FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts. — Brief thoughts and notes on the New England Patriots and the NFL:
1. Big Mac for the Patriots? When ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay released his first simulated draft for NFL 2021 last week and Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields was the Patriots’ No. 15 pick, he said on the First Draft Podcast that the most frequent reactions to the draft were.
Many people have doubts about Fields’ involvement, which McShay confirms (no market is included in his model), but he also shares his opinion that Fields is not quite ready.
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A more likely scenario for the Patriots, and in some cases just as compelling, is that of Alabama quarterback Mack Jones at 15th overall (or at a slightly lower price). McShay described him as super smart, with a presence in the pocket and someone who senses things, anticipates and gets the ball out.
They traditionally top the Patriots’ list when it comes to scoring quarterbacks.
But what Jones (36 of 45 for 464 yards and five TDs in the national game) offers in these areas is partially offset by his lack of mobility or his remarkable physicality. As the NFL produces more and more quarterbacks who threaten defenses with their arms and legs, Jones is a pitcher and more of a pure pocket passer. Ten years ago, Jones would have been one of McShay’s top ten prospects. According to a recent review, McShay plans to place Jones in the top 20.
How important is it for the Patriots to have a dual threat at their next quarterback to keep up with the NFL?
Coach Bill Belichick, whose affinity for Alabama’s Nick Saban is well-documented, answers that question. Offensive Coordinator/Quarterfinal Coach Josh McDaniels also has a primary voice.
When you add it all up, a potential marriage between Jones and the Patriots becomes one of the most intriguing stories of the project.
Error! The file name is not specified. ESPN Todd McShay’s analysis project predicts Alabama quarterback Mack Jones will be the leader this year. Mickey Welch/Montgomery Advertiser via USA TODAY Sports.
2. Failure in the city: Last week, the Patriots asked eight players who were out of the 2020 season to take a physical, which ended last week. I arrived in Boston on Sunday, had my physical and everything was perfect. As for this year, I look forward to the return that will be negotiated by trustee Marquise Lee.
He said he had no regrets about not protecting his daughter Aliyah and that he planned to learn more about NFL plans, but it appears he plans to play in 2021. Brandon Bolden has said, among other things, that he plans to play back. I think defender Patrick Chung, fullback Matt LaCosse and defender Danny Vitale will make the same decision, while I think offensive tackle Marcus Cannon and defender Dont’a Hightower are less certain to return.
3. Mayo’s time will come: The Eagles spoke with linebacker coach Jerod Mayo on Friday about the head coaching vacancy. This is a testament to how quickly Mayo’s stock has grown since he joined the New England team two years ago. It’s still a bit early for the 34-year-old Mayo, but he has a rare ability to connect with people – and a football and business background – that will put him in the hot seat in the coming years as he gains hands-on coaching experience. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who is scheduled to meet with the Eagles on Sunday, is likely closer to what Philadelphia needs in hopes of reviving quarterback Carson Wentz. The big question seems to be how he gets along with Executive Vice-President Howie Roseman.
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4. Ziegler’s return: Dave Ziegler, assistant director of Player Personnel for the Patriots, played his cards well. He gained valuable interview experience as the Broncos’ general manager, made a good impression and then returned to New England with a multi-year contract and a bonus to replace Nick Caserio. Ziegler probably wouldn’t have gotten the job in Denver for a long time – they ended up hiring George Paton from Minnesota – but I saw his decision to remove his name from the list of candidates as a reflection of the determination that has earned him some respect in the Patriots’ offices over the past eight years.
5. Promoting flexibility : With the Lions hiring Brad Holmes as GM (Holmes becomes the second black GM in team history), the Rams are the first team to receive two third-round draft picks among the NFL’s new recruiting initiatives. Closer to home is Steve Cargill, a longtime Patriots scout, a staff member who could follow in Holmes’ footsteps and be considered for internal promotion if Caserio leaves.
6. The hunt for the Belichick: Belichick turns 69 in April, and some people ask him how long he plans to coach. The wins by the coaches – Don Shula (347), George Halas (324), Belichick (311) – seem to be a good start. In other words: How many seasons do you think Belichick needs to get 37 wins and overtake Shula? So the idea that Belichick could train his 70-year-old for a few more years, maybe more, wouldn’t surprise me.
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Todd McShay wonders why he picked Justin Fields of the Patriots with a 15th-ranked pick in the 2021 NFL draft.
7. Weekly Draft Nugget : Pat Fryermuth, from Pennsylvania State, who served as a role model in his early years, was born in Massachusetts (Merrimack) and was number 87 in college. That’s why some people called him Gronckle. With the Patriots needing two more years to fill the void left by Rob Gronkowski’s departure, it would be a funny story if they focused on the prospect of Gronkowski growing up about 70 miles from Gillette Stadium as a child.
8. Kelly’s class: For most of the last two decades, after the Patriots regularly beat the Bills in Western New York, it was common to see Jim Kelly, a member of the Professional Football Hall of Fame, in the tunnel for Tom Brady after a game. Despite so many losses and her battle with cancer, Kelly has always been the picture of class and perspective. Since the Bills have been successful in the playoffs this year after such a long drought, I keep coming back to Kelly’s vision in these situations as one of the reasons to feel good.
9. Harris has escaped: The Saints’ presence in the playoffs in recent years has highlighted one of the great stories of college football in New England: receiver/recruiter Deonte Harris of Assumption College Division II in Worcester. Harris was not selected because of his height (6-foot-2, 90 pounds) and stated that only four or five teams had trained with him prior to the 19-year selection. The Saints have been the most aggressive, more aggressive than the local Patriots, and they are reaping the rewards now.
10. They knew: Devin McCourty, the Patriots’ nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, played the most defensive shots (10,921) since joining the NFL in 2010. Malcolm Jenkins (Saints/Eagles) is next with 10,817.