Some news and notes for this morning:
Ninkovich Out at ESPN, Believes Patriots “Will Surprise Some People”
With various media outlets continuing to slash talent, former Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich appears to be the latest casualty.
According to reports, Ninkovich is among some on-air talent at ESPN who isn’t getting his contract renewed with the network, which will put him among other personalities looking for a new home in the coming months.
In the meantime, as Ninkovich finishes out his contract, the former Patriot was asked on ESPN’s NFL Live about Kirk Herbstreit’s comments on the Pat McAfee Show Friday about Mac Jones and the Patriots chances of improving this season. Ninkovich was extremely positive on his analysis and said during the interview that he absolutely believes there will be an improvement offensively for New England in 2023 and that they should “surprise some people.”
“He’s definitely in a place right now where they’re putting a great coach in front of him to help him,” Ninkovich said of Jones. “I guess, last year was a fiasco. It was a debacle. They didn’t do anything offensively. You bring in Billy [O’Brien] for a reason, right? You know he’s going to have a great offensive mindset and they’re going to utilize exactly what Mac Jones can offer this team.”
“So I think the Patriots and Bill Belichick, they’re in a great spot right now. Everyone thinks they’re going to finish last in the division. Everyone thinks they’re not going to be competitive. Bill Belichick loves this type of moment where he can stand in front of the team and say, ‘Listen, nobody is counting us in anything, in any aspect. We are not anywhere close to winning any type of Division championship. Well, let’s go out there and show everybody, all the so-called ‘experts,’ that they have no idea know what they’re talking about.'”
“So for me, I think the Patriots are, number one, going to have a great defense, possibly a top-5 defense. You have a very strong running game in [Rhamondre] Stevenson, he’s going to be a physical runner. And then you have Mac Jones with a new offense, more confidence, trying to manage the game. All you have to do is take care of the football, let your defense go out there and create turnovers and score on defense, control the game, the time of possession with the running game, and then your quarterback just manages the football game.”
“So for me, I do believe the Patriots are going to surprise some people this year.”
Ninkovich had been with ESPN for the last four years, joining the network in 2019.
Reiss Expects Jones to Practice Next Month
Mike Reiss addressed a variety of topics in his Sunday column, with one point being that he expects Jack Jones to be out there when the Patriots begin training camp next month.
Reiss points out that so far, the club has stuck by the embattled defensive back, so with that being the case, he doesn’t see a reason why anything should change when they reconvene and begin preparing for the upcoming season.
“The Patriots’ first practice of training camp is scheduled for July 26, and one popular question on social media is whether cornerback Jack Jones is expected to be there after he was arraigned last Tuesday on gun charges,” writes Reiss. “Jones isn’t due back in court until Aug. 18, so at this point with the team sticking by him, why wouldn’t he be there for the start of training camp?”
Jones won’t be the first player the team has stuck it out for when it comes to waiting out a legal issue. As has been mentioned in this space repeatedly, former Patriots defensive back Alfonzo Dennard is probably the one parallel that can be drawn.
Dennard was arrested for assaulting an officer ahead of the Patriots selecting him in 2012, with the former defensive back both practicing and playing as his legal process played out behind the scenes.
One thing that had been left out and I had forgotten about was the fact Dennard was also arrested the following July in 2013 for drunk driving in Nebraska while he was on probation for his other charge, which only further hampered his situation.
He was eventually sentenced to jail time, which he finally served during the 2014 offseason after the process played out. Dennard even later rejoined the club and played up until a shoulder injury ultimately sidelined him and subsequently ended his tenure with the team.
As a result, if the Patriots were willing to deal with all of that with Dennard, one would believe that Jones may also receive the same patience, especially since his situation – thus far – has just been one of carelessness and not anything else.
Harris May Be Bills’ Top Running Back
Former New England Patriots running back Damien Harris departed to Buffalo via free agency this offseason and it appears he may already be climbing the depth chart with his new club.
According to USA TODAY, after signing a one-year deal with the Bills, he’s already shown signs that he’s surpassing former second-round pick James Cook.
That has Harris poised to get an opportunity next month to emerge as the team’s top back, which could mean that he’ll be even further on New England’s radar when it comes to their preparation in each of the two teams’ match-ups this season.
The Bills saw Devin Singletary sign with Houston this offseason, with Harris and Cook expected to be Buffalo’s two top backs.
However, Harris has reportedly been impressive in the early going, which while he wasn’t able to hold the spot here in New England against Stevenson, it appears that if he stays on his current trajectory, he may end up as Buffalo’s top option heading into 2023.
Posted Under: Patriots News