By Guest Author Jay Flannelly // @jflannez19
With an intro by Sonja Greenfield // @Mom23RN
The NFL Champions. A Dynasty. We all know how their season ended, but I wondered how their offseason was going.
To do that, I asked my good friend, fellow Wolverine Fan, and co-founder of Beav’s World, Jay Flannelly, about what he liked and what he didn’t like about the Patriots offseason.
He was even gracious enough to type up his thoughts into article format.
The New England Patriots won their Sixth Super Bowl since 2001 and entered the offseason with some major free agents on both sides of the ball while having the most picks in the NFL draft. The front office and coaching staff added some solid vets and rookies with upside at key spots. Let’s look at the good and bad as the Pats start training camp this week.
End Game: The Patriots lost an elite end on both sides of the ball with the free-agent defection of DL Trey Flowers and retirement of Tight End Rob Gronkowski. The team has done a better job addressing the Flowers defection with both a trade (Versatile DL Michael Bennett) and draft pick (Rush End Chase Winovich).
Internal options Deatrich Wise Jr, John Simon, and Derek Rivers also will get work in the defensive front. The teams strong secondary and suddenly deep linebacker corps could allow the New England defense to blitz more.
Rob Gronkowski is a planet player. This is a scouting-coaching term- only so many like him walk the Earth. His combination of size, speed and strength made him an elite and All Pro three-down player. The timing of his retirement post free agency hurt the clubs ability to target a top flight option but again, Russ Francis was not on the market.(GOOGLE HIM)
The team did not select a Tight End in the draft but did add college free agent Andrew Beck (Texas) and ex-Pat Ben Watson and street free agent Matt LaCosse. Look for a lot of mix and matching here and maybe a possible trade upgrade in season. Arguably the top position to watch on the roster.
Receiver Reset: The Patriots lost some pass catchers after 2018 and added a high draft pick and several other veterans. The selection of N’Keal Harry in the 1st round gives Tom Brady a big outside target who can make plays on 50/50 balls while being physical.
Maurice Harris has been a star of mini camps, and his versatility makes him a dangerous weapon for Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels. Dontrelle Inman is a pro and reliable. Demaryius Thomas is a good investment who has done it before but is coming off a serious Achilles injury.
Second year man Braxton Berrios is a name to remember and the best name on the roster Gunner Olszewski is a college free agent which makes Coach Belichick pay attention. The Pats have a LONG history of success with CFAs.
Fortified Front: New England QUIETLY (Notice a trend?) have reloaded and rebuilt the defensive front 7 with some subtle moves in the draft and free agency. The consistent aspect of each move is this: the team likes versatile defenders who can play in “30” (3-4 defense) and “40” (4-3) fronts. Simply put they want to the opposing offense to prepare for two defensive schemes.
Bennett can play end or tackle and rush the passer. Winovich can play end or outside linebacker. At Michigan, he tried more positions than a gymnast and was spotted selling PopCorn at Halftime. He is a combination of Mike Vrabel and Tedy Bruschi. His position is FOOTBALL player. The Pats defensive coaches will figure it out, they famously did with Bru.
In the interior, bringing back massive Danny Shelton (very strong postseason) gives them size while the Pats got a steal from the Jets in nose man Mike Pennel. David Parry is a veteran body who can give you reps and effort. Byron Cowart is a hybrid type who was a massive high school recruit who signed with Auburn and ended up at Maryland. He has a lot of Bennett in him and could be a gem if he responds to coaching and the Pats environment.
The Early Pats Super Bowl teams (2001-2004) had deep and talented linebacker corps. Bruschi. McGinest. Vrabel. Phifer. Johnson. Colvin. The team won the Super Bowl behind a great defensive effort led by linebackers Donta Hightower and Kyle Van Noy, the group added space and pace stud Jamie Collins (ex-Patriot) to the group. Elandon Roberts is a thumper in the Ted Johnson mode inside and second yr man Ja’Whaun Bentley showed a lot in his rookie season until a season ending injury shut him down. This group is deep and scary good.
Left is Right: Not sure if anyone has noticed this but Tom Brady is good. Protecting him would be a good idea. The line in 2018 was dominant throughout the postseason but we lost our starting left tackle for the second straight year to free agency. The team is relying on the brilliant coaching of Dante Scarnecchia (The top OL coach in the NFL) and second year man (and 2018 1st round pick) Isaiah Wynn’s recovery from a torn Achilles to protect the Franchise.
He will be 42 when the season starts. Keeping big,fast guys off him is a good idea. I worry about this for a living but after I spent six months in 2018 yelling and swearing about losing Nate Solder then watched Trent Brown drop blockers like bowling pins, I am calm(er).
Michel Medical: When your QB is on the wrong side of 40, running the ball is a good thing and a necessity. The team had a nice three back rotation led by rookie runner Sony Michel, receiving back James White and dual-threat Rex Burkhead. Michel has knee issues going back to his days at Georgia and he missed most of the offseason, the team spent a third round pick on Alabama runner Damien Harris.
I do not think this will be a big problem but it is something to watch. The team transformed into a strong power running team in the second half of 2018 and any health issues with Michel could alter that strategy.
Caserio Chaos: Nick Caserio is one of Bill Belichick’s longest-tenured staff members, he joined the team in 2001 and has served in numerous capacities. His current role is Director of Player Personnel. Nick has been with the team for all six Super Bowl wins and is among BB’s most trusted eyes and ears. He was also McDaniel’s college QB.
Caserio’s contract expires after the draft in 2020 and the Houston Texans tried to hire him away this offseason. The relationships between the Pats-Texans front office as well as Belichick and former Pats offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien made this very public and at times UGLY. How this unfolds and shows up when the teams face off in December should be —hmmm- interesting.
Talk Patriots with Jay on Twitter // @jflannez19
Talk all things NFL related with Sonja on Twitter // @Mom23RN