Good morning; here are your weekly Patriots news 07-24, and some NFL notes this week. It is just a couple of more days until the veterans report for training camp.
Training Camp begins this week, and despite much of the doom and gloom surrounding (hoping?) from some media and fans in the anti-Belichick crowd, it promises to be a very interesting summer as there are several positional battles in training camp that need to be watched closely.
Coaching Staff Has No Offensive/Defensive Coordinator Titles:
The news of the Patriots releasing the coaching staff titles for 2022 quickly made the rounds, and although many professed surprise, it wasn’t a shock or surprise at all. Bill Belichick is still in the rebuilding mode and hasn’t named an offensive or defensive coordinator (Gasp!). Special Teams Coordinator Cam Achord returns to his position.
Belichick said in March, “I’m not big on titles.”
“We have jobs to do. We’ll do the jobs,” adding that there weren’t any games scheduled for several months, and they’d get it figured out.
They haven’t had a titled defensive coordinator since 2018, and that was Matt Patricia, who left to be the head coach of the Lions. Patricia is now the new offensive line coach but also retains his title from last year, Senior Football Advisor.
Now, with longtime offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in Las Vegas as the head coach of the Raiders, there was a lot of speculation about who would be the next offensive coordinator and call the offensive plays.
With no offensive coordinator named, the play-calling aspect of the offense seems to be whittled down to either Patricia, or Joe Judge, who returned after being fired as the head coach of the Giants, or maybe Belichick himself. Our feeling here was that they were grooming Nick Calley, the tight ends’ coach, to be the OC, and he may get the job of calling plays. Judge gets the title of Offensive Assistant/QB’s coach.
This isn’t the first time that Belichick hasn’t had Offensive or Defensive Coordinators titled. The last time was back in another rebuilding year of 2010. After the pasting the Patriots took in the 2009 Wild Card Playoff game with the Ravens, DC Dean Pees wasn’t resigned. Belichick became the de facto defensive coordinator in 2010, and Bill O’Brien called the offensive plays without a title.
Coincidentally, he was raked over the coals then too, but the rebuilding team coached by Belichick and QB’d by Tom Brady over-achieved and went 14-2 before another early playoff exit.
The current coaching staff listed alphabetically is listed as follows:
Cam Achord: Special Teams Coordinator
Brian Belichick: Safeties
Steve Belichick: Linebackers
V’Angelo Bentley: NFL Coaching Fellowship/Defense
Troy Brown: Wide Receivers/Kickoff Returners
Moses Cabrera: Head Strength and Conditioning
Nick Caley: Tight Ends
DeMarcus Covington: Defensive Line
Ross Douglas: Wide Receivers/NFL Coaching Fellowship
Joe Houston: Special Teams Assistant
Tyler Hughes: Offensive Assistant
Joe Judge: Offensive Assistant/Quarterbacks
Deron Mayo: Strength and Conditioning Assistant
Jerod Mayo: Linebackers
Matt Patricia: Senior Football Adviser/Offensive Line
Mike Pellegrino: Cornerbacks
Evan Rothstein: Offensive Assistant
Vinnie Sunseri: Running Backs
Billy Yates: Assistant Offensive Line
A couple of other notes on the coaching staff is that Steve Belichick had the Outside Linebackers designation last year. Now he and Jerod Mayo are sharing all of the linebacker coaching duties. Perhaps one reason is that some linebackers may be switching inside and outside. Or it could be nothing.
The team added Deron Mayo to the strength and conditioning staff under longtime coach Moses Cabrera. He is the brother of Jerod. With the veterans reporting on Tuesday the 26th, the first practice (non-padded) will take place on the 27th.
Quick Hitters For the Patriots and the NFL:
Jason McCourty: The 13-year NFL vet and twin brother of Patriots captain Devin has announced his retirement last week. But he was back in the news this week as it was announced that he was joining the NFL Network.
McCourty will make his debut tomorrow along with new host Jamie Erdahl who’ll many will remember from her NESN days where she worked the studio as well as the Red Sox and Bruins beats.
“We are thrilled to add Jason to the cast of Good Morning Football following his outstanding NFL career,” Mark Quenzel, NFL Network senior vice president and head of content, said in a press release. “Jason’s depth of knowledge, championship pedigree and dynamic personality stand out every time he is on camera, and we are eager to watch him grow and develop in this new career… we cannot wait for this next chapter of Good Morning Football to start.”
Kyler Murray: The Cardinals starting QB is entering his fourth season in the NFL and has gotten a very hefty pay raise. Arizona ownership announced that they are committed to the 2019 Offensive Rookie of the Year for the long term. Murray has signed a five-year, $230.5 million extension, including a whopping $160 million in guarantees.
“My job is to fulfill my promise and bring a championship here. There’s no questions about it,” Murray said. “There’s no other place that I wanted to be this whole time. And I mean that.”
It certainly didn’t appear that way earlier this spring. Murray scrubbed his social media of all mentions of the Cardinals but now it appears it is all forgotten. His contract will no doubt bring a smile to young QBs like Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, and Justin Herbert. Now…if Mac Jones makes the Year 2 jump that many of us believe he will, that would affect him in a couple of years.
Deebo Samuel: While I am not a gamer and have never even played Madden, the fact that they gave Samuel a grade of 89, tied for 12th? That was a head-scratcher to me. He had 1480 receiving yards and was second in the league with 780 yards after the catch. Combine that with eight (8) rushing touchdowns, and Samuel is one of the most versatile and productive players in the game.
Nothing against Tyler Lockett or Amari Cooper, who are fine players, but I’d rather have Deebo all day long. Davante Adams ranked a 99 but Cooper Kupp a 98?
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 and Derek broke down the defense last Friday, be sure to check it out. On another podcast I do with E2G Sports, One Patriots Place, we had Derek Havens as our guest and talked about upcoming camp battles.
Russ Francis/Chuck Fairbanks: The former Patriot tight end and head coach both should be in the Patriots team Hall of Fame, and the fact that especially Francis isn’t is an absolute travesty. Francis and the Raiders’ Dave Casper changed the game with how teams used the tight end position…this will be on our Sunday posts until it happens.
Positional Camp Battles For the PatriotsTo Watch:
There are always some positions that are locked in during training camp. And then there are others that will bear watching as there may be a few names etched in stone while the competition will decide who makes or doesn’t make the roster.
Here are a few positional battles we’ll be keeping an eye on:
3rd Down Running Back: If James White were healthy, this would be a no-brainer. But he’s not. Mike Reiss reported about a week ago that he was still walking with a pronounced uncomfortable gait at a charity event. White is starting camp on PUP, and I would expect to start the season there…as a minimum. He may not ever be the same player with the type of injury he suffered.
That opens things up quite a bit since super sub-Brandon Bolden is on the Raiders. That means Rhamondre Stevenson, J.J. Taylor, or Pierre Strong could be in line for that job. Kevin Harris, the rookie 6th-round pick, is an early down bulldozer.
Stevenson would seem to be the choice here, given his strong rookie season. But Strong has the type of speed the Patriots haven’t had at RB in a long time, scoring 11 TDs of 50-yards or more in college. Plus, he’s already a solid pass blocker, something the Patriots insist their backs are before they see the field and a major reason that many of them get that “red-shirt” type of season. Plus he could be a factor in the return game with his speed.
Taylor has had the potential with his small stature and quick jitterbug moves to be a factor. But entering his third year, this is a make-or-break season for him. He’s yet to carve out a role for himself, and the fact that the Patriots drafted three running backs in the past two years doesn’t bode well for him.
Last season the Patriots started camp with Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson on the roster. My how times change. They get back outstanding slot corner Jonathan Jones who was really missed, especially against Buffalo when the Bills ate the Patriots up out of the slot.
So, who plays outside? Jalen Mills, who was a pleasant surprise last year returns and the team added old friend Malcolm Butler and Terrance Mitchell as well as drafting two Jones, Marcus and Jack. Veteran Joejuan Williams, Shaun Wade, and Myles Bryant are IMO here on the outside looking in.
If the Patriots get back the 2020 version of Butler, he’d start at one side with either Mills or Mitchell at the other. I think at some point during the season, we’ll see Jack Jones starting. The kid can play, don’t be put off by his draft position. Marcus is a future corner in the slot, but should be definitely in the mix as a kick returner right away.
This one is wide open for competition and will bear watching against a deeper receiver group this year in camp.
Last year the team had Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy and added Jamie Collins in the mix. They are all gone now as camp starts. Ja’Whaun Bentley is now the longest-tenured linebacker on the roster.
Outside Linebacker — At the edge, Matthew Judon (12.5 sacks in 2021) is locked into one spot. Ronnie Perkins, who had a “redshirt” type of season, is in the mix. He can set the edge and get after the passer. Josh Uche, who flashes incredible potential in spurts, still hasn’t solidified his game enough and entering Year 3.
Anfernee Jennings is kind of a forgotten guy. He was hurt and missed all of last year, so this is a big camp for him too. He’s a big edge-setter and could work his way into the rotation. Uche offers much more as a pass rusher, but setting the edge has been an issue for him since his Michigan days. DaMarcus Mitchell is also in the mix.
Inside Linebacker — Bentley returns and had a pretty solid season in 2021. But the team needed more youth, speed, and athleticism, and it was obvious down the stretch. The team brought in Raekwon McMillan last year, and by all reports, he was having an outstanding camp until he tore his ACL. The team quickly resigned him for this season, so they are still intrigued. If he’s all the way back, he’ll be a factor to start.
The team traded Chase Winovich to Cleveland for Mack Wilson who, like Wino, had a really good rookie season. And like Wino, saw his playing time and his role gradually decrease. Without trying to sound cliche, it was a win-win for both teams. The team is hoping to reignite his rookie projections a la Van Noy.
The Patriots drafted Cameron McGrone last season, knowing he wasn’t going to be available to them due to a late-season ACL injury suffered at Michigan. The hype is sky high for him, which may be a bit unfair considering he hasn’t played a down of football in over a year and a half. But watching his college highlight tape, will show you why the team likes him so much. Uche could be an interchangeable piece, playing inside on early downs and then sliding outside on passing downs.
Harvey Langi and Jahlani Tavai are both in the mix. But one way or another the lineup is going to look a lot different this year. And it will be exciting to watch it unfold.
“I think our staff is complete,” Belichick said. “I wouldn’t rule anything out. But I don’t think we necessarily have to hire anybody else.”
“I’m not big on titles,” Belichick said. “We have jobs to do. We’ll do the jobs.”
“I don’t know what difference it makes,” Belichick said when asking if it would affect the players.
“We won’t be calling any (plays) for a while… Don’t have any games for a while.”
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick on not naming an Offensive Coordinator this season earlier in the spring at the NFL Owners’ Meeting.
“So, how was your week?”
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Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: Bill Belichick Dont'a Hightower James White Jamie Collins JJ Taylor Joe Judge Kyle Van Noy Mac Jones Matt Patricia Matthew Judon NFL Patriots Patriots Coaching Staff Pierre Strong Rhamondre Stevenson