Good morning, and here are our Sunday Patriots news 6/11 and notes for this week.
The media got its final glance at OTAs on Friday, and they’ll be in attendance for the team’s mandatory minicamp, scheduled for June 12-14. The first thing to look for will be attendance, as several veterans have been notably absent from the “voluntary” workouts.
But the final OTAs before the minicamp still had some intriguing things of note. First, and perhaps most importantly, Mac Jones continues to show a comfort level with Bill O’Brien’s offense, and as Paul Perillo of Patriots Unfiltered noted, O’Brien was already calling plays into Jones via a headset, something that doesn’t normally happen until training camp. Jones has been in command, cool, confident, and enthusiastic. Granted, there are no pads on yet, but all of these notes are positives to move forward.
Marte Mapu continues to make flashes in practices, frequently with the top defensive unit. He’s officially listed as a linebacker, but on Friday, he lined up as a safety and showcased his speed and athleticism. One particular play had him undercut backup tight end Matt Sokol, intercepting Bailey Zappe and returning it for a pick-six.
Mapu, fellow rookies CB Christian Gonzalez, and Edge player Keion White appeared with the top unit defense at times during the session. As Derek Havens said in our Patriots 4th & 2 podcast this week, if the Patriots can get production out of their top three draft picks this season, it will set them up for having a young core of the defense for years to come.
We’ll be looking for more out of these three during minicamp and especially in training camp once the pads come on.
Quick Hitters For the Patriots and NFL News:
Malik Gant: The former Patriots’ defensive back, who had two different stints with the team, died suddenly in his Miami apartment on May 25. He was just four days shy of his 26th birthday. The cause of death has not been released.
MassLive.com posted a statement from the Gant family:
“It is with heavy hearts that we announce the death of our beloved family member, Malik Gant. Malik was found deceased on May 25, 2023, in Miami, Florida. We are devastated by this unimaginable loss and are grieving deeply.
“Malik was a remarkable individual who touched the lives of many with his kindness, charisma, and unwavering spirit. He will be remembered as a loving son, a cherished brother, a devoted grandson, a valued teammate, and a dear friend to countless individuals. His memory will forever live on in our hearts.
“During this difficult time, we would like to express our sincere gratitude for the outpouring of support, prayers, and condolences we are receiving from our community, friends, and loved ones. Your kindness and compassion provide us with strength and comfort. In the coming days, we understand that many of you would like to pay your respects and honor Malik’s memory. Information on funeral services and arrangements will be shared once they become available. Once again, we thank you for your support. Please keep Malik and our family in your thoughts and prayers as we navigate through this profound loss.”
Kendrick Bourne: Bourne is entering his third season with the Patriots and is eager to put the debacle of 2022 behind him. He made the goal of entering 2023 bigger and stronger, and most reports have him looking the part.
“I’ve been grinding, trying to get bigger, weighing more, just being a more solid receiver and being able to do more.
“I don’t really go off stats, I go off how I feel, how I look, and I just wasn’t in a good place, now I just want to avoid that. So it was a good learning process, it was good that it happened to me, and it’s always good to learn from hard times, struggling times.”
During the install of the offense, Bourne said that he and other members are confident that things are trending upward. “It feels good, it feels fast, just exciting, everybody’s on the same page, you can feel the growth already,” Bourne said. “That’s the most exciting part. I feel like we’re going to know exactly what we’re doing and figure out who we are quickly.”
“New year, new me, new us, new everything,” added Bourne.
Return of “12-Personnel” Two-TE Set: The Patriots’ offense under Bill O’Brien back in 2011-2012 featured a lot of “12-personnel” (2WR, 2TE, 1RB), and it was very successful. And from early returns of the OTAs, it seems that New England is returning to focus on that formation much more on that.
In the last five years, the most the Patriots used this was only 15.9 percent, according to Patriots.com’s Mike Dussault. Now no one is comparing Jones, Mike Gesicki, and Hunter Henry with Brady, Gronkowski, and Hernandez, but the concepts of pace, creating mismatches, and RPOs are all valid today as well.
Gesicki and Henry can definitely complement each other and should really boost the team’s red zone production, which was a woeful 32nd last season. Mac Jones is happy to have the duo and the coach that will put them to proper use.
Patriots 4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t listened in to our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2”, in a bit, please check it out. Patriots 4th & 2 is expanding. Russ will join Derek and me occasionally but is going to focus on frequent (about daily) short podcasts during the week once training camp and the season begin. These will be about 15-20 minutes in length and focus on one topic mainly. That will bring more great content from the crew. Derek and I will also join Russ from time to time as well. This week Derek and I talked about the 2023 defense as it is currently constructed.
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.
DeAndre Hopkins Visiting Patriots Next Week —
The Patriots and DeAndre Hopkins have scheduled a meeting for next week, and a situation that I believed was virtually impossible to see unfolding now has a chance actually to occur. Although I still wouldn’t put the possibility as very high. DHop is in no rush and won’t be looking to take the field until training camp, so he’ll likely take his time, in my opinion.
Hopkins is slated to meet with the Tennessee Titans first on Sunday and then the Patriots. After being released by the Cardinals on May 26, Hopkins was rumored to be heading to either Buffalo or Kansas City.
Obviously, Hopkins would fit right in with Bill O’Brien’s offense and would elevate immensely in the passing game. Pairing Hopkins with JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kendrick Bourne, DeVante Parker, Tyquan Thornton, tight ends Mike Gesicki, and Hunter Henry suddenly looks much tougher to stop. I imagine Mac Jones would love the options he’d have
The Patriots have the cap space to sign Hopkins (currently a bit more than $13.25 million), and have the front office is stable, something he’s insistent upon having. The Patriots have had the same coach and GM for 24 years. We know that Belichick thinks the world of him. Last year before the Patriots played the Cardinals in Arizona, Belichick raved about Hopkins.
“He’s every bit as good as anybody I’ve ever coached against,” Belichick said. “He’s got tremendous ball skills. He catches everything, has great hands, and he’s long so he’s never covered. Even if he’s covered, there’s a place where the ball can be that he can get it and still make the catch. He has great coordination on the sidelines, and he doesn’t really look it but he’s a strong kid.
“He’s a very smart football player, very savvy. But his ball skills are at the very elite level with guys that I’ve seen in this league. He’s up there with whoever the top guys are, the Cris Carters of the world, and guys like that.”
The only caveats are Hopkins’ relationship with Bill O’Brien and his age/injury history. But the Patriots want to know what they have in Mac Jones, whether he’s going to be the guy to lead them for the next decade or not. Signing Hopkins along with other new faces should provide Jones with plenty of weapons in the passing game.
This should prove to be an interesting visit.
“What I want is stable management upstairs. I think that’s something I haven’t really had the past couple years of my career coming from Houston and then to Arizona. I’ve been through three or four GMs in my career, so a stable management.
“A QB who loves the game, a QB who brings everybody on board with him and pushes not just himself but everybody around him… and a great defense. A great defense wins championships.”
“For me, that’s it: great management, a QB who loves the game, and a great defense.”
Free agent wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins on what he’s looking for in a new team. Things that make you go, hmm.
“Talent sets the floor; Character sets the ceiling.” Bill Belichick
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Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: 53 Man Roster Projection Bill Belichick Christian Gonzalez DeAndre Hopkins Devante Parker Hunter Henry Keion White Kendrick Bourne Mac Jones Marte Mapu Mike Gesicki New England Patriots