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Patriots News 2-11, Hightower Returns, Staff, Front Office Thoughts

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
February 11, 2024 at 6:00 am ET

Patriots News 2-11, Hightower Returns, Staff, Front Office Thoughts(PHOTO: Green Bay Press Gazette-USA TODAY Sports)
Posted: Feb 11, 2024 06:00
🕑 Read Time: 7 minutes

Good morning, and Happy Super Bowl Sunday morning. Saturday started the Lunar New Year, so welcome to the Year of the Dragon. 

With the game between the Chiefs and the 49ers, there won’t be any more football games to watch until the August preseason begins, so it is one of those bittersweet moments as we all bid goodbye to the 2023 NFL Season. 

The Patriots have already put the 2023 season far in the rearview mirror, and thankfully so, while they move on to rebuilding the team. The coaching staff on the offensive side of the ball will look very different. In contrast, the defensive side will look familiar, with many coaches returning, one big addition, and a very familiar face: Dont’a Hightower returns to the team as a linebacker coach.

Eliot Wolf has brought in several coaches and front office personnel that he’s worked with, and the one binding factor is that they all spent time with the Packers.  “it’s beginning to feel a lot like Green Bay…

Quick Hitters For the Patriots and NFL News: 

Isaiah Bolden: The Patriots rookie corner had his season end prematurely due to a serious head injury in the 4th quarter of the team’s second preseason game in Green Bay. Bolden, 6’2, 203, was a 7th-round pick, #245 overall. He was Live on Instagram on Friday, and our Ian Logue asked him who helped him the most during his rookie season.

“Jon Jones, Slate (Matthew Slater), coach Mo [strength coach Moses Cabrera], Tre Nixon, a couple of guys.”

Michael Lombardi: The former Patriot front office member under Bill Belichick was a guest on the 2-6 show on 98.5 and gave his take on the “Was it Brady or Belichick” BS that has permeated the airwaves and social media since Brady left for Tampa in 2020. “It’s completely the ridiculous narrative. It’s the laziest narrative.”

“My god, you’re killing him. I mean, the guy won six Super Bowls. Look, I got two rings. I know Brady did everything from the janitorial services in the building to winning the Super Bowl. I get that. And I love Tommy to death, and I appreciate everything. I really do. But nobody has any idea.

“I said it to Skip Bayless too, who basically called Belichick a glorified defensive coordinator, and I sent him a tweet, which I don’t know if he read it or not, but I said, you have no idea what you’re talking about. Unless you’d been in that building, you have no idea. And you’ve never been in the building. So you guys are killing him, and you won’t appreciate the greatness of a great coach. Like a lot of people.”

Brian BelichickAt least one Belichick will remain on the Patriots’ staff in 2024. Bill’s youngest son, Brian Belichick, will return to the team’s coaching staff under Jerod Mayo. 

Brian will begin his ninth year with the Patriots after being hired in 2016. He’s been the team’s safeties coach for the past four years, a position he may keep this season. Steve Belichick has moved on and accepted a position as the defensive coordinator at the University of Washington.

Matthew Judon: The Patriots’ star edge rusher was on Radio Row with the 2-6 show from 98.5 and spoke candidly about his future with the team. After a huge 2022 season, Judon was off to a great start in 2023, garnering four sacks before suffering a bicep tendon injury against Dallas in Week 4. The team missed his leadership and especially his production. 

Judon said he wants to remain in New England, but that decision is up to the front office.  “I’m happy that I’m still able to play football,” Judon said. “(With) numbers, I’ll let my agent and Matt (Groh) or whoever figure that out. We’ll go on about that. I think the best thing about the game is playing it and being a part of it. That’s what I want to do.” 

Judon is in the final year of his four-year contract, and given his contract demands of last season, nothing is cemented in stone. 

“I can say that now and then get traded tomorrow,” Judon added. “This game is a business. I just want to play the game, but I have to win the business aspect.”

Matt Judon Pt. 2: Judon was also asked about the QB situation with the Patriots, especially QB Mac Jones. Judon gave a typically candid response to whether Jones is a “good fit” with the Patriots. 

“Honestly, I don’t care,” Judon said. “It sounds terrible — I just want our offense to score points … (and) sustain drives. Regardless if that’s Mac, (Bailey) Zappe, or somebody else — I don’t care. I don’t care.

“I think Mac and Zappe have the talent to do it; they just have to do it. And that’s going to be up to them.”

Kendrick Bourne: Bourne, like Judon, was off to a great start of the year before tearing an ACL and being lost for the season. Bourne, a UFA, however, wants to return to the Patriots. 

“I want to come back. That is a goal of mine. I love being a Patriot — it’s a great environment for a person like me,” Bourne said to ESPN’s Mike Reiss last week. 

“Being a Patriot helped me grow into the player I am today. I’m thankful for the organization, but you never know. I’ve been in free agency before, and I didn’t know what would happen. And I don’t know now.”

“In 2021, I had my best year (55 catches, 800 yards, 5 TDs). In 2022, I struggled,” Bourne added. “Then last year, I was on my way to having my best year and made a lot of changes in my life — I became a better man, a better football player, being married, just my mindset. The Patriots were a big part of that, and I don’t ever want to take that for granted,” he said.

“These last two years were rebuilding, so I don’t want to miss the time when you may be coming back, the good wave. It was rough, but you never know where it could go. I feel like something good is coming in that building, and I want to be part of it.”

Patriots 4th & 2 Podcast: This week, we discussed the latest news from Foxboro in our PatsFans.com podcast.

Derek Havens and I discussed the new hires of the coaching staff and front office. We also gave our Super Bowl predictions on this week’s show.  

Russ Francis/Chuck Fairbanks: The former Patriot tight end and head coach should be in the Patriots team Hall of Fame, and the fact that Francis isn’t in 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. Casper is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Francis’ numbers stand up well against Casper’s, yet he isn’t even in the team’s HOF. 

Area 51 News: What Hightower Brings To The Patriots  —

The Patriots have brought back one of their best linebackers in recent history by hiring Dont’a Hightower as the next linebackers coach on Jerod Mayo’s staff.  Hightower, 33, was a first-round draft pick of the Patriots and played 134 regular-season and playoff games in his career. His teammates nicknamed him “Mr. February ” for his knack for making big plays during Super Bowls. 

He was a cornerstone of the defense and took over the leadership on and off the field. Now he’s moving on to the coaching ranks for his former teammate Jerod Mayo, the team’s new head coach.

The hiring of Hightower by Mayo makes a lot of sense. Besides being teammates with Mayo, Hightower has a wealth of defensive knowledge in the system and, being the signal caller during his career already knows the calls, formations, and personnel groupings that wouldn’t have changed much. 

Mayo was asked last year after Hightower announced his retirement if he would make a good coach. “I think Hightower would be a phenomenal coach,” Mayo said then. “We’ll see. When I get a chance to run my own ship, I’ll try to recruit him.”  Mission accomplished. 

Many Patriots players, including Deatrich Wise, Josh Uche, Ja’Whaun Bentley, and Rhamondre Stevenson, were excited at the news of Hightower’s hiring, including Deatrich Wise, Josh Uche, Ja’Whaun Bentley, and Rhamondre Stevenson.

Wolf Is Building The Coaching Staff/Front Office The “Packers Way”:

Eliot Wolf is the Patriots’ de facto GM, making all the personnel decisions and bringing a great Green Bay flavor to things. Is that a bad thing? Not at all. One of the hallmarks of the Packers’ success has been their ability to build from the draft. And he’s been successful at his job. 

With the exception of STs coach Jeremy Springer, Wolf has made several hires who have a connection with Wolf, mostly from Green Bay. Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt, offensive assistant Ben McAdoo, and DL coach Jerry Montgomery all have close connections to Wolf from GB. 

Evan Lazar from Patriots.com posted on “X” this week what the current coaching situation looks like. And the staff of Mayo’s is beginning to take shape.

OC: Alex Van Pelt
Off. Assistant: Ben McAdoo
QB: T.C. McCartney
OL: Scott Peters, Robert Kugler
Open: RBs, TEs, WRs

DC: DeMarcus Covington
DL: Jerry Montgomery
LB: Dont’a Hightower
CB: Mike Pellegrino
S: Brian Belichick
Open: OLB (?)

ST: Jeremy Springer

Wolf also brought Alonzo Highsmith into the front office from the University of Miami, where he was the General Manager of Football Operations. Highsmith will work with personnel in a yet unnamed job title. Highsmith has been a good talent evaluator with Miami and had back-to-back Top 10 recruiting classes. 

Michael Irvin was a teammate of Highsmith at Miami before getting to the HOF with the Cowboys and thinks hiring Highsmith is a home run. “Let me tell you what you’re getting. I was with (Patriots owner Robert) Kraft yesterday talking about Jerod Mayo — that combination working together is going to be crazy because they both think alike,” Irvin to Zo and Bertrand on 98.5 on Radio Row.

“In this new era of players, they want a word in, they want a say, and Jerod Mayo will give them some say,” Irvin said. “Him and Alonzo together? That’s gonna be a dangerous combination.”

 

Super Bowl Pick:
San Francisco 24-21 over Kansas City 

2023 Season    178—94

2022 Season:   178—92—2

2021 Season:   183—88—1

2020 Season:   169—86—1 

2019 Season:   162—93—1

______________

“Matthew Judon was talking about Jerod Mayo and he said this, which I thought was fascinating, Irvin said. 

“Let me tell you about Jerod. He’s always been this way as a player and as a coach: When he comes to you, he always has something to look at, and he’ll say, listen, I want you to know it doesn’t matter who’s wrong or right. It just matters that we see this the same way.’ He opens up a conversation with players like that. That’s different from Bill Belichick.”

HOFer Michael Irvin talking about Patriots’ Head Coach Jerod Mayo on the Zo and Bertrand Show at the Super Bowl site on Radio Row in Las Vegas. 

_______________

“Talent sets the floor; Character sets the ceiling.” Bill Belichick

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on Stitcher and Streamyard as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens, and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

 

 

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About Steve Balestrieri

A former US Army Special Forces NCO and Officer, Steve has been following the Patriots since their days at Fenway Park. Steve has worked in the film industry and writes as an Editor at SpecialOperations.com and as a reporter for the Millbury Daily Voice, Millbury-Sutton Chronicle, and the Grafton News. He's also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)


Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: Alonzo Highsmith Ben McAdoo Bill Belichick Dont'a Hightower Eliot Wolf Kendrick Bourne Matt Groh Matthew Judon New England Patriots Tom Brady

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