Tag Archives: Josh McDaniels

Patriots 2019 Training Camp Guide – Wide Receivers

Steve Balestrieri
July 16, 2019 at 8:00 am ET

The Patriots have many questions heading into the 2019 season at wide receiver. Julian Edelman returns, the Super Bowl LIII MVP is still at the top of his game but at 33, one has to wonder how much longer he can perform at a high level. 

After him, the situation gets murkier. Phillip Dorsett has been fine whenever his number has been called but his production really could use an increase. Demaryius Thomas’s numbers have been steadily going down the past several years and now he’s coming off of an Achilles injury. Josh Gordon is suspended indefinitely and no one knows if he’ll be allowed to play this year. 

The Patriots drafted N’Keal Harry in the first round of the draft this spring and expectations with him are high. But rookie wide receivers have struggled to make an impact here in the past. Braxton Berrios had a very strong spring but spent his entire rookie season on IR. Maurice Harris and Dontrelle Inman are coming on to try to carve out roles for themselves after playing for the Redskins and Colts respectively. 

So, the opportunities are there for several players to carve out roles for themselves once training camp opens. There are 12 players that should be vying for reps, and possibly 13 if Thomas is ready to go. Gordon is forbidden to enter the facility or work out with the team during his suspension. Let’s take a look at who is in good shape and who has a lot of work to do at the wide receiver position

Check back with PatsFans.com as we’ll go thru the entire roster as our primers for training camp continue before the heavy lifting starts on July 25.

Current roster – Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, N’Keal Harry, Matthew Slater, Demaryius Thomas, Braxton Berrios, Maurice Harris, Dontrelle Inman, Damoun Patterson, Jakobi Meyers, Ryan Davis, Gunner Olszewski, Josh Gordon (suspended)

Locks – Edelman, Dorsett, Harry, Slater

Bubble – Berrios, Thomas, Harris, Inman, Meyers

Long Shot – Patterson, Davis, Olszewski, Gordon 

Discussion – Edelman, Dorsett, Slater, and Harry are all locks. Obviously, the conversation starts with Julian Edelman. Yes, Edelman is 33 but if you watched him in the Super Bowl he was uncoverable. The Rams threw several different defensive backs on him and nobody could lock him down. I watched him thru all three days of minicamp and he looks ready to go again. 

Dorsett was getting plenty of reps early last year but lost those after Gordon was brought in. The hope here is that he’ll be able to replicate what he did last year, and with an additional year in the system, be able to add to it. 

Slater is a WR in name only but is a Special Teams’ captain and one of the best at what he does both on and off the field. Harry is a first-round draft pick who has incredible upside but is just a rookie. With a first-round draft pedigree, he’s automatically on the 53-man roster. 

This is where it gets interesting. Berrios had a very strong spring but is in no way a lock at this point. He has a long way to go but is definitely trending in the right direction. The smaller but quick slot receiver recognizes the opportunity in front of him. Mike Reiss of ESPN has written that Berrios has already reported into camp. The hope is that he could fit into that Danny Amendola role in the Patriots offense.

Harris likewise had a very strong spring, catching nearly everything thrown his way with a few nice highlight-reel catches during minicamp. Can he do it again when the secondary players are allowed contact? Inman, on the other hand, didn’t have a good week at minicamp. He didn’t catch a single pass in team drills during the three sessions. He has a lot of ground to make up. 

Meyers is an interesting addition. A former QB turned WR, Meyers has good size for the position, (6’2, 203) with very good hands, tight route-running and the willingness to go into contested areas. He doesn’t have great top-end speed but could be an oversized slot receiver. What was intriguing about him was that during a side session with Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, and Josh McDaniels, during minicamp, Meyers was brought in with Harry to work on route selection. May end being nothing, but it could mean they have a plan in mind for him.

Patterson was on the practice squad a year ago but along with Davis, and Olszewski are all facing long odds of making the roster. 

In a perfect world, Gordon would get reinstated and Thomas would come back better than new. But we don’t live in a perfect world and the fact is, the Patriots can’t rely on Gordon being reinstated any time soon, if at all. And Thomas may end up on PUP to begin the season. That means other players will have to step up….Questions, questions. This will make training camp and the preseason so compelling this summer.

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

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

New England Patriots News 7-07, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
July 7, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 07-07 and AFC East notes this week. 

We hope that everyone had a happy and safe Independence Day celebration. Just 18 more days until the hard work begins for “Knockin’ on Seven’s Door.”

 Quick Hitters:

Bernard Pollard – is the latest, “look at me” ex-player who is trying to get himself a gig on television or radio. If you think otherwise, you’re kidding yourself, but there is never a shortage of people who feed the monster and fall all over themselves giving these hot take artists their air time. 

Rob Gronkowski – told Rich Eisen in an interview this week, that he reserves the right to change his mind about returning to the NFL once the season starts. In the interview, Gronkowski said this will be the first August in 15 years that he won’t be playing football. But judging from his leaned out frame recently, I still say that the chances of the big guy returning this year are remote.

Jerod Mayo – may not be calling the defensive plays just yet for the Patriots this year. Jeff Howe of the Athletic wrote that Bill Belichick will be calling the plays. Mayo who was seen calling the plays in minicamp this June. 

N’Keal Harry – leads the Patriots rookies with a 74 grade on Madden 2019 that was released recently. Cornerback Jojuan Williams was second with a score of 70 while Damien Harris and Chase Winovich were next, tied with a grade of 69.

Tom Brady – is preparing for training camp and continues to defy Father Time. He posted a video of his workouts where he was running sprints. While Brady will never be considered remotely anything close to a sprinter, he did, however, beat his own time at the NFL Combine, which is pretty impressive for a player about to be 42 in less than a month from now. 

Tom Brady Pt2 – With all of the talk centering around Brady from the hot take artists every summer, one has to dig thru many oysters to find a pearl. Or in this case, I didn’t have to do anything at all since it was handed to me. Our good bud, @PatriotsSBLIII has always shared great stuff with us, and he never fails to use common sense in a frequently senseless debate when it comes to #12. He sent me this a few weeks ago but right now seems a perfect time to share this.

Tom Brady’s last 16 playoff games (2013-18)
13-3 (.813) 3SBs
452/702 (64.4%)
5,230 yards
7.45 Y/A
43.9* Att/gm @CSimmsQB
31 TD
12 INT
94.4 PR

Only 3 players in NFL history have had a 16-game regular season on this level. (Brady, Brees 2011; Manning 2013)

And for those anti-Brady types out there, not one of those games was against any team from the AFC East but all against playoff teams in the Divisional Round and beyond which makes those numbers even more impressive. Thanks again to @PatriotsSBLIII for the always great stuff and being a sounding board for constructive criticism. 

Tedy Bruschi Suffered a Stroke on July 4:

The former Patriots linebacker who has been a regular on ESPN was just given a promotion this week, being added to their pregame broadcast. It was reported that Bruschi, who had a stroke after the Super Bowl in Feb. 2005, recognized his own symptoms and reported it right away. Robert Kraft and the Patriots released the following statement:

“While shocked to hear of his recent stroke … we are relieved to learn that he recognized the early symptoms and immediately sought and received treatment,” the statement says. “On behalf of the entire Patriots organization, we extend our love, thoughts and prays to Tedy and the Bruschi family while we wish him godspeed in a complete recovery.”

Bruschi created a runners club called Tedy’s Team to raise awareness for the American Stroke Association. He has run the Boston Marathon three times, including in this spring. He is expected to make a complete recovery.

Damien Harris Could Be a Big Contributor For the Offense in 2019:

We were quite excited with the possibilities for the offense after the selection of Damien Harris in the 3rd round of the draft this spring by the Patriots. Harris was locked up for four years with a $3.6 million dollar deal. 

Harris should fit in extremely well in the Patriots running back by committee positional group. While in Alabama, he played with a multitude of very talented running backs that are now in the NFL. Alabama also played with RB committee under Nick Saban and Harris played with the likes of Derrick Henry, Bo Scarborough, Kenyan Drake, Najee Harris, and Josh Jacobs while with the Tide.  

With Sony Michel coming off of a minor but another knee procedure, Harris can more than fit the bill for the Patriots penchant for running the ball between the tackles. A couple of key numbers should be remembered when thinking about Harris:

  • 2 (Two) The number of fumbles Harris had in 477 career carries at Alabama. Bill Belichick loves sure-handed running backs and Harris is definitely that.
  • 6.4 – The average yards per carry Harris had at Alabama. That kind of average always puts the offense in a position to succeed. 
  • 3.2 – Yards Harris averaged after contact. This number can’t be overstated and when the offense needs to pick up those 3rd and 4th and short-yardage situations, it helps to have a back that can easily do that.

Harris isn’t a threat to take the ball to the house on every carry, he doesn’t have that breakaway speed but he is a perfect fit for the Patriots offense. He hits the hole quickly and has very good vision and will follow his blockers thru the point of attack. He then shows the ability and confidence to make a cut and go.

With a thickly built lower body, he’s tough to bring down, will get the yards after contact and has little wear on his tires after playing in a similar committee approach at ‘Bama. He’s a very good and willing pass blocker, something the Patriots insist on for their backs. And he is a good if underrated pass catcher out of the backfield with soft hands and the ability to move outside into the slot if needed. 

With Michel out of the picture during minicamp, Harris and Brandon Bolden got quite a few snaps in the running game. Look for that to continue thru training camp and into the preseason. He could be a very valuable addition to the offense as a rookie. 

Patriots Coaches Learn The Old Fashioned Way Under Belichick:

One of the ways that Bill Belichick likes to fill out his coaching staff is by hiring young coaching assistants. Then molding, training and develop them by increasing their responsibility by putting more and more on their plates.

This is the way everyone is trained, including Nick Caserio, Josh McDaniels, and Joe Judge who started at the bottom and worked their way up. It also includes his two sons who it seems always get mentioned it seems as benefits of nepotism more so than hard work. If one can remember back to the early days of Belichick’s reign as head coach in New England, they’ll see his sons on the sideline, charting plays and soaking in the experience, very much like Belichick learned from his father at Navy. 

And one of the things at all of the young coaches get tasked to do is to learn by “padding games.” So, what the heck is “padding games” and what does it entail, you ask? Nothing nefarious (sorry BB haters). 

Padding of games for Bill Belichick is about not only learning the game inside and out but more importantly for the assistants, it is learning the game thru the prism of the head coach’s eye. They learn the way that Belichick views the game and therefore they’ll be able to better support him in his game planning. That includes his sons.

Steve Belichick, the Patriots safeties coach, calls it his father’s “Football 101.”

Belichick will assign young assistants one or several games of an upcoming opponent. Then, watching the All-22 coaches tape, they will chart every snap on paper. The assistants have to chart the movement of every single player on the offense and defense on separate pieces of paper.

They must identify each player’s responsibility as well as formations, splits, routes from receivers, protection schemes and what each team is attempting to accomplish on each given play. Given that the length of games will involve so many plays, padding a single game will take from several hours (for someone who has been doing it) to several days for one game. 

McDaniels, in an interview during Super Bowl week with Yahoo cited padding games for three years as instrumental in learning the intricacies of the game. “I think the most important thing young people have got to understand is, it’s not punishment,” McDaniels said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity to learn how important everything is at this level.”

Thus, the assistants learn what concepts, both offensive and defensively will work against an opponent. The younger Belichick has charted hundreds of games by his own account and sees the value in it. 

“You get to learn about football, different schemes, different styles of play. You understand how different and creative you can be to win … I used to get excited to pad the good teams and I learned what not to do from the bad teams.”

This is the way the assistants learn how Belichick breaks down tape and how they all get on the same sheet of music. Bill’s famous attention to detail will invariably entail numerous sticky notes on each page, identifying things missed or wrong and what the assistant has gotten right. 

It is the way that the younger coaches grow and develop and gives them the attention to detail and exhaustiveness that Bill Belichick demands from himself and his assistants. There is no secret formula, it is just hard work…and doing your job.

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Sticking With McCoy (for now) as Starting RB: 

When the Buffalo Bills entered the offseason, many thought RB Shady McCoy had played his last game in a Bills uniform. After suffering his worst season as a pro, on the wrong side of 30 and with a lot of wear on his tires, it seemed McCoy’s days were numbered for Buffalo. 

The Bills then brought in the ageless Frank Gore, to go along with T.J. Yeldon and rookie Devin Singletary and fullback Patrick DeMarco. And things seemed, on the surface that McCoy was soon to be phased out. But not so fast…

GM Brandon Beane has stated all spring that entering the season, McCoy was the starting running back. Something McCoy has been quick to echo. 

Perhaps with a move to the quick passing game utilizing Cole Beasley, the Bills are hoping with the addition of Gore, Yeldon, and Singletary that McCoy, with less work will rediscover his game. Holding onto him for trade value doesn’t make much sense at this point. Training camp will be interesting to watch this summer.

Dolphins’ Kendrick Norton Loses Arm in Horrific Car Crash:

The Miami Dolphins defensive lineman Kendrick Norton was seriously injured in a car crash early Thursday morning when his pickup truck crashed into a concrete barrier and ended up on its roof. 

EMTs reportedly had to amputate Norton’s arm before taking him to the hospital. He also reportedly suffered head injuries but while the damage to him was very serious, he is expected to survive. His condition was upgraded to good on Saturday morning. Norton was a 7th round draft pick of the Panthers in 2018, Miami scooped him off of Carolina’s practice squad last year and was expected to compete for a roster spot with Miami in training camp.

Sources from Norton’s family said on social media that another driver, behind the wheel of a 2015 Maserati cut off Norton and caused the accident. But that hasn’t been confirmed from the Florida Highway Patrol. They have yet to issue a report. That driver who has been identified as Jessie Pena, 30, was not injured in the crash.  And her car sustained minor damage.

Jets Hoping For a Big Year From Robby Anderson:

The New York Jets are hoping for bigger things from 2nd year QB Sam Darnold this fall. Adding RB LeVeon Bell to the Jets stable should definitely help take some of the pressure off of him. But beyond that, they’ll need better production from their wide receivers in 2019. 

The Jets current WR depth chart includes Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, Jamison Crowder, Josh Bellamy, Charone Peake, Deontay Burnett, Greg Dortch, Valentine Holmes, Quadree Henderson, J.J. Jones, Jeff Smith, Tim White, and Deonte Thompson.

The first three players are locks to make the roster and they’ll need those and some of the latter wideouts to step it up this year. Barring a trade or a signing for an established wide receiver, these players, especially Robby Anderson will have to increase their production.

Both Anderson and Enunwa suffered injuries last year but should be fine come the beginning of training camp. One area where Anderson is expected to increase his production is in his usage. The Jets have used him as a deep threat mainly, however that is expected to change under Adam Gase. 

With Crowder and Enunwa’s injury history, depth may be an issue, but the biggest question this summer will be, can Anderson produce in a contract year and stay out of trouble? As the #1, he’ll draw the opponent’s often best cover corner. 

________________

“There are no shortcuts to building a team each season. You build the foundation brick by brick.”Bill Belichick

“So, how was your week?”

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

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

VIDEO: Watch The Patriots Discuss What The Super Bowl LIII Ring Means To Them

Robert Alvarez
June 14, 2019 at 5:00 pm ET

The Patriots shared new footage from the Super Bowl LIII ring party on Friday over social media.

Check out the video below containing a few players and coaches discussing the importance of their Super Bowl LIII championship ring.

Video courtesy: Patriots.com

Patriots Mini-camp Day 3 Observations “We Got a Lot Done”

Steve Balestrieri
June 6, 2019 at 3:18 pm ET

The Patriots finished up their mandatory three-day minicamp on Thursday and at the conclusion of it, head coach Bill Belichick seems pleased..with how things turned out.

“I think we got a lot done, out on the field, which is good, but we just have to keep grinding away,” Belichick said. Both Belichick and Tom Brady spoke after the practice session and remarked on the day that Patriots long-snapper Joe Cardona was promoted in Gillette Stadium to the rank of Lieutenant in the Naval Reserve. And both remarked on how the day coincided with the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

As Brady was speaking to the media after practice, Devin McCourty cracked, “Tell ‘em (media) it is Ring Night and we ain’t got time for this!”

Julian Edelman showed some love for the Bruins by wearing a Bruins jersey out before practice started. Coincidentally, it was  #13 and had Dorsett on the back….

Notable Players MIA:

Among the missing was the same names that missed the first two sessions, RB Sony Michel, RB Nick Brossette, WR Demaryius Thomas, OT Yodny Cajuste, DE Deatrich Wise Jr, SS Patrick Chung, SS Nate Ebner. One new name was added, CB J.C. Jackson.

Isaiah Wynn was present and worked on individual drills and looked like he was moving without any limitations, which is a good sign for moving forward in training camp.

Overall today’s session was a lot of individual drills with not as much 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills.

Other observations included:

  • Joe Thuney continues to line up at left tackle and worked with the tackles during individual drills
  • Deion Branch and Troy Brown worked once again with the wide receivers. Branch gets very animated and worked with them on breaking a jam at the line of scrimmage
  • Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels worked a side session with N’Keal Harry and Jacobi Meyers. It was an exercise in timing as well as how McDaniels and Brady want the young WRs to run their routes and position their breaks. It continues to be a learning process
  • Stephon Gilmore finished a strong camp in style, by locking down the WRs and knocking down a pass.
  • Jamie Collins had a strong week and knocked down a Bryan Hoyer screen pass
  • Jonathan Jones had a nice pass breakup on a deep pass from Tom Brady to Julian Edelman in the corner of the end zone
  • The offense ran a Flea Flicker on one play where Maurice Harris got behind Jason McCourty and caught it in the end zone.
  • Duke Dawson had a nice pass breakup on a deep sideline pass from Brady to Phillip Dorsett.
  • Derek Rivers got some snaps with the first grouping of defensive players.
  • After Brady finished up his work with 11-on-11, once again the coaches went to Jarrett Stidham before Brian Hoyer or Danny Etling. They want to see what the young man has got.

Play of the Day:

The day ended on two very nice pass plays from Brian Hoyer. He threw a touchdown to Braxton Berrios to end the day, but his TD before that to Phillip Dorsett was a beauty. Hoyer threw a high arcing pass to the corner of the end zone and Dorsett made a beautiful leaping catch in the end zone.

The play by Dorsett brought Hoyer running over to celebrate with him. Ditto for the same thing with Berrios.

After practice, we got to speak with new DL Mike Pennel, and we’ll have more of that on PatsFans.com soon.

Best Of Social Media: The Patriots Super Bowl Send Off and Opening Night

Robert Alvarez
January 29, 2019 at 12:06 am ET

Beginning with this past Sunday mornings Super Bowl send off rally at Gillette Stadium, check out some of the best social media postings from the event in Foxborough.

View this post on Instagram

We’ve got a flight to catch

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

https://twitter.com/TheHall/status/1089573718941151232
View this post on Instagram

#patsnation #everythingwegot

A post shared by Jason+Devin McCourty (@mccourtytwins) on

https://twitter.com/KVN_03/status/1089573939486035970

On Monday night, the NFL’s annual Super Bowl Opening Night (formally known as Media Day) kicked off the weeks festivities in Atlanta leading up to Sunday.

From ridiculous and serious questions to funny antics, check out all the best sights and sounds from the Rams and Patriots.

https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1090041874776154112
https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1090044775095447552
https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1090059247679762433
https://twitter.com/ftbeard_17/status/1090059495735144449
https://twitter.com/ftbeard_17/status/1090065465576046592
https://twitter.com/ftbeard_17/status/1090066718389460992
https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1090067509049323521
https://twitter.com/NFL/status/1090071818356940800
https://www.instagram.com/p/BtOph5-H7x_/
https://twitter.com/ftbeard_17/status/1090082081634316288
https://twitter.com/NBCSPatriots/status/1090118254113128448

New England Patriots News 01-06, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
January 6, 2019 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here is your Sunday Patriots news 01-06, & AFC East Notes.

Some Quick Hitters this morning:

No…This IS 41: Last week in the aftermath of the Jets game, another hot-take artist of Fox Sports radio with an ax to grind, first complained that the league conspired to get the Patriots the bye because of what he called a terrible call of roughing the passer by the Jets against Brady. “NFL badly needed the Patriots to get that #2 seed. This call is total garbage. Patriots eventually score, up 21-3.”

Then he cherry-picked a missed throw by Brady to Hogan in the end zone to claim, “This is 41.” The funny part was the next day, he called out another writer for having a “garbage take” on the Antonio Brown saga. Glass houses, especially when in the game against the Jets, Brady completed over 70 percent of his throws, threw 4 TDs and had a passer rating of 133.8.

But we can cherry pick too, so…here’s your “This is 41”

Did you Know? Since 2001, the Patriots have had 13 byes, the most in the NFL. The next closest teams are the Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers with 5. This is the ninth consecutive year earning a bye, the most prior to this Patriots run has been four. . Dallas and San Francisco earned four straight byes from 1992 through 1995 and Denver had four straight from 2012 through 2015.

Did you Know Pt. 2: The only NFL team to win a championship and is no longer in the league was from New England. The Providence Steamroller was part of the league from 1925 -1931 and won the NFL Championship in 1928. Besides being one of two teams (Chicago Cardinals) to be the first to play a night game in 1929, Providence, due to a scheduling snafu and bad weather played four games in a six-day stretch which the night game, attended by 6000 fans was the second game of the stretch.

Patriots Unveil 2018 Playoff Motto: The Patriots, as part of their M.O., have unveiled a motto for the playoffs this year, “Everything We Got.” They unveiled a short video that showed many of the national pundits calling for the demise of the Pats dynastic run.

Then the video shows the team in a quick series of vignettes and then the narrator says:
To get everything,
It’s going to take everything.
So we’re going to give everything.
EVERYTHING WE GOT.

Is it as good as “Do Your Job”? Nope. But it is a step up from “One More” in our opinion. Enjoy the Wildcard Weekend’s slate of the games. There were 12 good teams entering the playoffs this weekend, 11 of them will lose their last game of the year. That’s why our motto, which we’d steal from Hollywood, would be. “There Can Be Only One!”

With McDaniels and Flores Being Courted, Focus on O’Shea, Bielema:

Like clockwork, the staff of Bill Belichick is being raided again as multiple teams have requested interviews with coordinators Josh McDaniels and Brian Flores. McDaniels is rumored to be the top choice for the Green Bay Packers and is very much in the mix for Cleveland, he turned down a request to interview with Cincinnati. It might sound strange but the better job overall and probably better for McDaniels may be Cleveland.

The Packers have a 36-year old QB who got his last coach fired. The offense runs through Rodgers, it is doubtful, he’s going to want to learn a new system at this stage of his career. Cleveland has a good young defense, an exciting rookie QB that knows how to win and is a team trending up.

But we digress… If one, or both leave who will take over the reins as the coordinators for the Patriots in 2019? On offense, it seems like a no-brainer in that Chad O’Shea will take over the play calling there. He’s been being groomed for that spot for some time now. O’Shea has been with the team for 10 years and called the plays during the preseason last summer. That one seems like a slam-dunk. However, O’Shea’s name is being floated around as a possible Offensive Coordinator for Matt Patricia in Detroit. We’ll have to monitor that situation.

Defensively, the situation will be difficult as they have no clear-cut coach lined up to take the reins. In reality, Flores isn’t even a “true” defensive coordinator, as he’s not been even given the title of it yet… why, is a story for another time.

Bill Belichick would probably take most of the onus on himself as the defensive coordinator for 2019, however, there isn’t a clear-cut successor ready yet. The best choice? Bret Bielema who was a head coach at both Wisconsin and Arkansas. Brendan Daly, who coaches the Defensive Line, may become a candidate in a year or two, but right now, the odds would be against him.

AB to the Pats? Not Happening:

When the news broke about the deteriorating situation in Pittsburgh with Antonio Brown, it was amazing how dysfunctional that team truly is. Mike Tomlin has always run a loose ship and that has come home to roost. But as soon as the story broke about Brown requesting a trade, Patriots fans jumped all over the story, wanting Belichick to swing a deal for Brown.

But there is no way that’s happening. For one, the Steelers would still be on the hook for Brown’s huge 2019 cap hit. They’ll probably try to mend the relationship between Brown, QB Ben Roethlisberger, and Tomlin. Barring that, if they do decide to trade him, one place they never would trade Brown to would be New England.

And as ridiculously talented Brown is, I can’t imagine that there would be a mutual interest in bringing him here. Can you imagine Brown’s Facebook Live video going on while Belichick is addressing the team in a post-game setting? And Brown, although in the midst of a terrific season, was mad because Roethlisberger was making JuJu Smith-Schuster, who had an even better 2018, the focal point. I can’t see Brown accepting a role where he’s not “the guy” that the offense runs thru.

After last season and the tabloid-like story on the divorce of Brady/Belichick, while the team was going 13-3 and on their way to another Super Bowl, is there going to be a big breaking piece on the disintegration of the Steelers’ locker room? Their two most talented offensive players quit on their team this season…but we’re not holding our breath on that one.

Young QBs Have Fans Excited in Several Markets:

The NFL had an influx of young QBs this year and many of them played big roles for their teams right off the bat. And it is a great thing for several NFL franchises that have been downtrodden for a number of years as these young QBs generate hope and excitement for the next generation.

The league has their established stars in QBs like Brady, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers but the story this season really wasn’t about any of them but Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes, while technically not a rookie lit the league on fire this fall. While perennial bottom feeders in Cleveland now have an exciting young QB, Baker Mayfield who has instantly brought hope and respectability to the franchise. Lamar Jackson, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, and Josh Rosen have had different levels of success but at least have their fans tuning in.

No one knows if any of these young studs can keep up the long-term success that they’ve found in their first year of playing.  There are no guarantees, injuries occur as well as other issues that can arise, but right now, the 2019 season looks to be, on paper one to really look forward to.

Who You Have This Week? NFL Wildcard Weekend Predictions:

Last week: 12-4 Final Regular Season 165-89-2

Wildcard Weekend:

Saturday – Houston over Indy,
                 Seattle over Dallas
Sunday –   Baltimore over LA Chargers (tough start time for West Coast teams)
                Chicago over Philadelphia

Eastbound and Down AFC East Notes:

Bills Have Their Man in Josh Allen, Now Need a Surrounding Cast:

The Buffalo Bills picked their guy in the QB Class of 2018 in the person of Allen, the big, strong-armed youngster from Wyoming who had a very up-and-down year, which isn’t a rarity for rookie QBs.

Allen has some obvious flaws in his game. He can be woefully inaccurate at times, but those are mechanical issues that can be solved thru coaching. But for a big guy (6’5, 237) he runs deceptively fast from the pocket.

The Bills need to surround Allen with better weapons next year. Although they have Zay Jones and Robert Foster, they could use another WR, RB, TE and a heckuva lot better support along the offensive line.

Allen ended the season in dramatic fashion, throwing for three TDs and running for two more, the first Bills QB to account for five TDs in a game since Jim Kelly. That left fans in Western NY, itching for a winner, looking forward to 2019. That may even stop them from throwing sex toys on the field during games… Maybe not.

Dolphins Search For the Next Head Coach:

The Miami Dolphins, in a mild surprise, fired head coach Adam Gase after the season was over, but the way the team finished their final quarter of the season, it shouldn’t have been. After an improbable, last-second fluke win over the Patriots, Miami was blown out in Minnesota, lost by 10 to Jacksonville and by 25 to Buffalo.

The Dolphins are busy trying to find their next head coach. GM Chris Grier has interviewed the Patriots’ Brian Flores, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and now are set to interview Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. For Bieniemy, this season was just his first as a coordinator but it was his fourth interview this week. He also met with the New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Cincinnati Bengals.

Other names included in the search include Vic Fangio, Mike Munchak, Jim Harbaugh, and Dolphins’ Special Teams Coach Darren Rizzi.

Jets May Have Interest in Baylor HC Matt Ruhle :

The New York Jets are in Texas this weekend, interviewing Cowboys’ assistant coach Kris Richard but multiple sources are reporting that the Jets may also have a lot of interest in Baylor head coach Matt Ruhle.

Ruhle would be an interesting choice as he’s been instrumental in turning around a couple of college programs. Ruhle was born in New York City and spent a year on Tom Coughlin’s staff as an assistant offensive line coach.

He was the QB coach and offensive coordinator at Temple before becoming the head coach for four seasons. His last two in Temple, the team won 10 games, the only time in the program’s history that they accomplished that.  He then moved to Baylor to a program that had been rocked by a sexual assault scandal. In 2017, his team went 1-11. This season, they went 7-6. Ruhle got some interest from the Colts last year in their coaching search. He’d be a good coach it is believed to work with Sam Darnold.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news.

Patriots Losing Special Teams Coach To Colts

Ian Logue
February 15, 2018 at 10:10 pm ET

The Indianapolis Colts may not have gotten their man with Josh McDaniels, but it appears they’ve been successful in poaching a New England coach to fill one of their coaching vacancies.

According to the Sporting News’ Alex Marvez, Patriots assistant special teams coach Ray “Bubba” Ventrone is heading to Indianapolis to coach the Colts’ special teams. It’s an interesting turn of events given that current special teams coach Joe Judge was initially going to handle that role had McDaniels accepted the head coaching job. Instead, McDaniels had a change of heart and remained in New England, with Judge opting to stay with the Patriots after the offensive coordinator changed course.

Ventrone will join new head coach Frank Reich’s staff, with Indianapolis hiring the former Bills quarterback following McDaniels decision to walk away from the position.

Colts fans should definitely be happy about the move, as Ventrone is a smart coach, which hopefully means they’ll no longer have to worry about having to be subjected to plays like this:

https://twitter.com/thecheckdown/status/758781787938119681

McDaniels is Staying and the Succession Plan for the Patriots is in Place

Steve Balestrieri
February 7, 2018 at 8:24 am ET

The silver lining from the Patriots Super Bowl loss on Sunday night, while painful has a good…no a great bit of news. Josh McDaniels has spurned the Indianapolis Colts offer to be their next head coach and is staying in New England as the Offensive Coordinator.

McDaniels reportedly had dinner with Patriots owner Robert Kraft and the deal was struck to keep him in place and then? The succession to the throne had to be addressed. Bill Belichick has made it clear that he wasn’t planning on coaching into his 70s and he wanted to establish his son’s coaching careers before moving on.

McDaniels had plenty of reasons to stay. And not the least of which is his family. His wife is from the area and his kids go to an exclusive private school in Walpole. His family has roots here and he doesn’t want to leave. His wife and kids most definitely don’t want to go to the mid-West. Never underestimate the family side of the equation.

Josh McDaniels, here with Jimmy Garoppolo at June minicamp will remain as the Patriots Offensive Coordinator. (SBalestrieri photo)

Now McDaniels will remain and the Patriots get to keep not one but two coordinators. Joe Judge, the Special Teams coordinator was slated to go to Indianapolis with McDaniels and now he’ll more than likely remain as well.

And the bigger piece of the puzzle that no one is mentioning is Nick Caserio. He will remain after getting some feelers once again for GM positions in the offseason. Caserio will remain in his position as the Director of Player Personnel but he does much more. He’s the guy doing all the leg work for the draft, works with the players in practices and serves as the de facto GM.  Which means when Bill Belichick decides to step down possibly in a year or two, the next coach and GM are already in place.

With all of the flak coming at Kraft and McDaniels since yesterday, one has to wonder, aren’t the same people who are complaining that there was no succession plan in place with Tom Brady, now giving the Patriots the business for addressing life after Belichick? Isn’t it the exact same thing?

What will the staff look like in 2018? McDaniels will remain as the Offensive Coordinator. Judge will remain as the STs coach. Chad O’Shea is put on hold as the OC in waiting, once McDaniels takes the reins. Greg Schiano’s name keeps coming up as the Defensive Coordinator, which may mean that Brian Flores is still getting consideration elsewhere.

I’d look for Stephen Belichick who has been the safeties coach to move this season to another position. Brian Belichick may be a positional coach this year as Bill tries to groom his sons for bigger and better things once he retires.

The offense now, won’t miss a beat. Brady and McDaniels have a long relationship and they have the mutual trust and respect to get the job done. There will have to be decisions made on several players who are free agents but this is a team when it has all of its weapons that is loaded.

McDaniels has grown from the coach who failed in Denver. He learned from his mistakes and has a much better feel for the game and his personnel than he did a few back. The young coach who was too stubborn to adjust in Super Bowl XLII ten years later faced an even better defense under Jim Schwartz and took them to the woodshed.

Now he, Belichick and Caserio have to find a young QB for them to groom to take over the reins for Brady when he too rides off into the sunset. The Patriots can be many things…boring is never one of them.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Ugly Start, Uglier Finish, But the Patriots Win 24-17 Over the Jets

Steve Balestrieri
October 15, 2017 at 8:03 pm ET

The Jets were given a Bronx cheer by the replay officials in New York just across the river and it played a key point why the Jets weren’t going to overtime. But in the end, the Patriots were able to hold on again 24-17 as Tom Brady became the NFL’s all-time winningest quarterback in regular season history with his 187th win breaking a tie with Brett Favre and Peyton Manning. He’s already the NFL’s all-time leader in wins with both regular season and playoffs combined.

But back to the controversy. Austin Seferian-Jenkins caught a pass at the four-yard line and rolled to the end zone, where just at the pylon, Malcolm Butler tried to and for the briefest of moments jarred the ball free. But Jenkins never really lost control and rolled out of bounds in the end zone in what appeared to 77,562 people in the stands and thousands on television as a touchdown. But NY overturned the call on the field and ruled it a touchback and New England’s ball on the twenty. A huge gift and swing of momentum.

And before my timeline fills up with Patriots Nation telling me it was the right call, switch the teams around and picture Rob Gronkowski rumbling to the end zone and the same play happens….is it a fumble then? It was the worst call in a generally terribly officiated game.

After having 10 days to prepare for the Jets, the Patriots took the first 15 minutes to figure out if the game was at 1:05 not 1:45. The defense was gashed badly on the Jets first drive as Josh McCown looked like a guy QBing a well-oiled machine instead of an offense averaging 156 yards per game. The Jets went 88-yards going 4-4 on third down and immediately thoughts were …”Here we go again.”

The Patriots were gashed on defense and turned the ball over on offense and it was 14-0 Jets before the Pats finally decided to kick it in gear. The lights then came on for Belichick’s crew and they rallied for 24 straight points and seemed poised for taking total control of the game over. But some sloppy play and indifferent defensive play struck again and the team had to hold on for another seat-of-your-pants type of win.

The Patriots recovered from a bad sequence at the end of the half to get a turnover and then went down the field in just 26 seconds to score a game-tying touchdown on a pass from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski. Gronk who was interfered with horribly on an earlier non-call where Stephen Gostkowski missed a 47-yard field goal when it seemed the team would go into the half trailing 14-7 or worse.

The Jets were moving but McCown made a mistake when he got greedy. He made a bad decision to throw on the sideline where Malcolm Butler was in great position to jump the route and he did intercepting the ball. Brady then hit a beautiful rainbow play to Brandin Cooks to set the Patriots up at the two where Gronkowski outmuscled rookie Jamal Adams for the tying score.

Receiving the ball for the second half kickoff, Brady marched them down the field where Gronkowski scored his second touchdown of the game getting behind the secondary for a 33-yard touchdown and suddenly New England is up 21-14. It was their best sequence of the day and at that time, they looked poised to put the Jets far in the rear-view mirror. But it was not to be and the team allowed McCown, to march up and down the field in the fourth quarter like they were facing Aaron Rodgers or Matt Ryan, who coincidentally comes to Foxboro next week.

Other observations include:

  • The Patriots Run Defense was actually quite good today, holding the Jets to 74 yards overall and Jets running backs were held to 20 carries for 47 yards.  Alan Branch seemed like the Alan Branch of old and was doing a great job of stuffing the interior. Malcom Brown had two run stuffs for negative yardage.
  • The Pass Rush isn’t getting it done. Can’t blame Matt Patricia for being too conservative in this one. The Patriots rushed five many times and used the corner blitz often in an attempt to influence the play. It didn’t do it enough. Often McCown had tons of time and of the four sacks, the Patriots got, thank the coverage on most of those.
  • Brady was noticeably off with his accuracy for much of the day. He completed only 20-38 for 257 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He threw deep into double coverage a couple of times and the second time was picked off by Buster Skrine. But in the middle of the game when the team found their rhythm, he was hitting some big third and long completions. His deep ball to Cooks was his best throw by far, 42 yards which set up the tying touchdown, right in the bucket.
  • Cooks and Gronkowski had very productive days, Cooks caught 6 passes for 93 yards and Gronk had six for 83 with a pair of touchdowns. But Chris Hogan had a quiet day, catching just one pass for 19. Danny Amendola and James White also had only so-so production with 3 catches for 40, and 4 for 22 respectively.
  • Kyle Van Noy had a productive day with a pair of sacks, and three quarterback hits and seven tackles. Dont’a Hightower and Malcom Brown were credited with the other sacks.
  • Dion Lewis had another good day running the football, with 11 carries for 52 yards and a touchdown. He had a long run of just 11 but once again, he appeared close on a few occasions of breaking on. Mike Gillislee had a costly fumble but also ran well, gaining 44 yards on ten carries.
  • Josh McDaniels had an up and down afternoon. The Patriots didn’t get anything going until the second quarter. And he got too impatient before the half where with a minute and a half to go, the Patriots were on the Jets 30 and tried the deep ball twice in a row without success where Gostkowski missed a field goal.  In the fourth quarter facing a 2nd and 5 from the Jets 6, he called a crossing route where a run would have had a much greater chance of success.
  • With both Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe out, Johnson Bademosi got the start with Jonathan Jones in the slot. Surprisingly, the Jets went after Malcolm Butler and not Bademosi. He didn’t play badly but played as better than what can be expected. However, the overall pass defense once again was very leaky.

There were positives to report, such as the Patriots not panicking once they got down by 14 points. They raised their level of play on both sides of the ball and showed a ton of resiliency against a division opponent on the road in a loud stadium. On a day where they weren’t playing their best. They rebounded and climbed out of a big deficit.

While they didn’t start or end the game particularly well, the Patriots showed the mental toughness that champions must have.

But there is no sugar-coating the play of the defense where although they ‘officially’ allowed only 17 points, their level of play early and late in the game just isn’t going to get it done.

And now Matt Ryan and the Falcons are coming to town next week, fresh off of blowing a seventeen point lead at home against the Dolphins. One other footnote for the game is to call attention to all of the people who constantly rail about the Patriots making the playoffs because of how weak the AFC East is. Well the AFC “Least” has more wins in Atlanta this season, than the Falcons do.

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

How Will Josh McDaniels and the Patriots Offense Use Phillip Dorsett?

Steve Balestrieri
September 4, 2017 at 6:30 am ET

The Patriots swung a trio of deals on Saturday and perhaps none was bigger than the one where they traded QB Jacoby Brissett to the Indianapolis Colts to land WR Phillip Dorsett. Let me put the caveat out there, that I wasn’t in favor of trading for a wide receiver after Julian Edelman went down with a season-ending injury.

With the top four of Chris Hogan, Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola and Malcolm Mitchell, I felt that they had plenty of depth and could afford to work in one of the young guys, Austin Carr or Devin Lucien into the offense.

But with the team trying to put Amendola on a pitch count, perhaps Mitchell’s injury is worse than previously thought. Or perhaps the thought of acquiring a player with Dorsett’s skill set was too good to pass up. And once Cyrus Jones was lost for the year, that put them in a position of needing a punt returner. So Amendola may be a 3rd down specialist and the team’s punt returner in the meanwhile, while they try out different players for the role.

Which brings us back to Dorsett. He was a first round draft pick in 2015, and the Colts selected him with the 29th overall pick. It was surprising at the time as they needed defensive line help. The Patriots selected Malcolm Brown with the 32nd overall pick. But at the time, I really liked this player when he was coming out of the draft. At that time I wrote that he’d be a great fit for the Patriots and did a pre-draft profile of him and his potential fit on the Patriots offense. Now a couple of years later, he’s a member of the team as they prepare for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Dorsett was labeled as a draft bust and disappointing while a member of the Colts in his first two seasons and yes his production hasn’t been off the charts and it becomes an intriguing situation. Was his production limited by his route running ability? When he came out in the draft, it was an area that he needed to improve on. Or did the Colts underutilize the speedster? I spent Sunday watching some of the Colts games on tape and a few things stand out. Indy mainly used him as a long range decoy, clearing out large areas for Donte Moncrief and T.Y Hilton. There was a definite lack of chemistry with Andrew Luck, there were several instances where Dorsett seemed to be open and Luck was forcing the ball into coverage elsewhere. Was it a lack of trust?

So, how does Josh McDaniels use his newest weapon in the passing game to his advantage?

  • Take advantage of his speed: Dorsett, like Brandin Cooks, has 4.33 speed in the 40. He also ran a 6.70 time in the 3-Cone Drill so he has the short area quickness as well as the straight line speed. In a three receiver set with Dorsett, Cooks and Chris Hogan, the Patriots have three guys who can burn on the outside. He can line up as the “X” outside and take his coverage down the field. One of the other two can do the same on the opposite side, leaving the third plenty of room to maneuver in the middle.
  • Get him the ball in space: With his blazing speed, if he gets the ball in space, he can add yards after the catch. Look for him to run a shallow cross with the others in order to get some separation at the line. Like Cooks, if he can get a step on the defender, they’re gone.
  • Put him in motion in the slot: Although he will probably be used more outside, by moving him around with the other two, will give the team some matchups that will cause nightmares for opponent’s defensive coordinators. Moving him in motion will tell Brady if the coverage is man or zone and will help Dorsett get a free release at the line.

Much will depend upon Dorsett learning the playbook, putting the time in and developing that all-important chemistry and trust factor with Brady. Dorsett didn’t have that with Luck. Whether it was his fault or not doesn’t matter now. He’s starting here with a clean slate.

I think the Colts just underutilized Dorsett and decided to just to use Moncrief and Hilton underneath. While he wasn’t a great route runner in college, he definitely showed more than he has been used in Indy. I see McDaniels using him in a lot more situational type formations than just as a guy who runs a fly or post pattern to open up the underneath routes for others as a decoy.

His success or failure will depend a lot on himself. We’ve seen plenty of wide receivers come to New England and fail. It will be intriguing to watch him this season and see how he can progress. I expect he still won’t have prolific numbers, in the 35-40 catch range for the team this year. But they can be very productive numbers, such as Hogan and Amendola’s.

The Patriots have always prided themselves on having shorter, quicker wide receivers who work the short and intermediate parts of the field. Now, along with Cooks and Hogan, the Patriots have a trio of burners on the outside. This is a group that can easily stretch the field vertically as well as horizontally.  With a healthy Rob Gronkowski and a bevy of backs who can catch the ball out of the backfield, this offense is going to be fun to watch. And they just got a shiny new toy to play with.

 

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

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.