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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Quick thoughts and notes about the New England Patriots and the NFL:
1. Same bill: Bill Belichick at 70 years old. The same as it has ever been.
There were several things from the media’s first look at the Patriots’ spring training last week, but perhaps nothing is more significant than this:
While Belichick tries to do what no head coach in NFL history has done – win a Super Bowl after his 70th birthday – his tank looks full. Belichick at a Patriots 2022 practice looked no different than a 2012 or 2002 practice.
In fact, he could have been more involved in some of the basic teaching that is at the core of spring practice.
“I’ve always said when people ask me how Bill is that he’s the model for consistency,” said Patriots safety and captain Devin McCourty, who has been with the team since 2010. “You show up for your job every day, after having the same attitude, the same message, and being able to do it over and over again is difficult.
“He keeps coming in here, day 1 of OTAs, no matter how many years it’s, and it’s the same intensity.”
This marks Belichick’s 48th season in the NFL and 28th as head coach (including his stay in Cleveland from 1991 to ’95). His passion for the basics, the details and all facets of football still permeates, as evidenced by a moment in practice when he pulled training team receiver Malcolm Perry aside, blinked his hands in front of him and discussed how Perry should attack the ball.
Perry is unlikely to be on the 53-man list when the season begins, but there is a chance he will at some point be asked to help the Patriots win a game.
It was peak Belichick.
“It’s fundamental things to do the right things, the little things over and over again. He never gets rid of it,” McCourty said. “It’s my 13th year, I’ve seen it over and over again. It’s hard to replicate, but I think getting an opportunity to play for him as a player has made me a better player.”
Belichick has some notable challenges to conquer, and his heavy involvement in the offensive in Monday’s training session reinforces that. Quarterback Mac Jones is a promising second-year player, but without coordinator Josh McDaniels, there is a marked transition in the coaching staff with Joe Judge working with quarterbacks and Matt Patricia the offensive line.
No coordinator or playcaller has been named, but it was clear in practice that Belichick, Judge and Patricia share the role so far.
Tedy Bruschi weighs in on the fact that the Patriots have not appointed an offensive coordinator yet.
Is there a concern that Belichick may spread too thinly? Maybe, but those around him do not see it.
“I would say that about the coach, even though he’s older, I do not even think he’s asleep,” linebackers coach Jerod Mayo said. “He’s wearing several hats. You never know where you’ll find him.”
2. Developin’s visit: The Patriots may want to downplay the traditional full-back position in their offense (according to former New England defender Jakob Johnson), but that does not mean they are not welcoming those who play the position to Gillette Stadium. Early last week, former Patriots fullback James Develin (2012-19) was a guest at the club and he spoke to players in a full-team meeting.
Develin is a three-time Super Bowl champion. His footballing career – playing defensive end at Brown University, joining Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz from Arena Football, then the Florida Tuskers in the United Football League before throwing it out on the NFL’s training team for several years as a fullback – is a story of perseverance, which any current player could benefit from hearing.
3. Macs blind side: When starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn was not available for off-season training last week, veteran Trent Brown turned to that side, with swing tackle Justin Herron raised as the top right tackle. Brown was excellent at left tackle in 2018 before playing right tackle when he returned to the team in 2021. Could Wynn’s absence be the opening to return Brown to left tackle permanently, especially considering the valuable chemistry he is at to develop with left guard / first-guard. round pick Cole Strange? That’s at least a question that Belichick and O-line coaches Patricia and Billy Yates are probably asking.
4. Wynn in the rearview mirror: Wynn is a great example of the challenges for teams in having to decide on the fifth-year opportunity for first-round picks after just three seasons. When the Patriots decided to opt for Wynn’s option in May 2021, it guaranteed Wynn a salary of $ 10.4 million for the 2022 season. The Patriots’ decision-making seemed reasonable at the time, given the premium position Wynn plays. But given the linemen the team now has in place, one wonders if there is some internal regret, as Wynn’s amount of $ 10.4 million may create some much-needed space.
5. Mac Liability: Jones’ leadership continues to evolve, and an example from Monday’s practice highlighted the point. When a player makes a mistake, Belichick often sends the entire unit on a turn as a penalty; exercises can be voluntary, but running a lap is not. So when Jones seemed to have a mental breakdown at the scrimmage line, which seemed to affect the offense properly, he shouted loudly to everyone that it was on him before heading off for a round in full unity.
Dan Orlovsky questions the New England Patriots’ offensive plan during the season.
6. Trading information: The Patriots’ draft-day trade, in which they sent a 2022 third-round pick (No. 94) to the Carolina Panthers for a 2022 fourth-rounder (137) and 2023 third-rounder, was a result of Belichick’s aggressiveness. As shown by the Panthers’ in-house video team, Belichick called the Panthers to gauge their interest in the election and asked for their 2023 second-rounders in the process. Can not hurt to ask for the moon, knowing that the counter offer is probably where things will eventually land.
7. Classic Belichick: When Belichick met with reporters last week, he opened by publicly sending condolences to the family to Patriots Hall of Famer Gino Cappelletti. He had also made it private a few days before by attending the wake of Cappelletti, an elegant gesture.
8.Fishing in the city: Former Patriots quarterback coach Jedd Fisch, who spent the 2020 season with the team, was back in town last week and a guest for training. He is entering his second season as University of Arizona head coach. This is the time of year when the Patriots host various college coaches, and there can be valuable information exchange / learning opportunities for both sides.
9. Russey on radar: The Patriots have had at least one exhausted free agent on the opening day’s 53-man roster in each of the past 18 seasons – the third-longest row in the NFL behind the Chargers (25) and Colts (23) – and the University of Houston center Kody Russey is a leading candidate to continue the streak. Keep in mind that the Patriots hosted Russey on one of their valuable 30 pre-draft visits to Gillette Stadium, and also guaranteed him $ 180,000 (most among exhausted players signed by the team). As starting center David Andrews is not yet completely free as he recovers from shoulder surgery, the 6-foot-1, 301-pound Russey has a good chance this spring to make a positive impression.
10. Did you know that? The Patriots are scheduled to play four prime-time games in a row – Nov. 24 in Minnesota, Dec. 1 vs. Buffalo, December 12 in Arizona and December 18 in Las Vegas – for the first time in the team’s history. The last team to play in four moves in primetime games was the 2017 Pittsburgh Steelers.