Keyshawn doubles down on Patriots WRs: 'It's Tom Brady and the system'

Keyshawn doubles down on Patriots WRs: 'It's Tom Brady and the system'

HOUSTON -- Radio Row is a funny place. One minute you're walking to lunch, or headed to type up a story, and the next you bump into Keyshawn Johnson, who tells you that you could probably catch 80 balls in the Patriots offense.


That's what happened to me on Wednesday. Spotting the 6-foot-4 former No. 1 overall pick at the George R. Brown convention center, I figured it'd be a good idea to get some clarification from Johnson on something he told 92.9 “The Fan” in Atlanta last week.

“When you see guys that fail and play for other teams at the receiver position, they can go to New England and excel and everybody goes, 'Oh my God, Oh my God, these receivers are top of the game.' Well, they couldn’t excel with other teams because of the system," Johnson said at the time. "If they were on other teams right now, they probably wouldn’t be on the 53-man roster."

Johnson went on: “It is the system and it is Tom Brady. As long as they are precise and are doing everything they are supposed to do, which is the reason they are there for the Patriots, because they don’t make the mistakes, that is why they excel. You get a high caliber wide receiver with the Patriots, typically they probably aren’t going to do what they are supposed to do. They are going to freelance a little bit because they have that luxury to do that because of their ability.”

When I approached Johnson and told him his comments got some play in the New England area, he acknowledged that he'd heard from Patriots fans who were displeased with his assessment of guys like Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell. 

Still, he was open to taking a few questions. It was a topic he obviously felt passionately about, and that came through in our conversation. Here was the back-and-forth, edited for clarity.

Do you really feel like these Patriots receivers probably wouldn't make 53-man rosters on other teams?

KJ: "That's not what I said. I said it would be very hard for them to make a 53-man roster given their skill set. They are in a system They're in a system that works for their skill set, who they are. There's nothing wrong with that. I don't understand. What do they want me to say? They're just as good as Julio Jones? Like, c'mon. Stop."

But the implication is that Tom Brady is the reason these guys . . . 

KJ: "It is! It is Tom Brady! Stop! Whatever. You guys are crazy. It's Josh McDaniels, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. You guys are fools if you think it's anything different."

So Julian Edelman wouldn't have success on another roster?

KJ: "Julian Edelman would probably be the one guy out of all those guys that would have the success. There's no question about that. And he's only been in New England's system. He hasn't been in other places to judge that . . . Hogan, man? Stop. Amendola? Stop. What I'm saying is, they're good receivers. But don't try to make them out into . . . One time they kept saying, 'Oh, Wes Welker's on his way to a Hall of Fame career.' Man, stop it. Ya'll need to stop that." 

Should that be taken as a derogatory comment, that these guys owe their success to the system?

KJ: "It's not a derogatory thing. That's what ya'll made it out to be. The media. I just said, if they were in another system, it'd be different. Because when they've been in other systems, it's been different. It's not something that, all of a sudden, they became really great wide receivers. Wes Welker was OK. He was a guy. He was one of two guys. He wasn't anything to brag on. And he was so good that the Patriots said goodbye."

Hogan has made a lot of big plays for this offense, though. He's athletic. He's been able to run through coverages. 

KJ: "Every time Chris Hogan catches a ball, it's a play-action pass. The defense is sneaking up looking to play the run and he slips behind them. He's not just flat-out beating guys. Julian Edelman sometimes flat-out beats guys. No matter how fast [Hogan] is, his route-running and stuff like that is not . . . Come on, man. Chris Hogan got drafted where he got drafted for a reason. For a reason."

He wasn't drafted. But he was primarily a college lacrosse player and then only played in college for a year.

KJ: "There you go. That was [undrafted] for a reason though. They still saw him and worked him out."

He led the league in yards per catch this year, though. Does he get credit for that? He had better numbers than Julio Jones in that regard. 

KJ: "Ask the New England Patriots if they'd rather have Julio Jones or Chris Hogan." 

So if it's all Brady and the system, could I catch 80 balls in this offense right now? 

KJ: "I could probably turn you into a guy that would catch 80 balls. I'm serious."

Could you catch 80 balls in this offense right now?

KJ: "I wish I could. But it is Tom Brady and the system. Every receiver that plays those slot spots for them turn out to do well. They all do."

Ex-Patriot Ricky Jean-Francois signing with Lions

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Ex-Patriot Ricky Jean-Francois signing with Lions

Former Patriots defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois is signing with the Lions, according to Jordan Schultz of Yahoo Sports.

The 31-year-old had six tackles in six games for the Patriots in 2017. He'll reunite with ex-Patriots defensive coordinator and now Lions head coach Matt Patricia in Detroit.


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.