Good morning, and happy conference gameday. There are no “Cinderella” teams in the conference games this year, so the final four are among the teams many believed would be here, so we are seeing the best in the league.
My predictions for the games are below, but this weekend, the Patriots coaching staff will be acting as the coaches for the East-West Shrine Bowl, which will take place on Thursday. The senior coaches will be advisors to the players, while the assistant coaches will act as senior coaches/coordinators.
The most important thing, however, is that the coaching staff will be up close and personal with the players there, learning their ability to learn a pro system quickly, their study and practice habits, and how they match up with higher-tier players in the game.
This week a damning report from the Boston Herald by Karen Guregian and Andrew Calahan about the behind-the-scenes mess for the Patriots’ offense in 2022 was even worse than we had originally thought. Our thoughts and other tidbits on that are below.
There’s rarely a boring day in Foxboro.
Quick Hitters For the Patriots and the NFL:
Bill O’Brien: The Patriots welcomed their new Offensive Coordinator on board this week right on time to head out to Vegas for preparations for the East-West Shrine Bowl. O’Brien and the other senior coaches will be in advisory roles this week, allowing the younger coaches a chance to coach above their current positions.
Patriots.com aired a quick video where O’Brien said he’s very excited to be back in New England and looking forward to interacting with and working for Bill Belichick again.
Ryan Wendell: The former Patriot OL and current assistant OL coach with the Bills is in Las Vegas to interview for the OL coach role held a year ago by Matt Patricia and the de facto OC position.
Wendell was a UDFA signed by the Patriots in 2008 who was a role player for a few seasons before moving to a starting role as the team’s center in 2012 and was the starting center as a member of the 2014 Super Bowl team that beat Seattle. He was named a captain for the 2015 season.
He knows the Patriots system that he played under with O’Brien and would take very little time to reacquaint himself with the responsibilities he’d need to teach and coach the offensive linemen.
Adrian Klemm: The other possibility for the OL coach is another former Patriot player who was on three Super Bowl-winning teams in 2001, 2003, and 2004 before moving on to coaching in 2008. He is currently the OL coach/Run Game Coordinator with Oregon.
Klemm was in Foxboro last week for an interview for the OC position. And if O’Brien does get another head coaching gig somewhere else, Klemm would the logical choice to step up and be the next OC. It would make sense to have him on the staff now.
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, Derek, and I looked at the Patriots’ biggest needs moving forward.
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.
Some Players To Watch At The East-West Shrine Bowl —
I’m not delving too deeply into possible draft picks yet, because how the Patriots approach the draft will depend on their free-agency moves. However, I’ll be keeping an eye on a couple of intriguing players and will be interested to see how they handle top competition.
Zay Flowers, Slot WR, BC: I am really intrigued by this guy, and if you don’t watch a lot of BC football, then check out some of his game tape. He is absolutely electric with the ball in his hands. He has the speed to go deep but the short-area quickness to get open in a phone booth.
The Patriots have always had those quick, shifty slot guys (Troy Brown, Welker, Edelman), and they lack that right now. But this guy can play outside or inside, X, Y, or Z. He has an unlimited route tree, the question with him is his size. He’s pretty small and you have to wonder if he can hold up to the beating that the slot guys take.
Myles Brooks, CB, Louisiana Tech: The Patriots need some CB help, specifically, a boundary corner with some size. Brooks from La. Tech fits the bill at 6’2, 201. Opposing QBs had just a 46.7 QBR when targeting him. While he’s not highly rated right now, he may become a player the Patriots will target at some point.
Michael Turk, Punter, Oklahoma: The Patriots need to take a look at getting a new punter in 2023. He spent two years at Arizona State before transferring to Oklahoma. He’s been a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award for the nation’s top punter several times.
In 2021, he had a punting average of 51.2 yards; eight of 35 punts went for 60 yards or more. Last year he had an average of 46.8 yards. Can’t wait to hear how Jake Moody, K from Michigan, does this week too. Other players, I’m interested in seeing are Jaiden Woodbey, Boston College, who is switching from safety to linebacker, and Jack Colleto, RB/FB, Oregon State.
Oh My, The Dysfunction Was Perhaps Worse Than We Thought —
This story from the Boston Herald’s Karen Guregian and Andrew Callahan was an eye-opener, to say the least. The offense was a mess last season; that is hardly news. However, the level of utter dysfunction inside the offense was far worse than most thought.
Guregian has been with the Herald for a long time and is not prone to making anything close to hot takes. She’s one of the most respected members of the team’s beat writers along with Mike Reiss. Callahan is another excellent writer and analyst. They did their digging and got quotes from the players.
The offense was broken, dysfunctional, and worse, Mac Jones neither liked nor trusted Joe Judge, his QB coach.
These comments certainly weren’t coming from the rookies, they had to be coming from the veterans. The players were at a loss for words when the Patriots coaches ran an offensive meeting and
One source described a typical training camp practice under McDaniels involving the installation of 25 pages worth of fresh run plays, another 25 passing plays and upwards of 40 pages for the offensive line learning protection schemes. Under Patricia and Judge? Those numbers were cut by roughly half.
“A lot of guys were getting worried because when we were in the middle of camp, we were wondering what the plan was for our offense. Because we hadn’t put enough install in,” a source said. “We had a couple of protections and core run plays, but our pass game didn’t have much in it.”
Patricia and Judge showed a lack of understanding of the Shanahan system that they were trying to install, and the players’ frustrations grew. During one meeting, one of the players that had played in a Shanahan system asked, “What if the defense does this?”
The coaches’ response was simple, “We’ll get to that when we get to that.” Ouch. There were more instances of the coaches failing the players. It is frankly amazing that despite the offense being a hot mess all season, they were still in a “win and you’re in” situation with the Bills in the final game of the season.
It will be curious to see how Bill O’Brien regains the players’ trust.
Conference Championship Predictions:
The slate of games for the Conference Championship Games and my predictions are straight up for this week. By later tonight we’ll know who is going to the Super Bowl.
Cincinnati over Kansas City
San Francisco over Philadelphia
Last Week: 3—1
This Season: 176—92—2
Last Season: 182—88—1
2020 Season: 169—86—1
2019 Season: 162—93—1
“DeMarcus does a really good job,” said head coach Bill Belichick when asked about Covington this past season. “He’s coached linebackers, coached defensive line, really understands the entire defense. I’m sure he could coach a lot of positions on defense. A young guy that’s really smart, and works hard. Has worked with, again, a lot of different types of players, even on our defensive line. That difference between our interior guys and our outside guys is quite distinct. Pass rush, pass coverage, interior run play, so forth… It’s a lot of different techniques to coach. He’s very well-versed in the fundamentals and schemes. He does a good job. Really glad we have him.”
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick asked during the 2022 season about DL coach, Demarcus Covington, who was named as the Defensive coordinator for the upcoming Senior Bowl.
“So, how was your week?”
Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]
Posted Under: Patriots 2023 Offseason
Tags: Bill Belichick Bill O'Brien Damien Harris Devin McCourty Dion Lewis East-West Shrine Bowl Jakobi Meyers Joe Judge Kendrick Bourne Matt Patricia Matthew Judon Stephon Gilmore