Good morning, and here are our Sunday Patriots news 6/25 and notes for this week. The 32 NFL teams are off until training camp begins, but there is never a shortage of news around the league that bears watching.
For the Patriots, they now face some intriguing questions heading into training camp. We’ll take a look at the state of the team and give an opinion on what are the major issues that need to be addressed.
Herbstreit: “Blaming Mac Jones is BS”
Kirk Herbstreit is a busy man during football season. He is ESPN’s lead analyst during Saturday college football games and does the same job for the NFL’s Thursday Night Football games on Amazon Prime. He knows his stuff, and this is why his comments on Mac Jones are definitely worth heeding.
Herbstreit appeared on “The Pat McAfee Show” and spoke with McAfee and co-host A.J. Hawk about expectations for Jones in Year 3 of his career. Herbstreit blew out the theory that Jones was to blame for the Patriots’ offensive woes in 2022.
“I’m 1,000 percent behind Mac Jones,” Herbstreit stated. “Of all the younger quarterbacks that have not had the opportunity to prove their consistency kind of and what they can offer, I’m telling you right now that Mac Jones is going to be a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback in the very near future, whether it’s this year or in the next couple years. He’s that good.”
“Blaming him (Jones) for what happened last year is a bunch of bulls**t,” Herbstreit said. “Give me a break on what they were doing on offense last year. He had no chance. Not only did he not have weapons around him, but what they were doing schematically (with Matt Patricia and Joe Judge), he had no chance.”
Herbstreit added that going back to the draft, Jones “was honestly the most impressive quarterback I’ve ever spoken to in college about what he sees and how his brain processes and how it fires.”
“You get Billy O’Brien, who is as good an offensive mind as there is, to come in there and work with Mac Jones…I’m telling you right now, you’re gonna see a drastic change in what he’s doing as a quarterback and what the Patriots are gonna be able to do on that side of the football.”
“Get ready for a much-improved Patriots season this year.”
Quick Hitters For the Patriots and NFL News:
DeAndre Hopkins: Hopkins reportedly has received a contract offer from the Patriots and Titans, according to ESPN’s Diana Russini.
“His sales job continues trying to get more teams interested at this point because right now, we know that there are only two teams that have had DeAndre Hopkins come to their facility,” Russini said Thursday on ESPN’s NFL Live. “I was told by sources close to the situation that Hopkins is going over some of the offers from both of those teams, the Titans and the Patriots. He’s mulling over and trying to come up with a decision with what he wants to do.”
Rob Ninkovich: The former Patriot linebacker has been let go by ESPN in their current flurry of layoffs, which also saw Keyshon Johnson, Chris Chelios, and Max Kellerman, among others, being let go.
Training Camp Dates Announced: The Patriots have announced that the 2023 Training Camp will begin on Wednesday, July 26. The Patriots begin their 63rd camp and their 21st at Gillette Stadium this year as they begin preparation for the 2023 NFL season.
The first three dates are July 26-27, and 28, times TBD; There will be another practice scheduled for either that Saturday or Sunday, the 29th or the 30th. Updates will be posted on the team’s website.
The Patriots are also conducting joint practices with the Packers and Titans, but both of those will be conducted on the road before preseason games on August 19th and 25th, respectively.
Buffalo Extends McDermott, Beane: The Buffalo Bills have extended both head coach Sean McDermott and GM Billy Beane through the 2027 season. It was a bit surprising only in the case of McDermott.
Beane has assembled an excellent team that every year is considered one of the favorites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. In McDermott’s case, the Bills have owned the AFC East for the past several years but haven’t advanced.
The Bills have fielded one of the best regular-season defenses, but the past few postseason losses have fallen on the defense. Last season, Leslie Frazier was let go at the end of the season, as McDermott wanted to take over the defensive play calls.
Derek Havens and I discussed the Bills’ situation and believed that while McDermott wasn’t particularly on the hot seat if the Bills fall early in the postseason again, it would, and should, be getting warm. A 62-36 regular season record is one thing, but a 4-5 playoff record is wasting a team’s prime when they are stacked enough to go much deeper in the playoffs. We’ll see how it plays out.
Aaron Rodgers Promotes Psychedelics: Rodgers, the Jets starting QB, was in Denver last week, speaking at the Psychedelic Science 2023 and the value that one particular psychedelic had on his performance.
Rodgers said his use of ayahuasca, a drink made from Amazonian plants that contain a psychoactive ingredient made a positive impact on his performance.
“It’s going to be hard to cancel me because the previous year (2019) – 26 touchdowns, four interceptions, we had a good season,” Rodgers said on Wednesday. “Ayahuasca – 48 touchdowns, five interceptions, MVP. What are you gonna say?”
Rodgers added that the use of ayahuasca for helping to alleviate his fear of death and deepening a sense of self-love. I didn’t think the latter was ever an issue for Rodgers. But if it works for him…so be it. Those psychedelics, however, do come with some potentially serious side effects.
Patriots 4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t listened 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.
Last week Derek and I talked about the 2023 offense as it is currently constructed, Trent Brown’s minicamp, and of course, DeAndre Hopkins.
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.
Early Training Camp Questions —
The Patriots are off until reporting for training camp, and with Bill O’Brien back as the offensive coordinator, there has been great optimism (in some circles) that the offense will be much better than in 2022. And if we’re all being honest here, that isn’t a big stretch. The early returns of O’Brien and Mac Jones working together seem to be very positive, and the overall vibe of the offense seems very upbeat.
The defense was already solid a year ago and with the first three draft picks dedicated to the defense. And all of those players should see the field for meaningful snaps in 2023. Special Teams units, which were atrocious a year ago, have added a few players and have Joe Judge back coaching STs, which should help.
But OTAs and the mandatory minicamp reared some intriguing questions and potential trouble spots that may require moves to be made during, after, and perhaps before training camp.
Tackle Issues — With the signing of Riley Reiff, Calvin Anderson, and Conor McDermott to team-friendly deals this spring, it seemed that the team was set for the short term, which would allow some young players drafted this year to find a role for themselves. But the spring workouts didn’t work out that way.
Reiff struggled so much that he was bumped back to the 2nd unit. Anderson and McDermott struggled badly against Matthew Judon and Josh Uche. Worse still, Trent Brown, the starting left tackle, skipped OTAs and showed up for minicamp late and was so out of shape (hurt?) that he labored in warmups. He was sent to the conditioning fields instead of working with the offense.
We’ll see how this plays out when the pads come on, but tackle may once again be an issue for the offense.
Health of the Wide Receivers — After Jakobi Meyers left via free agency, the team went out and signed JuJu Smith-Schuster, who offers much more upside than Meyers. The question remains, however, if he can find the comfort level and chemistry that Jones and Meyers enjoyed.
But Smith-Schuster missed all of the spring practices with a lingering knee issue, and Tyquan Thornton, who much is expected of this season, missed all of the mandatory minicamp with an injury of his own. Whether this was simply a precaution by the coaching staff to have each ready to go for TC or not remains to be seen.
But both of them will be sorely needed this season, regardless of whether DeAndre Hopkins signs with the team or not. However, if the team does sign Hopkins, he’ll have to learn the offense on the fly. But his presence would immediately vault the WR group to a much deeper and more dangerous unit.
Rhamondre is #1, And Who Is #2 At RB? Rhamondre Stevenson is the clear RB #1 entering training camp, but who backs him up as the #2 back in 2023? Stevenson wore down as the season drug along into the final stretch.
Rookies Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong made cameos in 2022 but didn’t show enough to generate any momentum to get more reps. Harris is a power back that is made for short-yardage situations. Strong is a change of pace back with blazing speed that is a weapon in the open field and is a 3rd down-receiving back.
The team signed James Robinson as a low-risk, high-reward investment. But the Achilles injury he suffered seems to have really curtailed his career, which was off to a superb start with the Jaguars. He never made it on the field and was released.
Ty Montgomery emerged as the team’s 3rd down back after a terrific camp a year ago. He scored the team’s only touchdown against Miami in Week 1 but was hurt and lost for the season. The team will need one of these players to step up in camp and prove to be a reliable backup for Stevenson, as well as a threat as a receiver. Dalvin Cook remains in the rumor mill about coming to the Patriots.
With Jack Jones Arrest, Boundary Corner Has Questions — At the end of the spring workouts, the team’s cornerback situation seemed set and very solid. Jack Jones and rookie Christian Gonzalez would play the two boundary positions, while Jonathan Jones would slide back to his normal slot position. But then, the s**t hit the fan.
Jack Jones was arrested at Logan Airport for attempting to bring two loaded pistols on a plane to LA in his carry-on baggage. He’s facing jail time as well as a suspension. The team hasn’t given any indication that they will release Jones …yet.
But now, it seems that they’ll have to either move Jonathan Jones back to the boundary spot opposite Gonzalez with Marcus Jones sliding into the slot or move Jalen Mills back to the boundary corner from safety, which he has been playing this spring.
Either way, the depth at the position will take a huge hit. And Marcus’ value on STs would be tested. Unless things change, the team will probably have to deal without Jack Jones for a large part, if not all, of 2023. The depth at safety would help in many situations, but it is hardly an ideal situation that was preventable.
“So give me a break on what they were doing offensively last year,” Herbstreit said. “I mean that he had no chance. Not only did he not have weapons around him, but what they were doing schematically, he had no chance, so to blame him is a bunch of bulls**t.
“I did a thing for the draft in 2021, where I sat down with Trevor (Lawrence), Justin Fields, and a few other guys that went out that year. There were like five of them in the first round, and he was by far, by far, the most impressive guy,” Herbstreit said.
“Everybody talks about (Joe) Burrow in 2019; I would say 2020 with Mac because when you talk to him about the offense, he was honestly the most impressive quarterback I’ve ever spoken to in college about what he sees and how his brain processes and how it fires.”
ESPN College and NFL analyst Kirk Herbstreit on how he believes in Mac Jones and how he thinks Jones and the Patriots offense will be one of the top 3 most improved offenses in the NFL in 2023.
“Talent sets the floor; Character sets the ceiling.” Bill Belichick
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Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 53 Man Roster Projection Bill Belichick Buffalo Bills DeAndre Hopkins JuJu Smith-Schuster Mac Jones New England Patriots New England Patriots wide receivers Patriots Rhamondre Stevenson Tyquan Thornton