Good morning, and Happy Mother’s Day to all of the wonderful Moms out there. Here are our Sunday Patriots news and notes for this week.
The NFL released the 2023 schedule on Thursday, and the Patriots have the toughest schedule this season, based on last season’s results. And a couple of things leap out right away.
Although we knew the teams that would be faced were tough, in the first four weeks, they will face some very good teams and all with very good QBs. Philadelphia with Jalen Hurts, Miami with Tua, the Jets with Aaron Rodgers, and Dallas with Dak Prescott.
The first two are at home, and the second two are on the road. In a season of tough foes spread throughout, this is a good early-season test to see how well this team has improved. I expect them to be much better than a year ago, but they’ll have to gel quickly right out of the gate.
The Patriots travel to Frankfurt, Germany, in November for a “home game” against the Colts which will be aired at 9:30 a.m. EST. The atmosphere there should be electric as the German fans are very passionate about their football.
Starting on December 7th, the Patriots then play three straight prime-time games; at Pittsburgh, home against the Chiefs, and on the road against the Broncos on Christmas Eve. They then finish up their schedule at Buffalo and at home against the Jets. Those final five games will ultimately decide if they will make the playoffs or not.
While I’m not a fan of going week by week through the games in May and predicting wins or losses, as there are far too many variables this far out, not the least of which is that none of us know how well the 2023 Patriots or the 31 other teams will come together. Then, of course, there are the inevitable injuries that occur. There are always a few teams that are snake bit by a rash of injuries every season. Putting wins and losses on your schedule in May is an exercise of futility…not to mention nonsensical. However, I digress.
Since I am always optimistic at this point of the team-building phase, I firmly believe that this team could make the postseason. Further, I don’t believe winning 9-11 games is out of the question. They should have won 11 last year, even with the very flawed offense that was put on the field. And we won’t know what the team looks like until September.
But the defense, which was very good last year, should be even better with the additions they’ve made. And having Bill O’Brien at the helm of the offense, with some improved playmakers, should be much better. One area to watch will be running back. The Patriots believe that James Robinson will be fully recovered from his Achilles injury from two years ago. If he isn’t, it will put a lot of pressure on Rhamondre Stevenson, who wore down last season. I’m looking for a bigger (3rd down) role for Pierre Strong this season.
Quick Hitters For the Patriots and NFL News:
Tom Brady: The Patriots and NFL All-Time Great QB will be honored by the Patriots during the Week 1 game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Patriots owner Robert Kraft announced on the Thursday episode of “Good Morning Football” on the NFL Network.
Brady, now 45, spent 20 years with the Patriots where the team had unparalleled success. They went to nine Super Bowls, winning six. After Brady left, he won another Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Bucs in the first of three seasons there.
Kraft said, “The greatest player in the history of the game played right here in Foxboro, and I’m happy to tell you…I invited him back to come here and be with us at the opening game.”
The Patriots know how to put stuff together when they honor someone and this should be quite the way to throw down with Brady. Could there also be a red jacket waiver announced? Do we really need to wait five years to put it to a vote?
You can see Kraft’s entire statement here:
Bill O’Brien: The Patriots’ Offensive Coordinator is known as a good teacher, and sound offensive mind when scheming up game plans and adjustments during games. But as we’ve witnessed in years past with Tom Brady, O’Brien won’t take no guff.
Mike Giardi reported that O’Brien’s no-nonsense attitude is already being felt in Foxboro. Giardi said that a source told him, “For whatever reasons last year – coaching, talent, attitude – there were a lot of bad plays on tape. This year, that won’t be tolerated. Do it right, or you’ll be standing next to him, watching.”
Justus Tavai: The younger brother of Patriots linebacker Jahlani, an UDFA and undersized DT was invited to try out at the Patriots rookie minicamp, which ran from Friday and ends today.
Tavai stands at 6’1, 285, and played defensive end at San Diego State University after transferring from Hawaii. He recorded 37 tackles (17 solo), with 5.5 TFL to go along with 3.5 sacks, a pass defenses, and an interception. He and his brother Jonah played for the Aztecs in 2022. Jonah, also a UDFA, signed with Seattle.
During a pre-draft interview, Justus said that he fulfilled a dream playing with his brother at SDSU, now he’s looking to find a spot in the NFL. Jahlani said last month, prior to the draft, that he’d love to play either against or with one of his brothers. Depending on how the minicamp goes, he may get an invite to training camp.
Washington Sale: The Commanders may have a new ownership group incoming. Josh Harris is the leader of a partnership group that has entered into a purchase agreement with Dan and Tanya Snyder to buy the franchise for a reported league record of $6.05 billion. However, nothing has been forwarded to the league for approval.
“On behalf of our entire ownership group — including Mitch Rales, my longtime sports business partner David Blitzer, and Earvin Magic Johnson I want to express how excited we are to be considered by the NFL to be the next owners of the Washington Commanders and how committed we are to delivering a championship-caliber franchise for this city and its fanbase,” Harris said in a statement on Friday.
“We look forward to running a world-class organization and making significant investments on and off the field to achieve excellence and have a lasting and positive impact on the community.”
The sale of the franchise must be approved by three-quarters (24) of the league’s 32 owners. Considering the state of the once proud franchise and the state of chaos within Snyder’s leadership group, which has been labeled a toxic work environment and culture by NFL independent investigator Beth Wilkinson, this sale should easily pass.
Za’Darius Smith: The Minnesota Vikings have traded talented edge rusher Smith to the Cleveland Browns along with 2025 6th and 7th Round draft picks for a 2024 5th and a 2025 6th Round picks.
Smith, who will turn 31 this year, had 44 tackles, including 15 TFL, 10 sacks, a career-high five passes defensed and a forced fumble in an outstanding season for the Vikings. He agreed to a reworked contract for 2023. He’ll be a free agent in 2024.
Smith is betting on himself and playing opposite of Myles Garrett should earn him a big payday in 2024. It was a great pickup for Cleveland and he may end up being resigned after the season, or extended during the season.
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 is taking some time off. However, Derek and I broke down the draft picks last week for the team and gave a quick analysis of each. Please check it out. We’ll be back this week, talking about the schedule, of course.
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.
J.C. Jackson Joins The Sour Grapes Crew —
Former Patriots’ cornerback has a bone to pick with the Patriots, real or imagined. Jackson appeared on NFL Network on Thursday and said that the game is circled as a revenge game for him.
“It’s a revenge game for me, man,” Jackson said. “I’m excited to go back and pick Mac Jones off and show them why they should’ve never let me go.”
Wait, what? Revenge for what exactly? So the team that signed the UDFA back in 2018 and gave him a chance to find his game in the NFL, win a Super Bowl, which directly parlayed into the big money contract he signed with the Bolts has disrespected him?
The Patriots made a business decision to allow him to sign elsewhere for more money than they were willing to pay. That’s why they call it a business. He played next to Stephon Gilmore and had a great teacher in Bill Belichick. He earned his money, without the Patriots he might be plying his trade in Canada or the USFL.
Rather than inventing stuff to perceive as insults, he should be trying to get healthy and refind his game that he had in New England. Jackson only played in five games in 2022 before suffering a knee injury which caused him to miss the rest of the season.
But those five games were the worst of his career. He allowed a 66.7 completion percentage (16 of 24) for 339 yards, for a whopping 20.9 yards per completion and four TDs. He allowed five in 2020 in 16 games. The passer rating when he was targeted was 149.3 with 0 INTs.
And instead of calling for revenge against his former team, his focus should be on ensuring that his former team wasn’t right to let him walk.
“Well, I think the first thing was being there and knowing what to do. That was something that was important for me, going in and learning the defense. You know, we laughed with Rob Ryan yesterday over text, but Ted Johnson was in there, obviously, and Tedy [Bruschi] and Willie [McGinest] and Roman Phifer was a part of that group that signed in 2001.
“But really Ted and Tedy and Willie were the players that taught me what it was like, and I wanted to impress them by how much I knew and what I was able to do on the field. And I was trying to earn their respect by obviously playing well and being able to communicate the defense and talk through things and then we laughed with Rob Ryan yesterday. I said, Rob, you have one of the greatest lines I’ve ever heard from a coach. He used to say, ‘Well, if the head coach asked, we covered it,’ and we all would laugh and run out of there and he was referring to, if Bill [Belichick] ever asked like, ‘Hey, what are these guys doing?’ Rob would be like, ‘Well, we covered it.’
“And me and Tedy and Ted and Willie would all laugh. So, that’s what I remember, going into that room and in old Foxboro Stadium, meeting with those guys and really in the spring just trying to earn their respect.
“I tried to prove that I belong there. I think every day, every week, I wanted to try to be there and be productive and know as many positions as I could and play special teams and embrace playing special teams. Learning from guys like Bill and learning the history of football from Ernie Adams, learning special teams from Brad Seely, watching Dante Scarnecchia coach and the passion and what he put into it.
“Obviously, the defensive coaches that we had Dean Pees, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Rob Ryan, Pepper Johnson, all these guys that we got to be associated with. It was fun coming to work. Obviously winning makes it fun, but it was something that we’re all better off for having spent time there.
Tennessee Titans head coach, and former Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel on a conference call with the media, after learning that he’d been inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame.
“Talent sets the floor; Character sets the ceiling.” Bill Belichick
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Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: 2023 Patriots schedule Bill Belichick Bill O'Brien JC Jackson Mac Jones New England Patriots Tom Brady