Some news and notes this morning:
Baringer off to a good start
With the team parting ways with Jake Bailey this offseason, it appears that the New England Patriots’ punting situation heading into 2023, so far, looks promising.
Mike Reiss of ESPN reported on Sunday that rookie sixth-round pick, Bryce Baringer, is off to a solid start. The standout from Michigan State reportedly looked impressive last week during the media portion of OTAs, booming what Reiss called “some skyscrapers” during the session.
Baringer had an impressive collegiate career which saw him finish with a net average of 45.5 in his final college season. That total led the nation, and his overall numbers are comparable to some of the best players in the NFL.
However, it appears that he’ll have some competition. Free agent Corliss Waitman was alongside Barnger and punted during the practice, with Reiss reporting that Waitman also looked impressive, firing off similar kicks.
While it’s not necessarily one of the sexier positions, it should still provide a fun competition to watch next month.
New England is in the middle of re-establishing that role heading into 2023. The team relied on former punter Michael Palardy after Bailey was injured last season, and Palardy was inconsistent at best.
One of Bailey’s best traits before getting hurt was his ability to flip the field position with his big leg, and that was certainly missing down the stretch. Palardy was adequate, but he wasn’t anywhere near as capable when it came to coming up with a big punt in key situations.
With the Patriots’ offense often stuck in neutral last year, it became an issue and definitely hurt them.
But so far, both guys looked impressive, and it looks like the Patriots have at least done a good job of resetting the position ahead of training camp.
One thing that really stood out last week was the fact that third-round pick Marte Mapu was already front and center running with the starters.
The 6’3″, 216lb rookie third-round pick out of Sacramento State was known in college for his high-energy play and his tremendous athleticism, as well as his knack for being around the football.
Greg Bedard of BostonSportsJournal.com was among those who noted Mapu being out there and he believes, if last week was any indication, he’ll potentially be a factor this season.
“The other thing I really thought was notable, to me, was in the opening session to practice, Marte Mapu, the rookie draft pick was, despite being in a red non-contact jersey after going through surgery, was right out there with the starters as a sub-linebacker,” said Bedard. “To me, that jumped out. That’s something that you do not see very often and to me, that says they have big plans for Mapu moving forward.”
Clearly, Mapu gave the coaching staff plenty of confidence before the beginning of the workouts, where they felt comfortable putting him out there.
He’s definitely a guy who made a lot of noise in college. In 41 games, Mapu totaled 11 interceptions along with 94 tackles, including 13 for a loss. He also had 22 career passes defended.
Along with his athletic ability, he’s also a big hitter, and opponents often had a difficult time blocking him. His film was impressive, with Mapu frequently slipping past blocks and still making the play.
It’s still early, but given Mapu’s track record and how explosive he was in college, it appears like the Patriots may have some big plans for him in 2023.
Law: It’s Mac’s Job to Lose
Former Patriots cornerback Ty Law appeared on The Greg Hill Show last week on WEEI and was asked about a variety of topics, including the quarterback position.
Law pointed out that being the backup comes with the expectation that it’s the job of whoever is behind the starter to get the job done until the other player is healthy. He also believes that while Zappe did just that, he didn’t do enough to surpass Jones just yet.
“It’s Mac’s Job to lose,” said Law. “Let’s just cut out all the madness, all the hoopla. We understand what Zappe did when he came in, but that’s what you’re supposed to do. Because ain’t nobody thinking that you’re a backup. We expected Tom Brady to hold down the fort when Drew [Bledsoe] went down. Were you expecting him to be the GOAT? No. But you expected it’s no excuses when you step on the field.”
“Mac Jones, it’s no excuses. When you go out there, you’ve got to perform. You know somebody’s breathing down your neck. They know that you can be replaced for the time being. But he is the starting quarterback, and I don’t think that he did anything to lose that title, and I don’t think Zappe did anything to gain that as far as being the starter.”
With the DeAndre Hopkins rumors continuing to swirl, Law does believe that adding some additional firepower around both players would definitely help.
“My thing is, get him some help,” said Law. “So, OK, I don’t know if we can go out there and afford him, Hopkins, but that will help. You have to give Zappe and Mac Jones [help]. Because they are not Tom Brady, so you have to give them weapons to work with, but I think if you give Mac Jones some weapons he can be pretty successful, and they can go into the playoffs. And once you get into the playoffs, anything can happen.”
“Look at the Miami Heat right now, you know? Anything can happen. We were kind of that team back when we won our first Super Bowl. No one gave us a chance. We just got hot at the right time.”
Patriots Favorites in the AFC East?
With New England trying to rebound coming off of a difficult 2022 season, one writer feels pretty confident the Patriots may get back to the top of the AFC East this year.
Sports Illustrated’s Conor Orr believes that with things being as competitive as they are, teams battling each other may cause an implosion, which could open the door for the Patriots to be one of the teams left standing when the dust clears.
“Bill O’Brien is back and carrying a new bag of tricks from his Alabama getaway,” writes Orr. “This offense can sensibly grind out games behind a brilliant defense. You’ll ask: But what about the Dolphins, Jets and Bills? My thought is that this division may end up collapsing in on itself a little bit. There are a lot of heavyweight punchers here, each of which have some very talented but fatal flaws. The Dolphins, for example, are going to have a tough time not burning themselves out. The Bills are dependent on reinventing themselves around an intentionally less mobile Josh Allen. The Jets’ title hopes rest on the shoulders of Aaron Rodgers, who may be great and newly motivated. He is also flirting with age 40 and may be starting to show it.”
Add in the uncertainty around Dolphins QB Tua Tagovaiola, along with the fact Bills signal-caller Josh Allen admitted this offseason that his style of play isn’t sustainable for him to stay healthy, and it definitely shows some vulnerability for those two teams.
The Rodgers Factor
The other factor may be how things go in New York. It’s likely that Aaron Rodgers could potentially shut down if they hit a difficult stretch and begin the subtle “blame game” he was known for in Green Bay.
Rodgers has the advantage of not having anyone of note to push him now that Mike White left to Miami this offseason, with Zach Wilson, Tim Boyle, and Chris Streveler rounding out a less-than-impressive quarterback room ahead of training camp.
That makes things tough on Jets head coach Robert Saleh, who doesn’t have much in terms of leverage if Rodgers starts doing Rodgers-esque things with his comments or giving subtle barbs about any potential issues he has with play calls or coaching.
Meanwhile, despite the fact Rodgers presents a difficult challenge, Belichick has handled him pretty well in the past. The Patriots had won three of their previous four meetings against him prior to last season’s contest.
In fact, what’s sort of crazy is that New England nearly won that match-up with Bailey Zappe under center after the rookie came in following Brian Hoyer’s injury just 10 minutes into the game. Zappe played surprisingly well, keeping things close and even forcing overtime.
Had it not been for Matt Patricia’s conservative playcalling, Zappe may have potentially pulled off the upset. But it was a reminder that Rodgers is certainly beatable and may not be as dominant as some believe.
How he handles adversity is going to be the biggest thing to keep an eye on. But for now, here in the AFC East, while the Patriots may not be the favorites, the teams around them could beat up on each other enough to open the door for them to be there at the end.
Whether or not the Patriots hold up their end of the deal is clearly the big question. Fortunately, the news has at least been a little more encouraging compared to this time last offseason, which is hopefully a positive sign as we get closer to the beginning of preseason.
Posted Under: Patriots News