Good morning, and here are our Sunday Patriots news 7-16 and notes for this week. It looks to be a rainy week in Boston, hopefully, all the rain will be done before the team begins arriving for the start of the 2023 season.
The time is winding down until the start of training camp, and that is always an exciting time. And if you have never been, it is a great family day to enjoy. Parking and attendance are free, and there are fun activities for the kids as they’ll be able to get up close and personal with the fans after practice. And maybe snatch an autograph or two with some of their favorite Patriots.
Quick Hitters For the Patriots and NFL News:
Robert Kraft/Stanley Morgan/Bucko Kilroy: The owner of the Patriots and the former star WR for the team have been named as semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Kraft has been nominated through the Coach/Contributor Committee, while Morgan was nominated through the Senior Committee. They joined the list of 60 semifinalists for possible induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2024.
When Kraft bought the team in 1994, rumors of the Patriots moving to St. Louis had been swirling due to a poor stadium and practice facility, dwindling attendance, and apathy on the part of the fan base. All of that changed quickly.
Since Kraft’s ownership began, the Patriots have been the NFL’s most successful franchise. The Patriots have been to the Super Bowl 10 times and won six during his era as the Owner/CEO. The team has won 12 or more games a whopping 14 times, which is a testament to the team’s prolonged success. He was instrumental in helping to bring both sides together to end the players’ strike back in 2011.
He has turned the area around Gillette Stadium into a shopping and entertainment hub where before, it was just a football stadium where people would only frequent about a dozen times a year. Now it is busy 365 days a year, adding thousands of jobs and tax revenue for the surrounding area.
Morgan’s candidacy is long overdue. During his tenure with the Patriots, they were a “ground and pound” running team for the vast majority of the time. But Morgan was one of the best deep-threat wide receivers in his or any other era.
Morgan still holds the NFL record for players with at least 500 career receptions, with an incredible career average of 19.2 yards per reception. He finished his career with 557 catches for 10,716 yards, with 72 TDs. He added 989 combined return yards and 127 rushing yards. He was named to the Pro Bowl four times and an All-Pro twice.
Morgan was a member of the Patriots All-Decade teams of the 1970s and 1980s. He was named to the team’s Hall of Fame in 2007. His best statistical season came in 1986 when he caught 84 passes for 1491 yards and 10 TDs. That season ended with a Super Bowl loss to the Bears.
He still leads the Patriots in career receiving yards, and that record should be safe for quite a while.
Frank “Bucko” Kilroy was the Patriots’ General Manager from 1979-1982 and the team’s Vice President from 1983-1993. He also worked in the Scouting Departments of the Eagles and Cowboys.
The next step will be whether any of those three advance to the next round of cuts on July 27, when 12 of each of the Seniors and Coaches/Contributors will be selected.
Gillette Stadium Renovations: The work at Gillette Stadium has been ongoing very quickly as the workers are going full-bore to finish the work before the season opener on September 10 against the NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles.
The open end of the stadium has been closed in, with the highlight being the largest outdoor curved video board in the country. It measures 370 feet long by 60 feet tall. It is longer than the playing surface of the field. It is five times larger than the video board it replaced. It is expected that by closing in the open end of the stadium that it will make crowd noise much louder during games.
The iconic lighthouse in the north end zone was upgraded to one that rises 22 stories over the area and gives views of both Boston and Providence. Kraft Sports and Entertainment Chief Operating Officer Jim Nolan told WBZ News, “The lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in North America.”
The Krafts took a page out of the Dallas Cowboys book by building up the lower concourse and placing three markets and taverns inside, where fans will be able to get an up-close look at the players as they take the field.
For a closer look at the Gillette Stadium facelift, check out the video by WBZ.
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.
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 long and focus on one topic. That will bring more great content from the crew. Derek and I will also join Russ from time to time as well.
Derek and I took mailbag questions about the 2023 season, and we got some great ones. Thanks to everyone who submitted the questions. We haven’t done a dedicated mailbag podcast in many years, and we may include that segment in our future shows.
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.
Training Camp 2023, How Good Will the Defense Be? Very Good —
The Patriots’ defense in 2022 was very good; however, there have been questions levied at it that it wasn’t as good as some of us believe and that whenever they faced an elite QB, they suffered. That argument does have some merit.
On the surface, the defense’s numbers look very good. They were 11th in points and 8th in yards allowed. The rush defense was 9th in attempts against, 6th in yardage, and 1st in TDs allowed. The team was 2nd in 4th down conversion attempts.
But the defense struggled in 3rd down conversions on defense, ranking 21st, and in the Red Zone, where they were 22nd. This was despite being ranked 5th in sacks and 4th in pressure rate. Part of the reason could be that the defense lacked that one big shutdown corner, which they now have in Christian Gonzalez.
The pass rush last year was very good but should be even better in 2023. Matthew Judon, Josh Uche, and Deatrich Wise combined for 34.5 sacks, and they all return this season. Christian Barmore was limited to just 10 games last year, and if he can stay healthy, he is a very good interior pass rusher. As a disruptor on 3rd down, he could also draw double teams and free up other personnel. Daniel Ekuale has been a good subpackage interior pass rusher.
The team also drafted two intriguing players, Keion White and Marte Mapu, who should help the overall defense and pass rush.
White is a physical edge setter who can get after the QB, and Mapu is a smaller LB who has the athleticism to go sideline to sideline in coverage and could see action as an interior blitzer. Both are versatile and can line up at different positions.
With the addition of Gonzalez outside, could the Patriots dial up the blitz more in 2023? I believe that the answer is yes. Although the defense was 4th in the league in pressure rate, the top three teams ahead of them all blitzed more.
However, the overall defensive numbers would have been much better if the Patriots’ offense held up its end of the bargain. The Patriot offense was a woeful 27th in 3rd down conversions, 29th in 4th down conversions, and 32nd (dead last) in the Red Zone. Those numbers put an incredible amount of pressure on the defense to stop opposing offenses. The team’s average TOP (time of possession) was 26th in the league.
With a new offensive coordinator in Bill O’Brien and some improved weapons, look for those numbers to improve in a large way. And improved offensive play means that the defense will be on the field less, which should keep the unit fresher.
But a couple of developments to watch concern the contract issue with Lawrence Guy and the status of CB Jack Jones.
Guy has been one of the most consistent Patriots on the field and a respected member of the team by his peers and coaches. He is the Patriots’ best run stuffer, and if he’s released or holds out, the run defense will suffer. He held out during the spring workouts because he wants a new contract.
Guy is under contract both in 2023 and 2024, so his leverage with the team is not great at this point. If they cut him, they’d save about $3 million in salary cap space.
However, finding good, consistent two-gapping interior linemen is not as easy as one would think, which is why Guy, in his six years with the Patriots, including the 2018 team that won the Super Bowl against the Rams, has been a valued member of the defensive line. The play of younger guys like Carl Davis, Daniel Ekuale, Sam Roberts, and Jeremiah Pharms will bear watching in camp and preseason.
Jack Jones’ status will certainly be something to watch as camp begins. He’s facing charges of trying to bring two loaded handguns in his carry-on bags at Logan Airport. He’s due back in court on August 18th for a probable cause hearing.
“He had no intention of bringing any guns into Logan Airport that day. He had no intention of bringing any guns on to an airport that day,” Jones’s attorney, Rosemary Scapicchio, told the media back in June. “I expect the evidence is going to show that he had no knowledge of what was going on.”
Jones is entering his second NFL season and, by most accounts, had a very impressive spring. He and Gonzalez were penciled in as the starting boundary corners, with Jonathan Jones moving back to the slot.
If he’s available for the start of the season, then it would greatly improve the overall depth and height of the secondary. Jones is 5’11, and Gonzalez is 6’1. And overall, the other NE corners that would back up the starters are shorter.
But overall, this defense is set up to be very good in 2023. With depth at safety, they have the ability to mix and match against any opponent. Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips, Jabrill Peppers, and Joshua Bledsoe are a deep and versatile group. It is going to be an intriguing year to see how the defense plays against a loaded AFC East.
“Put Paul Brown at the top of the list,” Belichick said on which coaches he would have loved to coach with. “I would have loved to have done that.”
“I think he really took the West Coast offense, and it was so far ahead of its time with the West Coast principles that Bill Walsh took and turned it into the West Coast offense,” Belichick said. “But, you know, Coach Brown also was so innovative in so many other ways, whether it was the play-calling, whether it was the cab squad, the screen and draw plays that evidently he kind of stumbled into. But that was kind of the creative way that he worked was to see things and figure out how it would disrupt the defense. I know Coach (Tom) Landry was like that, too.”
“When I worked with Jim (Brown), and we’d have a lot of conversations, Jim would refer to Paul Brown very frequently,” Belichick said. “(Jim Brown would say), ‘This is the way Paul did it.’ Or, ‘Paul did it a little bit differently.’ Or, ‘Here’s why Paul did it this way or that way.’ And it really gave me a lot of insight from a player’s perspective into the way that Paul coached the team.”
Bill Belichick on “The 33rd Team Podcast” which also had quotes about the early years of the Patriots dynasty.
“Talent sets the floor; Character sets the ceiling.” Bill Belichick
Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]
BTW, the Patriots uniform in the featured image, is the best uniform in the team’s history…hands down.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: Bill Belichick Bucko Kilroy Christian Barmore Jack Jones Josh Uche Keion White Lawrence Guy Mac Jones Marte Mapu Matthew Judon Robert Kraft Stanley Morgan