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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Quick thoughts and notes about the New England Patriots and the NFL:
1. Happy zapping: One of the most compelling moments of ESPN’s broadcast on the third day of the 2022 NFL Draft came when the Patriots selected Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe late in the fourth round (No. 137).
Host Rece Davis said what many who follow the Patriots might have thought: Help me understand this choice – especially after choosing Mac Jones in the first round the year before, and with other notable needs, especially in defense.
It sparked an insightful discussion with analysts Todd McShay and Louis Riddick, who covered how it can be good business to draft and develop quarterbacks.
It was about to form NFL GM Randy Mueller, who served in the front offices of the Seattle Seahawks, New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins, and was named NFL Executive of the Year in 2000 while on the Saints. He applauded the Zappe election.
“I was not surprised. At that point in the draft, you’re trying to identify character traits in players that not everyone may see. And I think Bill [Belichick] and his crew has done an equally good job as anything else, across the board at all positions, “Mueller said.
“I see a lot of positive things in Bailey Zappe. When you get to the third day of the draft, I think it’s too much to turn your back on, regardless of position. Everyone seems to want to fill needs all the way through. [the draft], but I’m more about getting the best group of players and not bypassing good players to fill the needs. And I think Bailey was one of those guys, even though I do not think everyone sees it. “
Mueller, who now runs Mueller Football Advising Services, studied all the quarterbacks in the draft. While 6-foot-1, 215-pound Zappe was the fifth pick, Mueller rated him as No. 2 behind only first-round pick Kenny Pickett (No. 20 for the Steelers).
“Everyone’s criteria are always a little different, but what I saw is a guy who sees, anticipates and treats, all from his pocket, combined with a certain accuracy and the ability to perform every throw, because he has lots of arm, said Mueller. .
“I’m not looking for 6-foot tall quarterbacks in themselves, but he plays much bigger than that. The fact that he has the vision and the expectation out of his pocket; I’m not saying he’s Drew Brees or Russell Wilson or anything. ., but … he trends more in that line just because of the foresighted skill set. “
Zappe’s production was off the charts in 2021, when he completed 475 of 686 (69.2%) passes in 5,967 yards with 61 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He had moved to western Kentucky from the Houston Baptist after his offensive coordinator, Zach Kittley.
Mueller noted that the system Zappe ran, combined with his production and skills, rated him so highly.
“The other guys, for me, there is a leap of faith in the ability to process, to anticipate, to throw on time and still be athletic enough to move in the pocket,” he said.
“I think he’s a natural, pitcher with the right pitch, with touch. Many things at the second and third level he does, I’ve seen pro quarterbacks after four, five years still not be able to do. So I think he is further ahead in the learning curve than most give him the credit for. “
Mueller’s memory: When Mueller spent 2002 to 2005 working as an analyst for ESPN, he visited Patriots training – the first time he had attended a training camp, other than with a club he worked for. One thing he saw that day resonated.
“I remember seeing Tom Brady, this was year 3 or 4 of his career, and his attention to detail with his footwork in his pocket. The fact that he was still working on it stuck with me forever, said Mueller, adding that it changed his view as he assessed the position.
“I think that’s one of the things Tom does not get enough credit for – that [movement] in your pocket – with footwork and everything else. I also saw some of it with Bailey [Zappe]. “
3. Early Resurrection: Patriots assistant Joe Judge, who works with quarterbacks, said Zappe was at the team facility very early Tuesday morning “to get ahead.” Such care is often the best way to make a solid first impression on coaches. It could also have been necessary as Zappe, receiver Tyquan Thornton and running back Pierre Strong Jr. left town later this week to attend the NFLPA Rookie Premiere in California, the annual event that introduces top-market rookies to sponsors.
4. Power note: There you can just see? When Patriots owner Robert Kraft received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Sports Business Journal on Wednesday night, Eli Manning told the audience how he received a handwritten congratulation from Kraft about five days after the Mannings Giants shocked the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. “The impact of a handwritten note has left an impression on me after all these years,” Manning said.
5. Vince’s honor: The date for Vince Wilfork’s Patriots Hall of Fame induction ceremony is TBD, but it would be appropriate if he was honored at the break of the Sept. 25 home opener against the Ravens. That’s because Wilfork said that if there’s one game that stands out in his career, it’s the 23-20 win over Baltimore in the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 22, 2012 as he rose in the fourth quarter to make two clutchplays in defense – ripping runback Ray Rice down on a third-and-3 run and then harassing quarterback Joe Flacco on a fourth-down stop.
6. Perkins’ preparation: The Patriots have a remarkable gap with the outside linebacker over Matthew Judon, and the third-round pick of 2021, Ronnie Perkins (Oklahoma), is a candidate to fill that. Perkins did not appear in a regular season match as a rookie, in part because he was buried on the depth chart behind Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and others. Outside linebackers coach Steve Belichick said Perkins has been at Foxborough throughout the offseason to place himself in the best position to “take a step forward.”
“All that really matters at the end of the day is what happens when we put the pillows on,” Belichick said. “But he has done everything right to this point.”
7. Wades fresh start: The Patriots swapped picks in the fifth and seventh rounds to acquire rookie cornerback Shaun Wade from the Ravens last September, but he only appeared in three games as a reserve due to a combination of acclimatization to a new system and injuries. Cornerbacks coach Mike Pellegrino said it was a “fresh start” for 6-foot-1, 191-pound Wade, who is “a taller guy with good speed.” Pellegrino also noted that Wade has improved this offseason after targeting a couple of unpublished coaching points.
The Patriots have a wide-open cornerback competition that also includes Jalen Mills, Malcolm Butler, Jonathan Jones, Marcus Jones, Jack Jones and Terrance Mitchell, and Pellegrino reiterated several times that “the best guys will play.”
Where Wade fits in – similar to Perkins as an outside linebacker – is one of several under-the-radar offseason storylines for New England.
8. Ends with: Why does the Patriots open the season with the Dolphins for the third year in a row? Partly because Miami asked to be on the go in Week 2 due to a Lady Gaga concert at Hard Rock Stadium that week. So it increased the odds that they would be home in the opening week, narrowing their opponent’s chances to seven teams (Buffalo was already locked to face the Rams). The Patriots were the choice when it came to weighing other considerations, but do not expect a Patriots-Dolphins Sunday opening in 2023. “I assure you we will be keeping an eye on New England-Miami in Week 1 next year,” said the NFL VP of Broadcaster Mike North.
9. Walshs heritage: Ross Douglas joined the Patriots in 2021 with the official title of NFL Coaching / Defense, and he has turned to working with receivers alongside Troy Brown this spring. The native Avon, Ohio, credits New England’s director of skills development, Joe Kim, for helping him get his foot in the door when Douglas first met Kim when he took his taekwondo class as a 5-year-old. He also credits the late Bill Walsh because Douglas’ position was made possible through his diversity program.
“It means absolutely everything to me,” Douglas said. “A lot of good college football coaches and a lot of talented minorities, it’s hard to get into NFL buildings – whether it’s because of a lack of resources, a lack of connections. So that’s our gateway.”
10. Did you know that? There were four NFL teams playing their first two regular season away games last season, and that’s how the Patriots will open their 2022 season (in Miami and Pittsburgh). The 49ers and Broncos won both games, the Cowboys split, and the Vikings lost both.