Belichick credits Schuplinski's work behind the scenes in preparing Brissett

Belichick credits Schuplinski's work behind the scenes in preparing Brissett

FOXBORO -- When Bill Belichick took the podium following Thursday night's 27-0 drubbing of the Texans, he thanked the work put in by his coaching staff during a short week of preparation. He rattled off all the usual suspects: offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, special teams coach Joe Judge, assistant quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski...

Wait, who? 

Schuplinski is in his first year as assistant quarterbacks coach after three years as a Patriots coaching assistant. In that time, he's aided McDaniels -- who counts quarterbacks coach among his titles -- and has been used primarily as the team's young quarterback whisperer. Schuplinski was responsible for helping Jimmy Garoppolo adjust to the Patriots system over the course of his first two years as a pro, and this year Jacoby Brissett has been his primary pupil. 

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During training camp practices this summer, Schuplinski would often pull Brissett aside for an entire practice period or longer, and the two would stand in the middle of the field to talk. They discussed situations and tried to get Brissett to visualize things. At times, they'd welcome in a few of Brissett's teammates to help him grasp a particular concept, but these were more teaching sessions than periods focused on physical execution. 

Schuplinski played his college football at John Carroll University, where he was teammates with McDaniels, Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio and director of pro personnel Dave Ziegler, and he understands what's expected of him when it comes to providing guidance for the team's inexperienced signal-callers: Help them keep up.

After crediting Schuplinski's work with Brissett on Thursday night in the immediate aftermath of the rookie's first start, Belichick went into a little more detail on Schuplinski's job during a conference call Friday. 

"Well we have a number of coaches on our staff, and as you know, the staffs are a little bigger now than what they used to be," Belichick said. "I'm personnally not a tremendous fan of big staffs, but I think the way the league is now, with a lot of the limitations that we have from a coaching standpoint, that in order to develop younger players, you have to have people to work with those players and give them extra attention or extra explanations or examples or whatever it happens to be to help them improve and grow."

That group includes coaching assistants like Cole Popovich, Mike Pellegrino and Nick Caley. New England's safeties coach Steve Belichick, who was a coaching assistant last season, was also lumped into that collection as someone who has mentored developmental players on the Patriots roster in the past.

But Schuplinski's job over the last few years has been to serve as a tutor for the up-and-comers at the most important position on the team. In 2014 and 2015, when Tom Brady was working with McDaniels or conducting a side session with some of his favorite receivers, it was Schuplinski who sidled up next to Garoppolo for some extra work. This year, it's been Schuplinski and Brissett. 

"There are times where guys work with certain groups of players while other coaches work with other groups of players, and the priorities and the levels that the players are at is just different," Belichick explained. "We try to use our time as efficiently as we can, and that sometimes means dividing the groups of players so that they can be most productive. You see us do that at practice as well. Two groups practicing at the same time, one group's working on one thing. Another group is working on another thing. Sometimes I feel like that's the best way to get things done."

After Thursday's win, Schuplinski earned some recognition not only from Belichick during his press conference, but from the entire team during the locker room celebration. Brissett was given the game ball -- a ball he gave to Belichick after his first-quarter touchdown run -- and he then shared a moment with the little-known coach who's helped him prepare since he arrived to the team in May. 

"Jerry's spent a lot of time with Jacoby," Belichick said. "Josh obviously spends a lot of time with all the quarterbacks, but again there's times where Tom or Jimmy was going to be the starting quarterback, sometimes the second quarterback -- whether that was Jimmy a couple of years ago or last year, or Jacoby this year -- is on a little bit different scale in terms of their preparation."

Belichick may like to keep a small circle of coaches around him, but he knows having good teachers behind the scenes is critical, and he showed his appreciation for one of them after Brissett's strong showing Thursday night.

What Bill Belichick's pro day tour tells us about Patriots draft strategy

What Bill Belichick's pro day tour tells us about Patriots draft strategy

It’s one of the rites of spring. This is the time of year NFL fans across America overemphasize the importance of their team’s coach or general manager popping up at a particular program’s pro day. You can set your watch to it. 

Coach X showed up at University Y so you KNOW he wants Player Z!

The pro day circuit is just one aspect of the pre-draft preparation process for NFL clubs, though. The information gleaned from stops on college campuses through March and early April is, as Bill Belichick might say, just part of the evaluation mosaic. 

The tape matters. The combine matters. Private workouts matter. Official visits matter. Claiming a meeting or an interview between a player and a club at any one of these spots will dictate a draft-day match is foolhardy. 

Still . . . it's interesting to track teams’ whereabouts in order to see if any trends develop.

Here we'll lay out where the two primary players in the Patriots front office, Belichick and Nick Caserio, have been spotted over the last couple weeks since pro days kicked off. Their itinerary may be nothing but a sliver of a view into where the team's interests lay, but we’ll take that sliver with the understanding that it is what it is.


Belichick made his seemingly annual trip to the University of Alabama to catch up with old friend Nick Saban and see some of the college game's top prospects. The Crimson Tide could have more than a dozen players drafted, and most of their top prospects reside on the defensive side of the ball. Receiver Calvin Ridley, defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick and defensive tackle Da'Ron Payne shoild be long gone by the time the Patriots pick at No. 31, but there are plenty of other talented defenders they could have a shot at. Linebacker Rashaan Evans (6-foot-3, 234) would be an interesting fit for a defense that could use an addition to its second level. Defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (6-4, 297) is intriguing because of his versatility as a base end who could rush from the inside in sub situations. Safety Ronnie Harrison (6-3, 214) also seems like a Patriots type. Even punter JK Scott could be on their radar. 


Caserio headed to Wisconsin's pro day, where linebacker Jack Cichy posted a very strong short-shuttle (4.28 seconds) and three-cone times (7.10). He's an off-the-ball type who measured in at 6-foot-2, 234 pounds and is projected by to go on Day 3. The Badgers don't have quite as many pro prospects as Alabama, but they have seven or eight who could hear their names called on draft weekend. Corner Nick Nelson (5-11, 208) and edge defender Leon Jacobs (6-3, 230) were two of Wisconsin's best players, and would’ve been worth a look from the Patriots director of player personnel. 


Belichick kept a close eye on the defensive linemen participating in NC State's pro day Monday. Bradley Chubb is expected to be the first defensive player taken in the draft so the Patriots won't have a shot at him (which Belichick admitted to Chubb following the workout), but defensive tackle BJ Hill (6-4, 315) may have been of interest. He's thought of as a mid-rounder after a very strong showing at the Senior Bowl and a solid combine. Kentavius Street (6-2, 280) is really powerful as a defensive end and could be had toward the end of the draft. Belichick also reportedly spent some time watching backs Nyheim Hines (5-8, 197) and Jaylen Samuels (5-11, 233) run routes. 

Caserio, meanwhile, kept a close eye on the workout put together by Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside (6-2, 201). Our Mike Giardi put together a piece on Woodside, who tested well at the combine and is considered to have a good football IQ, earlier this offseason. Read it. Caserio was joined at Toledo by Patriots scout Patrick Stewart, who was also present for Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta's pro day.


Belichick went from NC State to South Carolina where he reportedly met with tight end Hayden Hurst for the second time. Hurst (6-4, 250), a walk-on who played two years of minor-league baseball, may be the first tight end taken in this year's draft. Linebacker Skai Moore (6-2, 221) was extremely productive for the Gamecocks, leading the team in tackles all four years of his career, which Belichick clearly appreciated. Moore told reporters after his pro day work out that he met with Belichick for an hour and that Belichick told him he's a great player. Belichick and Moore also met at the combine, Moore said.

So what can we make of Belichick and Caserio's stops thus far? We’re careful not to make too much of these stops visits, but here are some quick-hitting thoughts . . .

* They appear to want more information on the draft's second (or third) tier of quarterbacks. It should come as no surprise that the Patriots won't be in the running to select passers like USC's Sam Darnold, UCLA's Josh Rosen or Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield. But the group that includes Woodside, Lauletta and others -- perhaps Washington State's Luke Falk, whose pro day will be at Utah State on Mar. 28, Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph, and Western Kentucky's Mike White -- seems to be of interest.

* Are the Patriots looking for their next playmaker at tight end? Even with Rob Gronkowski on the roster (assuming he returns in 2018) the Patriots could use another pass-catcher at this spot. Their interest in Hurst is intriguing. If they pop up at South Dakota State's pro day on Mar. 30 -- home of Dallas Goedert -- then that might be an indication they are considering a running mate and heir apparent for Gronkowski. 

* Outside of offensive tackle, off-the-ball linebacker might be the biggest need the Patriots have not addressed via trade or free agency this offseason. It would come as little surprise if they opted for a rookie (or two) who play that position in this year's draft. Evans is among the draft's most talented at that spot, but there are some questions around the league as to whether or not he'd be the traffic cop that, for instance, Jerod Mayo and Dont'a Hightower have been for the Patriots. Getting a closer look at Cichy and Moore would also seem to indicate that New England is taking a close look at a newer (smaller) breed at that spot. Belichick has long liked bigger linebackers, but as the speed of the game picks up perhaps he’ll be more open to going small(ish) here. The Patriots were represented at Viriginia Tech's pro day on Mar. 14 (home of top linebacker prospect Tremaine Edmunds) and it'll be interesting to see if they show up at Boise State (home of Leighton Vander Esch) on April 3. Belichick is reportedly headed to Georgia's pro day on Wednesday, where he'll have a chance to see athletic off-the-ball 'backer Roquan Smith and athletic edge player Lorenzo Carter. Either would immediately provide the Patriots front-seven with a shot of athleticism. 

* That Belichick has seen a boatload of talented defensive linemen at Alabama and NC State isn't a shocker. While they may not have a glaring need up front for 2018 — especially after trading for Danny Shelton and signing Adrian Clayborn — both Shelton and Malcom Brown could be elsewhere in 2019 if the Patriots don't pick up their fifth-year options. Trey Flowers is also headed into a contract year. 


Quick Slants the Podcast: Ranking the Patriots additions, are the Patriots better defensively, but worse offensively?

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Quick Slants the Podcast: Ranking the Patriots additions, are the Patriots better defensively, but worse offensively?

Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry go over the moves the Patriots have made this offseason and rank their favorite moves and what to expect from those players.

(1:00) Ranking the Patriots acquisitions so far.

(5:30) Will Danny Shelton or Jason McCourty have a bigger impact n the Patriots defense?

(13:00) What can Patriots fans realistically expect from Cordarrelle Patterson?

(16:00) Are the Patriots a better team now than they were at the end of the Super Bowl?

(17:00) What is the next position in need for the Patriots?

(23:00) How concerning is the tension level between Belichick/Brady/Gronkowski, when should Patriots fans start to panic?