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New England Patriots News 02—26, Building For 2023

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
February 26, 2023 at 5:00 am ET

New England Patriots News 02—26, Building For 2023(PHOTO: David Dermer-USA TODAY Sports)
Posted: Feb 26, 2023 05:00
🕑 Read Time: 5 minutes

Good morning, and here are our Sunday Patriots news and notes. The Patriots are well into their 2023 team-building activities. The coaching staff is coming together, and they have been able to keep a couple of their own free agents, including team captain Matthew Slater and tackle Conor McDermott, who could be the swing tackle in 2023.

Speaking of the coaching staff, it was good to see the Patriots staffers get some experience at positions above their own for East-West Shrine Bowl Game and the Senior Bowl, which were held in Las Vegas and Mobile, AL, respectively. 

It allowed the Patriots to get an up close and personal look at the players at each bowl and see how they handle themselves in meetings, in the locker room, in practices, and in a game setting. As Bill Belichick said, many of the players will either be low draft picks or undrafted, but it is a good time to see if many of them can carve out a role somewhere.

The Patriots, on their YouTube channel, are airing a series of episodes on “Building The 2023 New England Patriots,” and has some cool clips of the coaches getting together in New England, planning for the trip out to Vegas, and how they were going to run things, as well as some clips at practice, which featured Bill Belichick, doing what he does and enjoys best…teaching.   

Quick Hitters For the Patriots and NFL News: 

Elite WR? Not Necessarily: The Patriots need some additional help at wide receiver, especially with Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor unrestricted free agents. Right now, they have DeVante Parker, Tyquan Thornton, and Kendrick Bourne at WR, and Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith at TE. Bill O’Brien is expected to run the Patriots’ offense that worked so well for so long (granted, with Tom Brady). 

Those offenses didn’t have a “True #1 WR” in any of the Super Bowl wins. Still, they used their tight ends and always had a quick, reliable WR out of the slot (Troy Brown, Wes Welker, Julian Edelman), who was dynamic and worked the middle of the field, giving the other players more room to operate. 

That’s why David Patten, Deion Branch, David Givens, Jabar Gaffney, Chris Hogan, and Brandon LaFell were successful here. None of them were #1s; by definition, neither were Brown, Welker, or Edelman.  The Patriots’ offense needs a dynamic slot receiver. Bourne could fill that role part-time, but that is where they should look either in free agency, a trade, or the draft. 

Many people have the team targeting WR Jordan Addison from USC, who is a dynamic WR with the ball in his hands, and he plays both in the slot and outside. Would Bill Belichick pull the trigger again for a 1st round WR if he is still there at #14? One thing I expect O’Brien to do is to use Thornton in a way that takes better advantage of his speed. He should also use Bourne a heckuva lot more.

Bobby Wagner: The ex-Seahawks and Rams linebacker is still an excellent player and was being recruited to the Patriots by their off-season recruiter LB Matthew Judon. Judon has done this the past few offseasons, trying to recruit players who are free agents to the Patriots. 

Judon took to Twitter and retweeted a post from current Seahawks safety Quandre Diggs, who posted a picture of Wagner and himself when they were at practice together as Seahawks. 

Judon quoted the post, saying, “This [is a] good photoshop. Do one with the Patriots next. With me [and] Bobby Wagner.” Although Wagner is still an excellent LBer, at 32, he’s six years older than the team’s two current ILBs JaWhaun Bentley and Jahlani Tavai. And Wagner won’t come cheaply. 

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 A Possible Trade For Jalen Ramsey 

The Patriots also need cornerback help in 2023; Jon Jones is a free agent, as is Myles Bryant. Jalen Mills is the tallest corner at 6’0, but if Devin McCourty retires, could we see him move to FS in 2023? They definitely need a corner with the size and physicality to match up with the bigger WRs on the schedule, something they struggled with in 2022. But the team has traditionally traded for bigger corners.

The Rams are putting up Jalen Ramsey for trade, but they’ll want valuable draft capital in return. Many people are calling for the Patriots to trade their 1st round pick in 2023 as well as a 4th. And then there is the salary which is $17 million in 2023. 

That is far too much draft capital, and then have to pay the cost of his cap hit ($25.2 million). While I’ve never believed that Ramsey is all that, he is a very good corner, but that is beside the point. Yes, the Patriots need a big, shut-down corner, but to give up all that for Ramsey isn’t conducive to rebuilding the offense, which is a priority this year. 

If there is one thing that Bill Belichick has been able to do is find gold in late-round or UDFA corners. There are some very good corners in this year’s NFL Draft, and many of them have the size that the team needs. I think that is a pass on this move, but crazier things have happened. 

Ramsey had a less-than-stellar year in 2022, but to be fair, the play calls of the Rams’ defense hardly put their players in a position to succeed by putting them far off the line of scrimmage. Their play calls on defense were the equal of the Patriots on offense. 

After giving up two 1st round picks for Ramsey, I was surprised that the Rams didn’t make an attempt to restructure his contract. 

______________

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?”

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on Stitcher and Streamyard as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens, and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

 

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About Steve Balestrieri

A former US Army Special Forces NCO and Officer, Steve has been following the Patriots since their days at Fenway Park. Steve has worked in the film industry and wrote as an Military Editor at SpecialOperations.com, 1945.com as a reporter for the Millbury Daily Voice, Millbury-Sutton Chronicle, and the Grafton News. He's also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)


Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: Bill Belichick Devin McCourty Jakobi Meyers Kendrick Bourne Mac Jones Matthew Judon New England Patriots Patriots Patriots cornerbacks Patriots wide receivers

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