Good morning, and here are our Sunday Patriots news 7-16 and notes for this week.
Thursday is the first day 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.
The Patriots didn’t land D’Andre Hopkins, which isn’t a shocker here, as I had the probability of him signing never more than 30 percent. It would have been fun to see him on the offense, although with the two tight ends on the roster, that should soften the blow somewhat.
The team worked out Leonard Fournette, the free agent from the Bucs, would make a nice 1a-1b punch with Rhamondre Stevenson. He’s a bruiser but has the ability to be an excellent receiver out of the backfield.
The team has designated three players to begin training camp on PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list. (More to that below)
So, let’s get right to the elephant in the room.
Is Bill Belichick On the Hot Seat?… Since 2019 Pats Insider Says —
Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston appeared on the Rich Eisen show last week and had some interesting things to say about Bill Belichick’s status heading into the 2023 season. And he said that this began back in 2019.
“You talk about avoiding the hot seat, Rich, he’s on the hot seat, and he’s been there at different levels of warmth since 2019,” said Curran. “Look at it this way. In 2019, Tom Brady wanted a 2-year, $50 million guaranteed contract just like Drew Brees had. He presumed he was going to get that. In training camp, it still was not forthcoming. He’s like, ‘You know what? If I don’t get this thing, I’m walking out.’ It was explained to Belichick that was the case. They got something done.”
But the “two-year deal” was, in essence, a one-year deal with a team option. Brady was livid and decided right then that he was gone at the end of the year. The team started out at 8-0 but then went 4-5 (including the playoff loss at home to Tennessee), and Brady was gone, signing with Tampa. And the team was left without a replacement plan.
Brady wins a Super Bowl with the Bucs, “The Patriots, under Cam Newton – because they don’t have a plan – were a trainwreck offensively,” Curran said. “They have a good 2021. They bounce back tremendously, with Josh McDaniels doing a great job of orchestrating things with Jones. McDaniels leaves, again, no plan for replacement,” Curran added.
Robert Kraft has made several statements that he wants results now and expects a playoff win immediately. But lately, he’s been walking back those comments as the AFC East and the conference, in general, are loaded.
With that in mind, Curran said that the team’s final record may not be the final deciding factor whether Belichick stays or goes in 2024. He believes it will depend on how the team looks on the field.
“You can’t be situationally stupid. You can’t have a quarterback who is so disgusted on a regular basis that he’s gesturing toward the sideline in disgust,” said Curran. “You can’t seem as if you have no clue. You can’t be one of the worst teams in the red zone or on third down. All of those things can’t happen.”
“If you improve and you’re in the top 10, and you’re losing games where you just get outplayed instead of lateralling over your head with the game on the line, he’s got a better shot, even if the team finishes 8-9.”
“But if they look disorganized, dysfunctional, and the discipline is out the window? Then they might say, ‘That was a great run, but can you go upstairs and just watch Jerod Mayo coach next year?”
Curran believes that if Belichick had already passed Don Shula for the most wins by a head coach or was far behind, Belichick’s seat would be even hotter. And that is a fair statement. This is why this is a big year for several players but, most of all, the head coach.
Quick Hitters For the Patriots and NFL News:
Coach Staff Titles: The actual titles of the Patriot assistant coaches have never been a big deal for Bill Belichick, but fans and media have a desire to know the “who’s who?” part of the equation, especially after the debacle of 2022 on the offensive side of the ball. So, when the Patriots updated their coaching titles on the team’s website, people took notice.
Bill O’Brien: Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Evan Rothstein: Assistant quarterbacks
Vinnie Sunseri: Running backs
Troy Brown: Wide receivers/kickoff returners
Ross Douglas: Wide receivers
Will Lawing: Tight ends
Adrian Klemm: Offensive line
Billy Yates: Assistant offensive line
Jerod Mayo: Linebackers
Steve Belichick: Linebackers
DeMarcus Covington: Defensive line
Mike Pellegrino: Cornerbacks
Brian Belichick: Safeties
Joe Judge: Assistant head coach
V’Angelo Bentley: NFL Coaching Fellowship/Defense
Keith Jones: NFL Coaching Fellowship/Defense
Special Teams —
Cam Achord: Special teams coordinator
Joe Houston: Special teams assistant
Strength & Conditioning —
Moses Cabrera: Head strength & conditioning coach
Deron Mayo: Strength & conditioning assistant
There weren’t any surprises on offense. O’Brien has traditionally worked with the QBs as well as being the offensive coordinator. He brought Lawing along with him, and he coached TEs with Houston.
Defensively, the team has no titled DC for the 6th straight season. It once again seems that it will be a co-coordinator role for Mayo and Steve Belichick, with Bill having a lot of input in the room. Joe Judge was named Assistant Head Coach on the defensive side, but it probably means that Bill wants to avoid the perception that ST’s coordinator Cam Achord (who returns to his position) has less responsibility.
Judge has no defensive title and worked exclusively with the STs this spring. He was listed as a STs coach this spring when the Patriots were docked a practice when they held the players too long for a meeting.
Michael Onwenu, Cody Davis, and Justus Tavai on PUP: The team announced that the three players will begin training camp on the PUP list. However, any of the three can come off the list at any time.
Onwenu had off-season surgery for an ankle injury suffered near the end of the last game of the season against Buffalo. Those eight snaps he missed were the only snaps he missed in the entire season. Onwenu has been a fantastic, versatile, and durable addition to the offensive line since he joined the team as a 6th round draft pick playing both right guard and right tackle.
Davis is officially listed as a safety, but the vast majority of his snaps are on STs, where he has been a stalwart. He was really missed after he suffered a knee injury last year in a non-contact play against the Browns in Week 6. Davis was a leading tackler on Special Teams and the personal protector on the punting team
Tavai, the younger brother of LB Jahlani, was added to the list, but his injury and his status for camp are unknown. Tavai was a UDFA who was signed and then cut earlier in the spring but was brought back as part of the 90-man roster. Missing significant time in training camp will not bode well for his already long shot at making the team.
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, the practice times will run from 9:30-11:30 a.m. There will be no practice scheduled for Saturday and Sunday’s practice on the 30th; the times remain TBD. 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.
Kendrick Bourne Poised For a Comeback Season —
The Patriots lost out on D’Andre Hopkins to the Titans last week, and because of that, the biggest potential winner of that (besides Tennessee) is Kendrick Bourne.
It has been widely reported that Bourne was the odd man out if the team had indeed signed DHop. Doug Kyed, who recently joined the Boston Herald, and Andrew Callahan discussed this on their podcast, which can be found here.
However, Kyed reported that despite this, there is a lot of optimism inside the Patriots coaches’ room that Bourne can have a bounce-back type of season. Again, it is worth noting that while the team was looking to improve itself by signing Hopkins, it is not an indictment of Bourne. Hopkins is obviously the better player, but Bourne has proven himself to be a big playmaker in the team’s offense.
Bourne had a great second half of the 2021 season, ending up with 800 yards, and seemed poised for a bigger 2022. But he was late for a meeting in training camp last summer and was put in Matt Patricia’s doghouse, which lasted all season, despite the fact that when he was on the field, he produced, and the offense as a whole was better.
“Kendrick Bourne obviously isn’t DeAndre Hopkins,” said Kyed. “But he’s a year removed from an 800-yard season when he was probably, I don’t know, he and Jakobi Meyers were pretty neck-and-neck in 2021 as far as who was the best wide receiver on the team, and I think that they’re kind of counting on him to have a bounce back season with New England.”
“So, yeah, that’s kind of the sentiment I was getting. There’s disappointment but optimism about Kendrick Bourne. I know it’s not the greatest consolation prize for Patriots fans, but Kendrick Bourne … this was quite possibly the difference between Kendrick Bourne being on the 2023 Patriots and not being on the 2023 Patriots.”
Bourne reportedly came into camp a year ago overweight but has been posting photos of himself working out all offseason and looking bigger and stronger. He has also been optimistic and full of praise about new OC Bill O’Brien.
“Just Bill’s familiar with what he’s doing, so it feels good. You can tell he knows what he’s doing in all areas of the offense, from receiver, running back, lineman… He knows offense a lot, so it feels good,” he was quoted by Patriots.com’s Mike Dussault in June.
“He knows how to engage with all of us, I feel like. He knows our traits now, and he knows where to puts us, so it’s been good. We’re still learning each other as a group, but he’s doing well.”
“It feels good, it feels fast, just exciting, everybody’s on the same page, you can feel the growth already. 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.”
Callahan spoke about a Bourne resurgence as well on the podcast with Kyed.
“Now, I would count on some sort of Bourne bounce back,” Callahan said. “Will he have more yards than DeAndre Hopkins next year, as much of an impact? Probably not. But it’s interesting that he’s tied so closely to, ‘he’s the guy who would have been on the outside looking in, but we’re really glad he’s here because we missed out on the other guy.’”
Bourne’s workout regimen and his continuing optimism despite a poor 2022, not only production-wise but with the relationship with his OC, points to a resurgence in 2023. Bill O’Brien knows how to put his players in a position to succeed, With DeVante Parker, Juju Smith-Schuster, and Tyquan Thornton along with Bourne, the production from the wide receiver group should be much better this season.
And Bourne should be a much bigger part of the offense this year.
“The more obvious thing for me is, two things. Number one, it feels like a massive missed opportunity and loss for the Patriots and Mac Jones going into a huge year. Number one, because just look at the division. They are worst in the division when it comes to overall skill talent by far and bottom three or bottom four in the conference.”
“So now you’re going to expect your offense to have enough firepower to compete against the Jets and the Dolphins and the Bills and basically everyone in the AFC, and you don’t, and you also expect your quarterback to take a big step, and he’s got not nearly the amount of weapons that other quarterbacks have.”
“The second thing I think of, there is tremendous pressure now on Bill O’Brien, their play-caller – who’s awesome – but also Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki. It makes me think that New England will major, not minor, major in 12 personnel – one back, two tight ends – and absolutely live in that. Because they don’t have the people on the outside wide receiver-wise to really contend firepower-wise scoring points with everyone they have to.”
“So it feels like this is a big missed opportunity for New England and Mac Jones. But if those two tight ends play together and they become one of the, if not the top 2, 3 duos in the Conference, they’ve got a shot with great defense. But it’s a lot of pressure on those two units..”
Dan Orlovsky from ESPN, in a video explaining why the failure of the Patriots to sign D’Andre Hopkins is a big deal, but because of the presence of their two tight ends will soften the blow.
“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 Bill O'Brien D'Andre Hopkins Devante Parker JuJu Smith-Schuster Kendrick Bourne Leonard Fournette Mac Jones New England Patriots Patriots Tyquan Thornton