Good morning, and here are our Sunday Patriots news and notes. First of all, big-time congrats to Patsfans.com’s own Derek Havens and his girlfriend, now wife Kathryn. Good luck and all the best to you both from all of us.
Now that the Super Bowl is in the books, all 32 teams are now focused on the offseason. The Patriots must make key decisions on several key free agents, including Jakobi Meyers, Jonathan Jones, Jabrill Peppers, and Damien Harris.
The big (and good) news is that Matthew Slater, the 10x Pro-Bowler, and STs Captain, is returning for the 2023 season and his 16th for the team. Just a quick note for anyone interested, there are no retired 10x Pro-Bowlers that AREN’T in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In 2022, Tom Brady (15) and Aaron Rodgers (10) were still active
Quick Hitters For the Patriots and NFL News:
Damien Harris: The Patriots have a difficult decision to make on how to proceed with Harris, whose fourth season was marred by injuries. Harris only appeared in nine games and had 106 carries for 462 yards with three TDs. He also had 17 catches for 97 yards.
If his rookie contract had run out a year ago, he’d have been looking at a big payday. In 2021, Harris rushed 202 times for 949 yards with 15 TDs, with 18 catches for 132 yards. His absence this year put a lot of pressure on Rhamondre Stevenson, and he wore down late in the season. The duo was a very effective 1a-1b tandem in 2021.
Harris is a solid back with terrific vision and patience, and he’s proven to be productive. And I’m sure the Patriots would want him back…if the price is right. The market for him, an established, productive running back, will be interesting to watch. The downside is Harris has an injury history. Another key thing to consider is that the draft this spring is loaded with quality RBs.
And 2022 rookies Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong (3rd down back) now have a year in the system. It will be interesting.
LaBryan Ray: The Patriots’ edge player was released on Friday. The Alabama rookie had a solid preseason and made the practice squad after the final roster cutdown in September. He was placed on IR with an undisclosed injury in late October.
The former five-star recruit at Alabama couldn’t stay healthy during his career with Crimson Tide, he battled leg, elbow, groin, and knee injuries during his five-year career with Nick Saban. His tenure was never about ability, only availability. If Ray clears waivers, he will be a free agent. Others released were CB Tae Hayes, kicker Quinn Nordin, and wide receiver Kristian Wilkerson, who the Colts promptly claimed.
DeMarcus Covington: The Patriots’ defensive line coach who was the defensive coordinator for the American team at the Senior Bowl this month, has been offered an interview for the vacant Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator position
Patriots 4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2”, in a bit, please check it out. We’re off for a two-week break while Derek, our co-host, is getting married and going on his honeymoon.
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.
Thoughts On Matthew Slater Returning —
The Patriots released some very welcome news on Friday, announcing that STs ace Matthew Slater is returning for his 16th season with the team.
“I couldn’t be happier to learn that Matthew Slater has decided to return for his 16th season with the New England Patriots,” said Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
“Matthew’s drive to be the best at what he does will one day earn him enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Yet, as stellar as his football career has been, he is an even better person. He is led by his faith and spirituality, dedicated to his family, and committed to his craft. There is no better leader for our younger players to follow and no better ambassador for the Patriots organization. He is truly special, and I am grateful that his contributions to the team will continue.”
“Matt’s incredible career is a testament to his preparation and will to succeed,” Bill Belichick said. “We are thrilled he will be playing this season.” And so are we.
Slater returning is good news for an STs unit that is in need of a rebound from 2022, where the normally solid special teams struggled badly. LS Joe Cardona and another STs ace, Cody Davis, are both free agents.
Last season, Slater was second on the team with 13 STs tackles. It was his 11th season with double-digit STs tackles. He’s been named to the Pro Bowl in 10 of his 15 seasons with the team. He’s been a team captain for 12 years, which speaks volumes about Slater’s leadership. He sets the example for the players on and off the field. Which is why he is such a valuable presence in the locker room…unless you are one of the ultracrepidarians on the sports radio beat.
“It is a great honor and blessing to return to the Patriots for my 16th season,” Slater said in a released statement. “I thank God for His continued grace and provision over my career. I look forward to continuing to play under the leadership of Coach Belichick.
“Thank you to the Kraft family and the entire Patriots organization for allowing me to continue to pursue my childhood dream. See you in the fall. God bless.”
Super Bowl Predictions Review:
Derek Havens and I made predictions on our 4th and 2 podcast about the Super Bowl between the Chiefs and Eagles. And Derek was correct.
Derek had the Chiefs 27-23
I had the Eagles 28-19
This was so good we had to run it again this week.
“Tom talks about how much I taught him in those meetings, but I learned so much from Tom,” Belichick explained, “because I never played quarterback and I never saw the game through the quarterback’s eyes I saw it through a coach’s eyes, and what Tom would tell me that he saw and how he saw it, it was incredible how during the game he’d come off and I’d say, ‘What happened on that play?’
“And he’d go through eight things that happened. ‘The tackle flashed in front of me. This guy slipped. I saw the linebacker drop wide. The safety was a little deeper than I thought he would be. Then this guy stepped in front, and I kind of put it a little bit behind him because I saw this other guy closing.’
“And then you would go back and look at the film, and every one of those things happened in the exact sequence that he explained it to you on the field coming off. I’m like, ‘This guy sees everything.’
“He sees the rush, he sees the routes, he sees the coverage, he sees the depths, and he sees a lot of things pre-snap. When we had the meetings that Tom referred to, we would go over fundamentals, we’d go over game plans, we’d go over situational football, watch other teams play through situations.
“And I remember so many situations that came up in games where Tom would refer back to, ‘Yeah, that’s what we talked about a few weeks ago when we watched the Detroit-Atlanta game’ or ‘Yeah, remember when they ran this play in this situation two years ago?’
“I mean, the memory and the capacity that Tom had to remember plays, situations and finer points like hard counts and getting-out-of-bounds plays and things like that, from years before in the exact same situation and time frame, was remarkable.”
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick on the amazing vision that Tom Brady had on the field during the “Let’s Go” podcast with Brady and Jim Gray.
“So, how was your week?”
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Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: Bill Belichick Damien Harris Devin McCourty Mac Jones Matthew Slater New England Patriots Patriots