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Friday Afternoon Notes: Belichick Gives Some Insight on RB Strong

Ian Logue
Ian Logue on Twitter
1 year ago at 2:54 pm ET
Posted Under: 2022 Patriots Season

Friday Afternoon Notes: Belichick Gives Some Insight on RB StrongBrian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Some New England Patriots-related news and notes on this Friday:

Belichick Remains Cryptic on Jones

To no one’s surprise, Bill Belichick offered little in terms of where Mac Jones’ status is at heading into Sunday’s game in Cleveland, but he at least appeared to be in a fairly good mood as he met with the media.

Belichick opened up his press conference with a smile and a “Happy Friday,” followed by, “What do we have cooking here today?” But despite his jovial demeanor, he still proceeded to be cryptic about where his quarterback’s health was at.

“Mac, I think, is making good improvement and we’ll see where he is today,” said Belichick.  “Certainly, he’s doing a lot more this Thursday than he did last Thursday and I imagine Friday, the same thing, but I mean we’ll see.”

Jones was present during the media portion of Friday’s practice session and seemed to be moving much better, with the quarterback seeing his ankle heavily taped along with wearing a fairly hefty knee brace on his left knee.

He was moving fairly well through several drills, most notably some ones that were forcing him to make some lateral moves around bags that were on the ground before finishing off by planting and making throws.

From what little footage was available, Jones looked accurate throwing the football, while not showing nearly as much discomfort compared to just one week ago.

Whether or not Jones should return is clearly a difficult question.  Having him as close to 100% as possible is clearly the preference since ankle injuries like these, especially one as severe as Jones’ was said to be, can be reaggravated and plague a player throughout the season.

The fact Jones is wearing a knee brace also shows that there’s also still some issues with his stability, which multiple reports have stated.  However, this is probably the best he’s looked in a while in terms of how he’s been moving out at practice, so hopefully, this means he’s getting closer to being ready to go.

Some Insight From Belichick on Injury Process

The next question then obviously becomes at what point he’ll be medically cleared to play and if he’s comfortable with testing it in a game.  On Friday, Belichick brushed off questions about whether or not Jones had been cleared just yet, but did talk a little about the process the team goes through for players who have made progress and how the decision is made for them to play.

“Again, if a player has an injury he goes out and does whatever he’s capable or instructed to do, and then we see how he responds and what happens, and nobody knows the answer to that question,” explained Belichick.  “So if the next day he feels better, he does more.  If the next day he doesn’t feel better or has soreness or whatever, then we back off and then try it again once he feels that we’re at the next … so it’s a process of steps.  You go one step, and then you go to the next step.  And then if you can’t make it through that step, then you step back, and then you step through it again.”

“So nobody knows how they’re going to feel tomorrow after what they do today.  I don’t know how anybody’s going to feel that are in that category.  We’ll see where it is.  If it’s better on Saturday than it was on Friday, then maybe it’s a game-day workout. If it’s worse, then we probably would downgrade the player.  If it feels great today and tomorrow it feels great, then we’re good to go.”

“But that’s why Saturday is an important day in this whole process.  I mean, I know everybody wants a definite answer, but it’s just totally unrealistic to be able to do that.  I don’t know how a player is going to feel after three days of practice depending on what the volume is or the intensity is, that’s impossible to know that until you actually experience it, or he experiences it.  So we’ll see.”

Jones’ status for Sunday remains a mystery. (PHOTO: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports)

Belichick also went on to say that coaches don’t have any type of say when it comes to a player’s status until the medical staff ultimately makes a decision.  From there, it comes down to the player also being comfortable heading into the game.

“In general, until the player is medically cleared to play, then there’s no coaching decision involved,” said Belichick.  “Once the player has been medically cleared to play, then I would say, in consultation with the player and the medical staff, it’s, ‘What is the player being asked to do?’  So, if a kicker has a sore leg and the decision is, ‘Well, he can kick field goals up to a certain range, wouldn’t be able to kick off,’ all right, then as a coach then that’s your decision.  And you could say, ‘O.K., well we’ll take this player at, let’s call it 80%, and here’s what his field goal range would be, 80%, and he’s not going to kick off and play under those circumstances assuming that the player also felt comfortable doing that.”

“So that kind of would be an example of a player playing at less than 100% but functional to a point, understanding that you’re going to have to get somebody else to kick off and you’re not going to be trying maximum length field goals.  That would be an example.”

As for when a player in Jones’ situation could get the clearance to play, Belichick explained there’s no timeframe.  While the NFL requires information on the injury reports each day, he said what’s reported to the league has no bearing on any decisions leading up to when a player is ultimately activated.

“It could happen any time,” said Belichick in terms of when a player could be cleared.  “There’s no, like, deadline on that.  The injury report is the injury report.  There’s a deadline on that, and there’s a classification on that, and that’s what we follow.”

“Internally, we can do whatever we want based on … not do whatever we want but based on the information that’s available we can make any determination that’s appropriate.  Again, part of that is how a player feels, what he’s able to do, what he’s not able to do, what the recovery from what his previous output was or wasn’t.  But no, I’m not going into how internally we talk about the players.  We’re definitely not doing that.”

A Potentially Good Opportunity For Harris

With Damien Harris likely sidelined again this weekend, the Patriots elevated rookie running back Kevin Harris from the practice squad, which could potentially see him join Rhamondre Stevenson and fellow rookie Pierre Strong Jr. against the Browns.

Harris’s best performance of the preseason came in the finale out in Las Vegas against the Raiders, but it was spoiled by a fumble on his final carry that the Raiders recovered, which would be New England’s final offensive play of the preseason.

Belichick mentioned his ball security issues Friday but he also pointed out that Harris has been working hard and has progressed quite a bit since then.

“We’ll see how it goes,” said Belichick of Harris.  “But [he] ran the ball well.  Ball security wasn’t very good.  Hopefully, that’s better.  He’s worked at it.  He knows that.”

Harris finished the preseason as the team’s leading rusher, with the rookie getting stronger over the course of each of their three games.  Overall, he carried 13 times for 80-yards along with a touchdown while averaging 6.2 yards-per-carry.

The thing that stood out about Harris was the amount of power he runs with as well as his explosiveness.  He also had a pretty good knack for breaking through initial contact and was hard for opponents to bring down.

They also used him a little bit out of the backfield, with Harris hauling in three passes on four targets for thirteen yards.

As a result, it should be fun to see how he performs if his number is called, which could at least also potentially help take some of the pressure off of Stevenson.

Belichick Gives Some Insight on RB Strong

Sticking with the running back spot, it was interesting to listen to Belichick talk about Strong Jr., with the head coach providing a little bit of insight on his progress.

Belichick said that for running backs, it’s about more than just taking the handoff.  They need to be able to handle additional responsibilities and he touched on that quite a bit while talking about Strong Jr.

“Pierre [Strong Jr.] has a good skill set. He doesn’t have a lot of experience, ” said Belichick.  “He’s gained a lot of experience since he’s been here. But he has a long way to go.”

“Obviously, the passing game is a lot harder for backs than the running game because of all the different things that can happen in the passing game. I know there’s stuff in the running game too, but it’s a little more natural getting the ball and running with it. Which I would say that needs a lot of refinement with more backs in general.”

Belichick also emphasized the importance of blitz pick-up and additional areas that running backs need to be wary of.

“In the passing game, the different blitz pick-up assignments, the different blitzing techniques that the linebackers or secondary players use that they have to block is usually something that’s usually pretty foreign to them, or they lack experience with,” explained Belichick.

“Of course, you have the whole passing game, of getting out into the pattern based on whether the blitz assignment comes or doesn’t come, trying to figure out what he’s doing, and then how to run routes based on coverage, leverage and where the help is or isn’t. Sitting down versus keeping it going, and throttling versus accelerating, things like that that are very specific to the leverage and location of the defenders.”

As a result, the fact those were things he brought up when asked about Strong and what his role might be on various downs is interesting.  The fact Belichick mentioned those things might have given us a glimpse of what the rookie may have been working on, which will hopefully see him better prepared for when we ultimately see him start seeing additional snaps in the backfield.

Belichick Provides An Interesting Parallel on Meyers

One highlight of Friday’s press conference was Belichick’s mention of Jakobi Meyers, where he heaped a bit of praise on the former undrafted free-agent receiver.

Belichick said that Meyers has put in a lot of hard work and equated his progress to what he felt has been similar to the path Julian Edelman followed.  Clearly, it’s been paying off for him.

“Jakobi’s [Meyers] development as a player – honestly we’ve had a lot of guys like that, come in as a rookie free agent, expectations are low immediately. But then as things start to improve, such as his blocking, and his overall route running and instinctive, and savviness, different but kind of like [Julian] Edleman in the development,” said Belichick.  “Not saying they’re the same player; they’re not. But Edleman’s a guy who didn’t play much for a while and then became a great, great receiver here. One of the most dependable players we’ve ever had.  That certainly wasn’t the case in year two or year three, as he was in that development stage. So, we’ve seen that from plenty of guys.”

“Again, it’s hard work. It’s taking the coaching and the instruction and applying it to fundamentals, to understanding our offense, to understanding the opponent’s defense, and leverage, and spacing and things like that. Which Players like Julian [Edleman] and Jakobi are both good examples of players who played quarterback, however good they were or weren’t a quarterback, that’s not really the point. The point is that they’ve seen the ball coming from their hand, as opposed to always being on the receiving end of it. Kind of where you wouldn’t want to throw, and how a receiver can help a quarterback, or how a receiver can kind of fool a quarterback and make it hard for the quarterback to throw it to them. So, I think in terms of being quarterback friendly, let’s call it, that’s something that I’d say came naturally to him.”

Meyers is off to an incredible start this season, with the veteran receiver leading the team in both receptions (20) and receiving yards (261) despite not playing in two of the team’s five contests.  He’s averaged nearly 100-yards per outing the last two times he’s played, hauling in 9 passes for 95-yards during their Week 2 win over Pittsburgh, as well as catching 7 passes for 111-yards during Sunday’s win over Detroit.

The veteran receiver was again limited this week with the same knee injury he’s been dealing with since the preseason.  However, it appears that, barring any setbacks, he’ll hopefully be out there again Sunday in Cleveland.

Posted Under: 2022 Patriots Season
Tags: Jakobi Meyers Kevin Harris Mac Jones New England Patriots Pierre Strong Jr.

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