Patriots News 06-05, Tweaking The System Offensively and Defensively?
Good morning; here are your weekly Patriots news 06-05, and some NFL notes this week.
Mandatory minicamp runs Tuesday through Thursday (June 7-9) and we should have a slightly better idea of how the team will be deploying its personnel this year. After this week, then the next big dates will be when training camp kicks off in late July.
Former Patriots football research director and FOB (Friend of Bill) Ernie Adams was interviewed on the “Pats From the Past” podcast and it provided some great insight on Adams who has been a friend of Bill Belichick since 1970 during their high school days. Adams said the pair have had “a 50-year conversation about football.”
Adams’ title of “football research director” has always been a question of exactly what his job entailed. Back in Belichick’s Cleveland days, then-owner Art Modell famously said that he’d give “$10,000 to anyone if they can tell me what Ernie Adams does.”
Adams talked about the 1976 team, that blew out the eventual champion Raiders (48-17 in Foxboro) but lost the divisional playoff game in Oakland, in large part to some terrible officiating, especially the roughing the passer call on “Sugar Bear” Ray Hamilton.
“The two best teams in the league that year were the Patriots and the Raiders and they came out on the long end of the score,” said Adams. “You hate seeing a game really come down to a call, but it did.”
Adams was asked about the comparison of Rob Gronkowski and Russ Francis (who I’ve been saying for years belongs in the Pats Hall of Fame. Adams had this to say:
“The biggest difference between Russ Francis and Rob Gronkowski is that Rob played on a passing team with a Hall of Fame quarterback,” said Adams. “I mean with Russ we were more of a running team and, like Rob, was a devastating blocker on the edge. Russ had great athletic ability, and great hands, when you talk about what do you want in a tight end, you think of Russ Francis and Rob Gronkowski. I have no problem putting them in the same category.”
Near the end of the podcast, Adams was asked about which uniform he prefers, either the “Flying Elvis” or the “Pat the Patriot”. Adams answered (much to my delight), saying it was a no-brainer. “Pat Patriot,” he said. “That’s Boston. That’s New England. For me, every time.”
Quick Hitters For the Patriots and the NFL:
Kendrick Bourne: The Patriots’ wide receiver confirmed that the Patriots’ offense is in somewhat of a transition…and that Joe Judge is playing a large role. Speaking with ESPN’s Mike Reiss at a charity event, Bourne was more forthcoming than we are used to seeing from most Patriot players.
“Joe Judge — our newest member, he’s doing a great job. Really just new terminology, new words,” Bourne said but pooh-poohed the idea that it was an issue.
“Football is football. It’s just about getting the new words in and the old words out. It’s just about applying my new abilities to the new system. I think he’s putting us in a position to be successful.”
Speaking with NESN, Bourne said, “Just playing with a lot more confidence this year, so we’ll see how it goes. I’m excited.” At least in Bourne’s case, he doesn’t sound like one of the guys who are questioning the direction of the staff.
Salary Cap Space: The Patriots (with a nod to our cap guru Miguel Benzan) have only about $482,000 in salary cap space, and still must sign their top draft picks as well as have enough cash to operate this season. So, they will, IMO, either convert some players’ cash to signing bonuses (Matthew Judon), extend others (Jake Bailey), or trade some players with higher cap hits, Bailey, Nelson Agholor, or Isaiah Wynn. N’Keal Harry could also be traded or released.
DeVante Parker: The Patriots’ new WR could figure prominently in the offense this year if he can stay healthy, catch contested passes, and provide a big physical outside receiver, basically doing what the team never got from Harry. But the veteran is already impressed with his new QB. Speaking to the media about Mac Jones, Parker gave the 2nd year QB some nice kudos.
“He’s a leader. He’s a young guy, but he’s vocal as a leader. That’s what this team needs,” Parker said following Tuesday’s workout. “I’ve (only) been out here a few weeks, but I see it.”
Parker also said he and Jones are working on their chemistry, especially with putting the ball up in contested situations. “If he likes what he sees,” Parker said, “it builds up confidence in him, to have confidence in me to throw the ball up.”
“Mac’s looking good. Everyone’s coming in putting work in, trying to get their job done. One day at a time.”
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 the team’s personnel and where we feel their strengths and weaknesses lie, albeit in May.
Later in the week, I was a guest on “Locked On Patriots” with my “Patriots paisan” Mike D’Abate and discussed one AFC power ranking that had New England 13th of 16.
Russ Francis/Chuck Fairbanks: The former Patriot tight end (see Ernie Adams above) and head coach both should be in the Patriots team Hall of Fame…this will be on our Sunday posts until it happens.
Changes Comming Offensively And Defensively? Possibly A Lot:
The Patriots (per Kendrick Bourne’s comments above) are making some changes offensively. Bill Belichick, in his own imitable fashion kinda/sorta hinted around with that as well. He dodged a question about that saying “Yeah, we’re doing a lot of things different,” Belichick said this week.
Does this mean that the team is ditching the Erhardt-Perkins system? Not necessarily at all. The team under Belichick has always tweaked its system to better utilize its players and they could be doing the exact same thing again.
However, they could be making some changes to incorporate elements of the Shanahan style of offense. Evan Lazar of CLNS wrote an excellent piece in his mailbag this week talking about what the team could have in mind. The Patriots, he wrote have traditionally “featured a downhill rushing attack with gap schemes such as power, counter, and lead designs.”
They will no doubt continue to use some of those concepts but could also change things up and use some of Shanahan’s design which features outside-zone blocking schemes. The offensive linemen flow horizontally to create large rushing lanes for ball carriers by forcing the defense to stretch out, making them play in space, leading to explosive runs.
Two players who could excel in that type of offense would be rookie Pierre Strong and TE Jonnu Smith. The system also features naked bootleg passing plays which get the defense moving the wrong way and opens up large passing lanes. The additional benefit is that the Patriots’ receivers have much smaller route trees, which will make the transition for speedy rookie Tyquan Thornton that much easier for the offense.
It makes sense to have drafted the speediest WR and RB this spring to get them involved. We’ll see how it all plays out this summer…So what about the defense?
Much to the chagrin of many Patriots fans and media members, the team didn’t select a linebacker in the draft. This leads one to believe that the team is happy with the younger, more athletic group they have. Also having safeties who can play multiple roles such as Adrian Phillips, Jabrill Peppers, and possibly Joshuah Bledsoe playing as a dime linebacker, they’re putting the onus on being able to flow to the ball and putting a premium on stopping the pass.
The NFL is a passing league and it seems that the team will try to take away anything deep and force the opponent to slowly move down the field, eliminating explosive plays.
But the big changes should be coming via the run defense stopping the running game with much lighter backers and the box. The issue last year was the traditional two-gap responsibilities for the defensive line didn’t work. They can’t have the lighter linebackers trying to play like 250-260 pounders. The solution would be to have the defensive line play more of an attacking system, similar to what Denver did with Vic Fangio.
Defensive backs move up and plug gaps, forcing runners outside where the speedier linebackers can be more active and make plays. This type of system should help a player like Christian Barmore to be much more explosive this year and would probably help their red-zone defense.
This is just spit-balling here but Belichick has always tried to put his players in the best place to succeed. And with the current group of defensive players on the roster, this may make sense. We’ll see what camp brings…are we stoked for football season yet?
“He will go up there, in the kicking game, with Tom Brady on offense and (Lawrence) Taylor on defense,” Belichick said. “So I feel very, very fortunate to have the opportunity to coach all the players, but I’d say those three in particular.”
During a team meeting during the 2020 season, Belichick stood up before the team and said, “It’s a shame if you younger guys don’t take advantage of having Slate in the room and find time to talk to him. He’s the greatest special teams player of all time.”
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick on Special Team’s captain Matthew Slater.
“So, how was your week?”
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Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: Bill Belichick Christian Barmore Damien Harris Devante Parker Jakobi Meyers Jonnu Smith Kendrick Bourne Mac Jones Malcolm Butler New England Patriots Pierre Strong