club also drafted Kyren Williams, which doesn’t leave much room for him.
Where he ends up is anyone’s guess but, again, he’s been a consistently good player, so it’s likely he’ll end up on someone’s roster before the dust settles.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
3) Meanwhile, the linebacker position remains a big question mark, but one offseason addition continues flying under the radar as someone who should hopefully make an impact in 2021.
Former Cleveland Brown linebacker Mack Wilson is a player who the coaching staff appears to have high expectations for, with Wilson’s speed and athleticism being just what Belichick appears to be building his defense toward.
Wilson was brought in with the trade of Chase Winovich, which not a lot of people thought much of. The former 2019 5th round pick out of Alabama had a fast start in Cleveland, finishing his rookie season with 77 tackles along with 7 passes defended and one interception.
But in 2020 and 2021, that production dwindled as did his playing time. There didn’t appear to be any obvious reason for it, and Wilson told reporters recently that he’s not quite sure what happened, either.
“Honestly, I have no idea,” said Wilson. “That’s a question you should probably ask to the Browns organization.”
“I’m not sure. All I know is I did whatever they asked me to do and I went 100% and I was all about the team. That wasn’t up to me.”
Wilson suffered a hyperextended left knee in preseason in 2020, which saw him get carted off the field but tests ultimately ruled out surgery. But the injury kept him out for the first month of the season and he never appeared to get himself back to form. He ended up getting benched against the Giants in Week 15 before seeing limited time over the final two games.
It made for a long offseason for Wilson, who came into 2021 with higher expectations after what he admitted had been a difficult season.
“After the season, I had time to think to myself about all of the things I went through personally last season with injuries and stuff like that,” said Wilson last August. “I never felt like I was myself. I was down. I wanted to quit at times, but I found a way to keep myself motivated to get through last season.
“Mentally, we go through a lot as football players. When I got hurt, it was one of my worst moments in my life,” he explained. “Just coming back, I never felt like I was myself. I did not feel like I was producing on the field, I could not move like I wanted to. I was missing plays that I knew I should make. I was in a dark place. I was able to climb back because that is what true fighters do. I am happy where I am at right now, but there is still work to do.”
But things again didn’t quite go his way. He suffered a shoulder injury midway through training camp last preseason. It was another setback he fought through, but he eventually seemed to fall out of favor and was among players who the club had trade discussions about prior to the trade deadline but nothing ever materialized.
Sometimes all it takes is a change of scenery for a player to start playing back to their potential. We’ve seen it here in the past with guys like Rodney Harrison and Aqib Talib, with both being guys who were good players but each became better during their time in New England. Wilson said this week he’s excited about the opportunity and he’s already fired up about how things have been so far.
“It’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of fun as well,” said Wilson. “It’s just super structured. I feel like it’s just something that brings out the best in people. It’s gonna bring out the best in this team this year and it’s been great overall. I’m just super excited. I can’t wait to get everybody back in the building and continue to build this foundation.”
4) One interesting thing about Wilson is that he’s definitely a big personality and he was a guy who was well-liked in the locker room.
During his time at Cleveland, Wilson focused on the team-building part of trying to be a leader, with the linebacker coming up with something special after he returned from his knee injury in 2020.
He gifted his linebacker teammates with T-shirts with various sayings each week, with Wilson arriving early on Saturdays before meetings. He would then lay the T-shirts across each of their desks before they arrived.
“I wanted to make this year as memorable as possible because I feel like we’ve got a chance to do some great things,” Wilson said last October via the Akron Beacon Journal. “Even if we don’t have the same room as far as linebackers next year, there will always be memories that will last forever, good-quality shirts that we’ll have for the rest of our life.”’
Wilson also included the position coaches in on the ritual, which he felt really helped bring everyone together.
They will remember this group but let them keep doubting us, we just gone KEEP WORKING!!! no bark ALL BITE! 😤 1-0 every week!
S#5ive1 #LBEAST #VictoryMonday pic.twitter.com/ExyAXToElH
— Mack Wilson Sr. (@MackWilSr) October 5, 2020
He’s clearly a guy who loves his teammates and definitely brings a great attitude and dymanic to the locker room. If he can return to form and get his play back to the level he was at as a rookie, even better.
5) Out in Dallas, owner Jerry Jones is no stranger to doing some head-scratching things and it appears he did another last weekend during the draft.
While sitting with the media and discussing their selection of first-round selection Tyler Smith, Jones made a surprising miscue while trying to explain just how strongly they felt about Smith (who they selected with the 24th overall pick) over highly-rated prospects Zion Johnson and Kenyon Green.
“I don’t want to get into that, but let me put it like this,” said Jones during what was a midnight press conference out in Dallas following Smith’s selection. “We had both of them, this was printed three days ago, below him. Both of those players are below him. Can you see that?”
Cowboys executive Stephen Jones laughed and said, “Don’t show ’em that”, but the damage was done. WFAA sports anchor Mike Leslie, pulled a screenshot after he got home of the incident and the internet then got to work trying to break down the Cowboy’s draft board.
They deciphered part of it, showing the list of players the Cowboys had at the top of their wish list.
Top of the Cowboys draft board deciphered as Cowboys Twitterverse comes through. pic.twitter.com/JyBYp7bWCJ
— OCC44 (@OCC44) May 3, 2022
Patriots fans nearly had the chance to do something similar this year as the club aired video of each draft pick from within their draft room, with the draft board behind several shots where Belichick spoke with the players following their selection. However, the video team did a good job of blurring out that information, which prevented an episode like what happened out in Dallas from potentially unfolding.
Although, Jones clearly put the paper on display whereas it would have taken a savvy person to screengrab the image here and enhance it. Either way, it was an amusing side story to a draft that felt like it was a little less exciting this year compared to 2021.
Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: 2022 Patriots Draft Bill Belichick Cole Strange Dallas Cowboys Jerry Jones Los Angeles Rams Mack Wilson Sony Michel
He suffered a shoulder? What does that mean? Social media is replete with negative no nothing nitwits.
Injury. Appreciate the comment and thanks for reading – and the feedback.