Hello; here is your weekly Patriot News 07-17 and some notes from the NFL this week. There are only a few days left before the rookies show up for training camp.
It’s always an exciting time when camp rolls around as everyone starts with a clean slate and the 32 teams start the summer with optimism.
N’Keal Harry sold to the Bears, a year too late?
Patriots fans especially reacted with joy when news broke that the team had traded Harry to the Chicago Bears for a 7th round draft pick in 2024. That’s a big drop for a player who was chosen with the final pick (32nd overall) in the 1st round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
There was a lot of blame for why Harry failed in New England, and should be shared equally. Harry certainly didn’t live up to expectations or his draft status. But the coaches (Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels) deserve their share.
The most common complaint was that “Harry doesn’t get any splits”, which was true. However, a look at his college tape would have told you the same thing. Harry was a big wide receiver (6’4) who made 19 contested catches in his final college season. But rather than using him in that role, the coaching staff decided to use him differently.
Was it because of Belichick going against the advice of his scouts, and who wanted anyone else? Or was it McDaniels who tried to use Harry in a different way? Probably a bit of both. Belichick was spending more time with the defense after losing Brian Flores to the Dolphins, and it was up to McDaniels to groom him.
During the first week of training camp, Harry worked with Troy Brown in parallel sessions as well as Tom Brady and McDaniels, as I wrote at the time. But like many WRs in their first year with the team, he took a while to figure out the Patriots’ complex road tree.
He caught two passes for 36 yards against the Lions but suffered an injury that forced him to miss the first eight games of the season. By the time he returned, he was way behind the rest of the WR group. And as we all know, if a WR doesn’t fit into Brady’s small circle of trust, he doesn’t get the ball. And Harry was frozen. He had just 12 catches for 105 yards and 2 touchdowns. And yes, we all remember the TD against the Chiefs that wasn’t.
2020 has been a difficult year:
The 2020 season has been the year of COVID and major change. Brady had gone to Tampa, and Cam Newton was there. and he struggled mightily to try to lead the Patriots offense. Harry’s targets were still in the very short area near the line of scrimmage; although he caught 33 passes, he went to a QB who was struggling to pass the ball to him after being frozen the previous year.
Heading into the 2021 season, Harry could see he no longer fit the Patriots’ plans and they weren’t going to make him a viable part of the offense. So his agent asked for a trade. This should have been the time to move on for both parties.
Instead, the team kept him, although he became something of a WR in name only. They used it primarily as an extra blocker, which it did well. We don’t know if he was complaining behind the scenes, but he embraced his role at least outwardly. He was only targeted 22 times last year and caught just 12 passes for 184 yards (15.3 YPR).
Harry has to share his share of the blame, but the coaches, who normally put players in the best position to succeed, haven’t done that in his case. It was in everyone’s interest to move on and especially for Harry to get a fresh start somewhere else, in a team that badly needs WR’s help.
Will he be able to regain confidence and become a good WR? Time will tell us. But at least with the Bears this year, he should have plenty of opportunities to succeed. It wasn’t happening in Foxboro this year, or the last.
But after the trade, the Patriots’ WR depth remains solid:
Ty Montgomery (also plays RB)
Fast hitters for the Patriots and NFL:
Jason McCourty: The 13-year NFL veteran and twin brother of Patriots captain Devin has announced his retirement. Originally a 6th round draft pick of the Titans, McCourty has carved out a very successful career. He spent eight years with Tennessee, then spent the 2017 season with the Cleveland Browns without a win. But in 2018 he came to New England and won a Super Bowl with the Patriots.
After beating the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game in Kansas City, the twins had a memorable time embracing in the first season they were able to play together in the NFL.
Fans will remember his breaking up a pass from Jared Goff in the end zone to Brandin Cooks, saving a touchdown and the Rams taking the lead. McCourty hovered over from the right side and swung the ball away from Cooks at the last second to save the lead.
“The last 13 seasons have been one hell of a journey,” Jason McCourty said on his Instagram page. “And as I reflect and look back on my career, I have far exceeded any expectations I set for myself in 2009 – and that’s what I’m most proud of when I look back on my career.”
MacJones: The Patriots’ starting QB said he’s made progress with his nutrition this offseason. However, Jones was handing out ice cream Friday at Hood Creamery in Charlestown, Mass. And no…it wasn’t the avocado ice cream that Tom Brady liked (and it wasn’t bad, because the Patriots gave it away a year later). Brady’s birthday).
But Jones’ flavor was called “The Mac Attack” and was a mix of vanilla ice cream and blue cookie dough pieces.
Scott Pioli: Speaking of Mac Jones… The former Patriots front office executive was on the NFL Network and was asked what Jones needed to do to take that big Year 2 leap.
“I think Mac Jones and the Patriots coaching staff would be the first to tell you there’s a lot of next steps to take,” Pioli said. “I mean, he had a really, really good rookie year, but that means nothing in New England when you’re quarterbacking.”
“For me, I think one of the next steps he needs to take is who is his right-hand man going to be?” said Pioli. “He went out and saw players. He spent time with them. What he needs to do is cultivate those relationships, deepen them so to speak, and figure out who his most reliable teammates will be.
“Who’s the guy he can rely on?” Pioli added. “Let’s remember that chemistry in football is absolutely key. Tom Brady always had a go-to guy, and those guys were generally versatile, smart and reliable. Mac needs to find out who those guys are, or who that guy is singular in order to take things to the next level for him at quarterback.
My first bet on who it will be? Kendrick Bourne.
Podcast Patriots 4th and 2: If you haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com Podcast, “Patriots 4th and 2”, in a moment, please watch it. Russ and Derek smashed the defense on Friday, be sure to check it out.
Russ Francis/Chuck Fairbanks: The former Patriots tight end and head coach should both be in the Patriots Hall of Fame, and the fact that Francis specifically isn’t is an absolute travesty. The Raiders’ Francis and Dave Casper changed the game with the way teams used the tight end position…it’ll be on our Sunday posts until it happens.
BIG summer for the interior defensive line:
There was a surprise among fans and media when the Patriots didn’t select a linebacker in the draft, but arguably an even bigger surprise was the fact that the Patriots didn’t select a lineman. defensive before the 6th round of the draft this spring.
Davon Godchaux was signed to be the big two-hole tackle. And it was a position he seemed to struggle in the 2021 season. Godchaux is wearing a cap of $10.25 million this year, and the team needs him to improve.
With a lighter linebacker team, their defensive philosophy can sometimes change a bit (we know defense will always be multifaceted). This could signal that they are a bit more aggressive and allow their inside linemen to break in.
Another player who needs to step up is Lawrence Guy, who wasn’t his usual solid, consistent self in 2021. He’s at that age where many great defensive linemen start to wear down. He will be one to watch, as will veterans Henry Anderson, Byron Cowart and Carl Davis. Deatrich Wise is a solid inside pass thrower but has improved against the run. Daniel Ekuale is suspended for the first two games of the season. Bill Murray, who has been on the practice squad for two years, is in for a game-changing summer.
One player who should have a great year is Christian Barmore. I was a guest on the SI Locked-On Patriots podcast with Mike D’Abate, and we both agree that Barmore is going to be the “X-Factor” of defense this season. With a year in the system, he should be able to dominate in 2022.
I’m intrigued to see what Sam Roberts (D-2, Defensive Player of the Year) and Alabama’s UDFA LaBryan Ray can bring to the table. Roberts dominated against lesser competition and Ryan was highly drafted into Nick Saban’s program. But he could never stay healthy.
There are plenty of veterans in place, but a dose of youth wouldn’t hurt if they showed they could play. But after ranking 25th in yards per carry in 2021, there’s still plenty of room for improvement this year.
“It depends on the level of experience of the person. Players who are experienced, you can evaluate them. Players who are inexperienced, you watch their development and see how it goes. We’ve got quite a few guys there, they’re at different stages of those categories. We will assess them on a case-by-case basis. We have a few punters, so we have a lot of balls there, we kick them, so as many as some guys catch them.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick what he’s looking for in punt returner job
“So how was your week?”
Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]
Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on Stitcher and Streamyard as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.
Bill Belichick Christian Barmore Daniel Ekuale Devin McCourty Lawrence Guy Mac Jones New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots defensive line