Good morning; here are your weekly Patriots news 06-12, and some NFL notes this week.
The New England Patriots conducted their mandatory minicamp June 7-8 and as we’ve seen in years past, Bill Belichick canceled the last day of camp as well as two other OTAs scheduled for this week. Players can still show up for voluntary conditioning work, but the spring workouts are over.
What does that mean?
Granted the weather was awful on Thursday with heavy rain and thunderstorms in the region but Belichick has done this frequently to reward the players for their hard work. As Belichick has also said, the spring is for teaching, and training camp forward is for evaluation. That means the coach believes that the team is ready for the competition of camp and preseason…which is a good sign moving forward.
In the past, the team has also done some team-building activities but this doesn’t appear the case right now as the players will get an early start on their summer break before the heavy lifting at training camp begins in late July.
Belichick at 70 years old, shows little signs of slowing down and during minicamp took some time teaching players while taking reps at both edge rusher and at center.
Quick Hitters For the Patriots and the NFL:
Quinn Nordin: The former Michigan kicker who was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2021 and was a member of the Patriots’ practice squad has been released. Nordin struggled in training camp and preseason last year in an attempt to unseat veteran Nick Folk.
Once the team resigned Folk, who had another outstanding season in 2021 this spring, the handwriting was on the wall for Nordin. While the 2nd-year player has a much stronger leg than the veteran Folk, his accuracy and consistency were far below what the team was looking for. In a corresponding move …
Tristan Vizcaino: The Patriots signed the veteran free agent after he was invited to an extended tryout during minicamp. Vizcaino entered the league in 2018 and had stints with the Chargers, Bengals, Cowboys, Vikings, Bills, and 49ers.
In limited action during his career, he has appeared in seven games and has converted 9-of-10 field goals with a career-long of 47 yards and 12-of-17 extra points. It was reported that the Baltimore Ravens were planning on signing him to their roster prior to their mandatory minicamp next week if he was still a free agent.
He will compete with Nick Folk as a member of the 90-man roster this summer.
Jack Jones: The Patriots’ cornerback, taken in the 4th round of the 2022 draft has signed his first NFL contract, inking a four-year deal at a total value of $4.41 million including a $746,984 signing bonus.
But what was surprising about Jones was that on Day 1 of minicamp this past week, Jones was thrown right into the mix with the top members of the defense against the team’s best WRs. And Jones held his own.
Nelson Agholor beat him a few times, but Jones also broke up a few passes as well. It shows that the team isn’t worried about the rookie’s confidence level, by having him go against smart veteran wide receivers.
Salary Cap Space: The Patriots according to our cap guru Miguel Benzan, @patscap, after the signing of Jack Jones have only $295,637 under the salary cap, and still must sign their top draft picks as well as have enough cash to operate this season. So, they will, IMO, either convert some players’ cash to signing bonuses (Matthew Judon), extend others (Jake Bailey), or trade or release some players with higher cap hits, Bailey, Nelson Agholor, or Isaiah Wynn (more below), and N’Keal Harry.
Romeo Crennel: The Patriots former defensive coordinator announced his retirement last week. Crennel and Bill Belichick go a long way back and before a practice session, Belichick spoke highly about the DC who won three Super Bowls with the team.
“A big congratulations to Romeo (Crennel) on his great career, saw the retirement yesterday and certainly he had a great influence here and many other places where I worked with him. Contributions to the National Football League in so many ways and he mentored so many other young coaches not to mention hundreds and hundreds of players, just really a first-class guy.
“In his two stints here, he achieved a lot of success. Certainly we, and I personally, owe a huge debt of gratitude to Romeo for what he did for me, what he did for our football team, and the success that we had with him here, but also on a personal level – with the Giants.”
Patriots 4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2”, in a bit, please check it out. Derek Havens and I posted a video of our thoughts on minicamp. More on that below.
Later in the week, I was a guest on “Locked On Patriots” with my “Patriots paisan” Mike D’Abate and discussed minicamp as well. During a third podcast earlier in the week on “One Patriots Place” we discussed the roster with Fred Kirsch from Patriots.com and the podcast, “Patriots Unfiltered”.
Russ Francis/Chuck Fairbanks: The former Patriot tight end and head coach both should be in the Patriots team Hall of Fame…this will be on our Sunday posts until it happens.
Mac Jones Looks Primed For a Big Year 2 Leap:
The Patriots need a big jump from Mac Jones in Year 2, and if indications from what transpired at minicamp hold true, then he is indeed primed to make a big leap in 2022.
Granted, it is only June, and there are no pads or contact in minicamp. And in trying to equate workouts in shorts and t-shirts to actual on-field production is a fool’s errand. However, all of the signs are there, and the coaching staff has to be pleased with what they’ve seen this spring. Jones worked on his body, getting leaner by improving his eating and sleeping habits. He worked with QB/MLB pitching guru Tom House to improve his mechanics and arm strength, as well as taking a much more active leadership role this year.
And all of those things were on full display this spring. Bill Belichick clearly said, that this is Mac’s team and he’s doing all of the right things. But on the field? The biggest takeaway is that he’s much more comfortable and accurate at pushing the ball down the field.
His deep ball accuracy was nearly perfect hitting a host of different receivers and providing perfect ball placement on those.
Jakobi Meyers was asked if Jones had taken control of the offense. He was emphatic. “ That’s a capital YES, exclamation mark, exclamation mark,” Meyers said Thursday. “He’s the real deal. We’re all trying to catch up what’s in his mind, his vision.”
One of Jones’ most frequent targets and a big pleasant surprise for the spring had to be WR Tre Nixon. Nixon was on the team’s practice squad a year ago but he took advantage of his opportunity (Kendrick Bourne missed time), and was very productive in an eye-opening way during minicamp.
Displaying excellent speed and hands, Nixon had TD catches of 40, 60, and 70 yards. And much of his production was going against one of the better slot corners in the league in Jonathan Jones. If Nixon can continue his very solid spring workouts into training camp, then he has a good chance of parlaying that into a roster spot.
The coaches worked him into some STs work in the kicking game, which will be the way to earn a spot. He’ll be a player to watch in camp. He has a long, long way to go, but he’s moving in a positive direction.
The offense got an influx of speed this offseason with WR Tyquan Thornton and RB Pierre Strong, it will be interesting to see how they are worked into things.
Defensively, it is hard to judge where the linebackers are at until the pads come on but seeing that Ronnie Perkins and Josh Uche getting a lot of early work in. The front seven work will have to wait until July.
Will Isaiah Wynn Be Dealt Before the Season? It is Entirely Possible:
The Patriots right now are in a deep hole with the salary cap. As we pointed out above, they have less than $300,000, which isn’t enough to sign the remainder of their draft class or to have enough capital to operate during the season.
One option for creating some cap space is to extend or convert some players’ cash as we mentioned above. However, one player to monitor for a trade is tackle Isaiah Wynn. Wynn is in the last year of his rookie contract and is slated to make $10.4 million dollars in 2022. Trading him would alleviate the salary cap issue.
Before the team would consider opting for moving Wynn, first a few questions would need to be answered. Is there a scenario where the team feels that Wynn is in their long-term plans? And if they feel that moving Wynn is a possibility, is there enough depth at the tackle position to offset his loss.
We know the Patriots really like Justin Herron, who right now would be slotted as the swing tackle. And would there be a big dropoff between Wynn’s play and that of Herron? And of course, there is the availability question. Belichick has only said dependability is more important than ability. Part of being dependable is being available. Wynn has made 33 starts in four seasons with the Patriots, half of his time with the team.
Minicamp provided a glimpse that the team was at least considering life without Wynn, but it required reading the tea leaves a bit. When Wynn skipped voluntary OTAs, the coaching staff moved Trent Brown to left tackle. Brown has played both LT and RT with the Patriots. But when Wynn showed up for minicamp, he wasn’t put back into his LT slot but at RT. It may mean nothing or…perhaps they want to see if Herron is ready once training camp starts, to take on a full-time role.
Protecting Mac Jones is and should be priority #1 this year. If Herron can handle the right side as well as Wynn, then the financial angle may very well come into play in terms of a potential trade. The compensation would be fair, but not great due to his injury history, but the cap relief would be huge.
So, who would be the swing tackle? Right now the choices would be Yodny Cajuste, Yasir Durant, Arlington Hambright, and rookie Andrew Steuber. However, if an emergency arises, the team could always move RG Michael Onwenu back out to RT where he started for much of 2020.
If that were to happen, then keep an eye on guard Drew Desjarlais. A former 1st round pick (#4 overall) out of the CFL, Desjarlais was a CFL All-Star and was released by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers to allow him to pursue a dream to play in the NFL.
This is just one of the more intriguing things to monitory once training camp begins late next month.
“I mean a good part of it, certainly not all of it, by any stretch. Fundamentals are fundamentals, so, if you have good fundamentals they transfer to other plays. If you have to go back and reteach fundamentals, then it’s hard to execute plays no matter how many plays you have in or don’t have in. Having a good fundamental base is a big part of installation. We work on the fundamentals to go with the installation, and then hopefully we go out there and can execute those plays and then move the process along. So, I don’t even know what our full installation is going to be. It’ll just depend on how things go and what we’re able to do. There’s no like, set ‘all this is going to go in.’ We’ll see what we need. If we need it – there’s things we know we’re going to need, and then there’s other things that as they come up, if we’re ready for them we’ll do them, if we’re not, we won’t.”
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick on how much of the offense and defense will be installed by the end of minicamp.
“So, how was your week?”
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