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Patriots News 06-04, The Offense Takes Shape At OTAs

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
6 months ago at 5:00 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary

Patriots News 06-04, The Offense Takes Shape At OTAsBob DeChiara - USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, and here are our Sunday Patriots news 6-04 and notes for this week.

The media got its first glimpse of OTAs this week, which is a welcome sight for football-starved eyes. And it showed the team would feature a lot of 12 personnel (1RB, 2TE, 2WR). During the first 11-on-11 session, the offense opened up with that formation as new TE Mike Gesicki joined Hunter Henry on the field with Tyquan Thornton and Kendrick Bourne at WR and Pierre Strong at RB. 

That’s the Bill O’Brien effect, as when he was with the Patriots before, he favored a two-TE offense. While Gesicki and Henry are not Gronk and Hernandez, in today’s NFL, they could become a very effective tandem helping the offense rebound in a big way. 

Mac Jones hinted to the media after the practice session was complete that the two TEs would, in fact, be working together a great deal. 

 “I think the biggest thing is molding together. Those two are going to work as a pair. It might be different guys at times, but Mike (Gesicki) definitely has playmaking ability. He’s a smart football player, and I’m just excited to work with him.”

Several players were absent (the OTAs are voluntary), but it was disappointing to hear that Christian Gonzalez and JuJu Smith-Schuster weren’t present for the practice session. Other notable veterans not in attendance included:

OLB Matthew Judon
G Mike Onwenu
OT Trent Brown
K Nick Folk
DL Christian Barmore
DL Lawrence Guy
DL Davon Godchaux
OL Chasen Hines
LS Joe Cardona
CB Isaiah Bolden

The much-ballyhooed QB competition, at least for now, appears to be a non-issue. Mac Jones was the clear QB #1 in the drills, getting work with the top players to begin the team sessions. Bailey Zappe would come on and work with the “backup” players. 

It is important to note that the practice, conducted on the last day in May, is far from September. While a true competition may occur down the road, the first indications are that Jones is still the offense’s leader, which isn’t a surprise here. 

Tyquan Thornton was the recipient of a couple of long throws by Jones during the session, and while we’re not going to go overboard here in one OTA practice session, it was at least a positive sign for the 2nd year WR. Much is expected and needed for Thornton in 2023. He should be used more effectively to take advantage of his speed this season by Bill O’Brien and become a target in the deep passing game as well as getting him the ball in the intermediate range as well. 

Demario Douglas was the recipient of a few passes operating out of the slot and showed his waterbug moves, and that quick twitch athlete the team really misses in the slot. Again, it is one practice in May, but the fact that they are already giving him some looks this early is a positive sign for the rookie. 

Speaking of Douglas, Phil Perry of NBC Sports Boston spoke with Erik Galko, the director of the Shrine Bowl, about Douglas and his impressions during the week in Vegas.

“I think the first day, you know, a lot of buzz was on a different wide receiver, Zay Flowers, coming into the week, but Pop (Douglas) kind of showed that he’s very similar to Zay Flowers in that way. I think the first couple of days, I think it was a punt return snap where he just made two guys miss really quickly, and you saw the twitch, you saw the burst. That opened up everyone’s eyes right away. 

“I think that Day 1 of all-star games is really important for the guys who are good athletes because it’s a chance for Pop coming from Liberty, a great program, but not necessarily going into the Alabama’s and Georgia’s and he’s showing the twitch and lateral ability to beat the guys from the Bama’s and Georgia’s out there on the football field.

“So I think that first day of practice was really impressive. I’ve known Pop since a year ago when he was the receiver for Malik Willis. I went down there to Liberty and visited with him, and he didn’t come out of the draft that year; he wasn’t eligible. But he’s a guy we always kind of saved a spot for because we knew how special he was on the field but also off the field.

 “So along with being a guy that’s super twitchy, explosive, can be a returner, can be a receiver, slot receiver, can play outside. Genuinely, he wants to get so much better and has the right football character that it just makes sense that a guy like Bill Belichick would gravitate toward Pop Douglas.”  

Quick Hitters For the Patriots and NFL News: 

Bill Belichick: The Patriots’ head coach gave his first presser and was in midseason form in answering questions from the media in regard to the loss of two OTAs. He answered, “It’s in the past,” and “We’re looking forward to getting out on the football field today” responses. 

He was asked about the effect the lost practices had on the players. Belichick grinned and said, “They got a long weekend.”

Joe Judge: Belichick had Joe Judge’s back when it came to the lost OTAs, however. Judge was responsible for the 15-minute meeting, which caused the players to be at the facility for more than four hours, which is a no-no with the league during this phase of the offseason. 

Belichick said, “Joe’s great, Joe’s great.  “Smart guy got a lot of experience. He’ll do whatever we need him to do, and he can do a lot, so he will.”

Belichick added, “He’ll do whatever I ask him to do. It might change from time to time. He’ll be involved in a lot of things. We’ll announce our staff. We got a couple of things to still work out, but we’ll announce it soon.” 

Brady-Belichick Relationship: Tom Brady spoke about his relationship with Belichick to ESPN this week. And if you were anticipating anything negative, you would have been disappointed. 

“He very much trusted what I was out there doing in the field, and it went both ways,” Brady said. “Ultimately, our success was because so many people in the organization, as Coach Belichick, always said, ‘do your job,’ and I did as quarterback and leader.”  

“Were there times where you know it wasn’t always eye to eye? Very few and far between, actually. I still envision our relationship as positive and always will,” Brady said.

He said that Belichick was one of the first people to text him after the Bucs won the Super Bowl. “I think we always had a great amount of respect for each other, and I think as time goes by, we’ll have more respect for one another because there will be more perspective on those things.

“I’m taking a lot of things that he taught me in terms of his leadership into the different opportunities that I have in front of me.”

Kayshon Boutte: The rookie wide receiver from LSU showed some nice footwork and quickness during the practice session the media attended this week, according to Ian Logue’s news column on Friday. 

Working against WR’s coach Troy Brown, Boutte was fluid coming out of his breaks quickly and using his hands well, snatching the ball out of the air on several passes that were slightly off-target. 

Marte Mapu: The Patriots’ rookie linebacker got plenty of work with the subpackage linebacker group earlier this week. Another positive sign that the team has plans for the rookie getting him some early work. And this was with Mapu wearing a red non-contact jersey as he works his way back from an injury. 

Matthew Slater: The Patriots’ 10-time Pro Bowler has called out the league on the new kickoff rules this week. Under the guise of player safety, the league passed the new rule on fair catches on kickoffs, which drew the ire of Slater.

“I just don’t believe this is truly in the name of player health and safety. What I do believe is, ‘We [the NFL] want to portray ourselves a certain way to the public that says we care about the players,'” Slater opined.

“I understand we want to reduce head injuries and things of that nature, but we don’t always act as if player health and safety is paramount,” Slater said. “If we’re really concerned with player safety and health, let’s talk about some of the real issues. Let’s not talk about a play; when [most of the time] the ball is kicked off, it’s injury-free.”

“For a player like myself, I wouldn’t have had a career, most likely without this play,” he said. “I also understand the players that came before me — the (Steve) Taskers, the (Bill) Bateses … — who were able to establish themselves and have careers in this league because of the kicking game.”

Patriots 4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t checked out our podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2”, in a bit, please check it out. Russ is taking some time off. However, Derek and I broke down the schedule last week.

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. 

Details Emerge on Possible Washington/Patriots Trade During the 2023 NFL Draft —

The Patriots and Steelers made a trade allowing Pittsburgh to jump to #14 (NE’s pick), with the Patriots getting #17 and #120 in return. But the Washington Commanders wanted the #14 pick, which they planned on taking CB Emmanuel Forbes.

Washington GM Martin Mayhew reached out to the Patriots for pick #14. Eliot Wolf told him the Patriots wanted the Commanders’ pick #16 and #97. Mayhew said that they didn’t want to part with the pick. 

Washington offered #114, a 4th-round pick. The Patriots tried to sweeten the pot by adding one of their 6th-round picks, hoping to snag #97 still, but the Commanders wouldn’t part with it, and that was it. 

It all worked out for all of the teams involved. The Steelers made the deal and leapfrogged the Jets, getting the player they wanted, Broderick Jones. The Commanders stayed put at #16 and selected Forbes. The Patriots took 30 seconds to put their pick in for Christian Gonzalez. 

The curious part of all of this was that Washington was convinced that New England would take Forbes, who is a zone corner. New England, under Bill Belichick, has always been one of the man coverage teams in the league. Gonzalez has the size, speed, and athleticism to fulfill that role perfectly.

Sometimes the best deals are the ones you don’t make. 


“Well, it’s good to get back on the field here today. We had a situation with some scheduling and Phase 2. We got done with our workout; good to be back out there. Obviously, a lot of work to do here in the spring, but it’s been good. We’ve had good participation in Phase 1 and Phase 2 and a couple of practices last week. We’re just trying to get familiarized, re-familiarized with our system and new players, and getting to know each other. 

“It’s not about stars or starters, stuff like that. It’s really about all of us building a good foundation. It’s been a while since any of us have played or coached, so it’s good for all of us to get back out there and sharpen our skills, whether it be players, coaches, or whatever it happens to be. Just trying to put one foot in front of the other and keep improving every day, and that’s what we’ve been doing. That will be our plan for the rest of the spring, so looking forward to each and every opportunity we have to do that.”

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick at the start of his first press conference for on-field work with the team during OTAs.


“Talent sets the floor; Character sets the ceiling.” Bill Belichick

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 discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.


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Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: Bill Belichick Demario Douglas Joe Judge Kayshon Boutte Kendrick Bourne Mac Jones Marte Mapu Matthew Slater New England Patriots Patriots Tom Brady Tyquan Thornton

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