Wednesday Patriots Notebook 5/24: News and Notes
Some news and notes for this morning:
Oregon Coach Raves About Gonzalez
Christian Gonzalez remains an intriguing prospect heading into 2023 for the New England Patriots, with the hopes that he’ll evolve into the same type of shut-down corner he was with Oregon during his collegiate career.
NBC Sports Boston’s Phil Perry caught up with Gonzalez’s former coach, Dan Lanning, who provided a little bit of insight on the rookie during Perry’s latest episode of the Next Pats Podcast.
“He has great ball skills. I honestly believe he could play wideout if he needed to play wideout. He could be a returner as well if somebody needed that,” said Lanning via Justin Leger of NBC 10 Boston. “We didn’t ask him to do that, but we probably should have at times. But he has all the skill sets. So if you’re designing a player, you design them in the mold of Christian.
“And then maybe more importantly in my mind is he has the mindset. The last play never affects the next play. He’s able to hit the flush button really easily. And his demeanor, he is very calculated. Some people might take it as a lack of passion. That’s not the case at all. The guy’s extremely passionate, but he’s very focused and he’s able to play within the moment. So I think the Patriots are getting a really good one. I’ve had a lot of really good DBs and he ranks up there as high as any of them.”
The Patriots ranked 8th in the NFL last season in average yards per game given up, while ranking 16th in average passing yards allowed and 17th in passes defended.
However, they ranked 2nd in interceptions with 19, behind both Pittsburgh and San Francisco, who each had 20. They also finished just ahead of Buffalo, Philadelphia and Green Bay, who each had 17.
If Gonzalez can help that group take another step forward this season, New England’s chances of playing in January will certainly improve.
Needless to say, the rookie remains one of the more intriguing players to watch in the coming months.
Green Bay Set to Host 2025 Draft
Wisconsin will reportedly be in the spotlight in 2025, with the NFL announcing on Monday that the NFL Draft is coming to Green Bay.
According to reports, it’s a move that’s been a decade in the making, with Packers president Mark Murphy having worked with the local government and tourism officials for the last seven years, and it looks like they finally got it done.
What’s interesting is that considering the size of a city like Boston, especially now that the league has been hosting it in various cities since 2015 after previously holding it in New York, that the area has yet to be mentioned as a possibility.
Tom Curran appeared on WEEI on Tuesday on Gresh & Fauria and was asked about why Boston has yet to be considered.
“I think you have to present and try and solicit the opportunity,” said Curran. “And I’m not sure how hard – I’ll try and find out in the coming months – to find out, do they want that? Is that something they covet? Because what would you do? Would you have it at Gillette at the plaza? On the field? Would you have it at Patriot Place? Would you have it at the Seaport? Would you have it downtown? What would be the location, I think, would be interesting? And maybe they have in the past, and I’m totally blanking on it, made runs at having the draft.”
Curran went on to say that the Patriots still remain in the spotlight, and that given some of the storylines, they’re still very much relevant when it comes to being worthy of being a focus heading into 2023.
“But it’s interesting to look at how many prime-time games they still have,” said Curran. “It’s interesting to observe the fact that I think they’re going to be a better team and Mac Jones is going to be a better quarterback, and they’re going to be worthy of being focused on this year. And Bill Belichick’s chasing the highest record in coaching history in the NFL. So they’re going to be a focal point team, I think, over the next two seasons. I still think their brand is strong, believe it or not.”
New Rule Change on Fair Catches/Touchbacks
The NFL announced an interesting change on Tuesday regarding fair catches and touchbacks, which will now reportedly come out to the 25-yard line on kickoffs. The idea is to make it the same as the college rule, with the hope that the modification will make things safer for the players.
However, what’s interesting is that special teams coaches around the NFL apparently oppose the change, with the concern being that it might encourage squib kicks and other attempts to force opponents to field kickoffs, especially in key situations when the kicking team is behind and trying to get back into the game.
The other concern is that some also believe it puts the league one step closer to removing kick returns entirely, which could be the next discussion if teams do try and circumvent it by instead forcing more returns.
Here in New England, we’ve already seen Bill Belichick work with kickers to kick the football high and short, which in many cases offers up the chance for the special teams unit to get down the field and make the tackle while pinning an opponent at the 15, forcing a long drive. This rule would potentially negate that possibility while also limiting special teams opportunities for fringe players moving forward.
The change was reportedly approved for just the 2023 season, so it remains to be seen whether it will stay in place, depending on what type of adverse effect it has on the game this season.
New Jets QB Rodgers Tweaks Calf
Things apparently are off to a not-so-great start down in New York, with Aaron Rodgers already suffering an injury during his brief stint with his new club.
According to ProFootballTalk.com, Rodgers sustained the injury during pre-practice conditioning, which reportedly happened during the team’s routine use of using medicine balls and sleds during warm-ups.
Rodgers told reporters these methods were new to him, with the veteran saying it happened while he was “just running.”
“I haven’t done it before,” said Rodgers regarding the workout methods. “I haven’t done it in 18 years. But obviously, there’s some science behind it.”
Rodgers has never appeared to be quite as committed to putting in the work as former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who really set the bar when it came to taking care of his body, especially as he got older.
So far, the 39-year-old Jets quarterback is paying a small price for spending more time wallowing in darkness rather than taking care of himself, and it will be interesting to see whether or not he’s able to continue working during the team’s OTAs.
Any time missed certainly won’t help him, as Rodgers needs all the time he can get as he tries to build a rapport with teammates who finished 7-10 in 2022 and will need him to be on top of his game heading into this season.
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