With two weeks before New England Patriots rookies report to camp, now is a good time to highlight upcoming camp battles and what to watch for.
Training Camp Battles
The biggest spotlight will be on the Offensive Line. New coach Adrian Klemm will be on the hot seat to get this unit fired up and performing like a well-oiled machine. There are many concerns about tackle Riley Reiff and his age, Calvin Anderson, and whether or not he can make the step up to a starting Left Tackle in the NFL. We will be watching the continued development of second-year OG Cole Strange. Can Connor McDermott improve over his poor pass blocking last year and solidify the Right Tackle spot? Will Michael Onwenu recover from his off-season ankle surgery and be the same player we have seen over the past two years? What contributions can the three rookie lineman make? Will there be a jump in the second year from last season late round selections Cody Russey and Andrew Stueber? I saw a tweet from CLNS’ Taylor Kyles about Trent Brown working out in Florida with a few other NFL linemen. He still doesn’t look good but I take this as a positive sign. He is working out to get in better shape for the “conditioning test”. According to posters Hyped and Robert Weathers, the run for linemen is 10 sprints of 40 yards which is considered a set. Each sprint must be completed in 7 seconds. The players get 30 seconds of rest between sprints. They must complete three sets of 10 and they get 3 minutes of rest between sets. This was relayed by former player Eric Rowe.
Who is replacing Jakobi Meyers’ 67 receptions from last year? It is assumed that JuJu Smith-Schuster was signed to replace Meyers. Smith-Schuster has been Missing-In-Action so far this spring in any of the practices open to the public. What is Smith-Schuster? Is he a true X receiver? No, he is another slot (Y) receiver, as are DeVante Parker, Tyquan Thornton, and DeMario Douglas. Smith-Schuster did have a 5.5 yards after-catch average. The leader last season for the Patriots wideouts was Nelson Agholor with just a 4.6 average.
X The X-receiver, or split end, lines up opposite the tight end and in most cases, at the line of scrimmage and furthest away from the Center.
Y The Y-receiver is another name for the tight end.
Z The Z-receiver, or flanker, is off the line of scrimmage and, usually, on the tight end’s side. If the TE is on the LOS, the outside receiver cannot be up on the LOS. He must move back to “uncover” the TE. Otherwise, the TE would be ineligible, and if he went downfield that would be a penalty for an ineligible player downfield.
Don’t be surprised to see TE Mike Gesicki line up in the slot in the “12” formation (two TEs). He is a big improvement over Myers in terms of speed.
Devante Parker cannot get separation from defensive backs. These are Parker’s ranks for the last 4 years.
(Stats from NextGen stats)
2022 122 of 122
2021 127 of 127
2020 132 of 132
2019 123 of 125
These are not arbitrary measurements. They are performed using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags inside the pads. I am familiar with these tags based on my former life obtaining and delivering new equipment for the military. During Operation Iraqi Freedom we shipped new equipment to the depot in Kuwait. This depot was massive and equipment got “lost” all the time. Our in-theatre team located the equipment using these tags on the various containers. This same military application is now being used for precise measurements.
Mac Jones targeted Parker 34 times last season and threw 4 interceptions because every pass to Parker is a 50/50 ball. That 11.8% Interception rate was also the worst in the league, but the Patriots gave him a two-year extension for up to $33M. The contract will be only two years as the third is to spread out the signing bonus. The contract will lower Parker’s cap hit this year.
Tyquan Thornton got hurt the first time he got popped. He is very slight and I don’t think he will last. He was also hurt in the spring practices and sat out as a precaution. He has put on some weight which should help him, but has he learned any of the nuances of playing WR in the NFL and how to get off press-man coverage?
I would love to see Kendrick Bourne get a real opportunity to succeed in this Bill O’Brien offense. Let’s see what he has got because he just might be the best option at the Z WR they have. The binoculars will be on Kayshon Boutte, Demario Douglas, and Un-Drafted QB turned WR Malik Cunningham. Cunningham is very athletic and smart. During his 5 years at Louisville, he terrorized ACC opponents with his running ability, running for 3,179 yards and a 5.1 YPC for his career. He has 4.53 speed and his size at 6’ and 192 lbs is excellent. I would have liked to see a 3-cone time for him but he did not do that at the combine or Pro Day.
The Secondary was targeted at an alarming rate. No QBs were afraid to throw at them. I am concerned about whom will replace Devin McCourty at Free Safety. The only player I think has the necessary speed to play the single high safety that Belichick likes to play is Jon Jones. If Jalen Mills is playing there, he just doesn’t have the speed. Can Marcus Jones play the slot corner? My presumption is that Christian Gonzalez will man one of the boundary corners with Jack Jones at the other. They are young and will make mistakes. I just hope their athleticism can make up for those mistakes. Mills will be back up at both FS and Corner. I am intrigued by the use of the Strong Safeties (Dugger, Phillips, Peppers, and Bledsoe). Saw videos of them moving all about that confused the opposition. These are the opposition QBs that accounted for the 8 wins last year:
Zach Wilson twice
Teddy Bridgewater/Skylar Thompson
We will start with the “holdout” of Lawrence Guy. He is a big body that held up strongly against the run. If he misses time, that will open up an opportunity for a younger player like Christian Barmore to step up. I am interested in the one on one battles early in camp against our own O-line players. You can’t tell much from unpadded practices in the spring. The two joint practices will be very telling. Reports stated that Judon and Uche had their way with Anderson, Reiff, and McDermott. A lot of O-linemen across the league had trouble with them. Are Judon and Uche that good or are our Tackles sub-par?
Tickets sold out in 30 minutes
No that wasn’t for a Taylor Swift concert, it was for the Patriots’ home game in Frankfurt Germany on November 12th. There were 3 Million people in the queue trying to buy tickets for the game. Needless to say, I didn’t get them. The stadium only seats 48,000.
2024 Hall of Fame Semi-Finalists
Robert Kraft has made the cut as a semi-finalist for the NFL Hall of Fame. He is classified under the Coach / Contributor category. This would be a well-deserved honor should Kraft be selected. The work that Kraft has done as a member of the Television committee and the increased amount of revenue he has been responsible for putting in the owners’ pockets is remarkable. Whether or not that is better for the game is debatable. Kraft was by all accounts, a major factor in getting the NFL collective bargaining agreement signed back in October 2011.
Frank “Bucko” Kilroy the former Patriots General Manager from 1979-1983 and Vice-President from 1983-1993 was also among the 29 former executives and other personnel from the game to be nominated. The list will be culled into 12 finalists. Kilroy also served as a scout for Philadelphia, Washington, and Dallas before accepting the Patriots GM role. He was highly respected among his peers during his career.
I have been pressing for Stanley Morgan to be added by the Veterans Committee and he too has made it to the semi-final level. Morgan (557 career receptions) is the only player in NFL history to have 500+ receptions and a 19+ yard per catch average. Using a minimum of 200 receptions there are two Wide Receivers in the Hall of Fame, Paul Warfield (427 receptions and 20.1 YPC average) and “Bullet” Bob Hayes (371 receptions and 20 YPC average) that had a higher YPC than Morgan. Stanley Morgan belongs in the Hall of Fame. A total of 31 players made the cut and the finalist cut will be down to 12.
Again, I was disappointed not reading Gino Cappelletti’s name on this list. There is a bias on the veteran’s committee against the former American Football League players. If Jim Otto and George Blanda are in the Hall of Fame then Gino Cappelletti belongs there too.
Congratulations to the New England Free Jacks, MLR Champions
We have a new champion in Boston and they are the New England Free Jacks. The Free Jacks are the local entry into Major League Rugby. They defeated the San Diego Legion for the MLR shield last Saturday in an exciting 25-24 victory. Former Patriots Nate Ebner and Patrick Chung are part owners of the team. Ebner was a member of the USA National team that participated in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Patriots’ rookie Offensive Lineman Antonio Mafi played Rugby while growing up and through High School at Junipero Serra High School (the same High School as Tom Brady). Can you imagine that 329 lb. (he was 400 lb. as a Freshman at UCLA) behemoth bearing down on you carrying the rock? I watched the match and saw some terrific open-field tackles that would be worthy of any NFL highlight reel.
Posted Under: Patriots News