Patriots

Giardi: Brissett's development a work in progress

Giardi: Brissett's development a work in progress

FOXBORO -- If you were hoping for Jacoby Brissett to make a strong case at the start of training camp that he, not Jimmy Garoppolo, is the quarterback in waiting, sorry to disappoint. Brissett’s camp has been more uneven than fourth-year man Garoppolo's . . . and as we’ve detailed with number 10, it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing for him, either.

How does Brissett feel he’s performed to this point?

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"I don't do evaluations. You have to ask [coach Bill Belichick] that,” he said following Wednesday’s lengthy walkthrough with the Jaguars. 

Well, we did do that, Jacoby. But unlike his radio appearance on SiriusXM last week, when Belichick called Brissett’s situation both “unique” and “interesting,” this time the coach wasn’t exactly expansive.

"Well, it’s a work in progress,” he said. “We’ll see. We’re a little over a week into training camp -- 10, 11 practices -- so we’ve got a long way to go. We’ll see.”

What we’ve seen so far is a second-year quarterback showing some signs of improvement: Brissett now is willing to try and put the ball into tighter windows, and clearly has a better grasp of the system. However, the former North Carolina State standout still has a long delivery, a penchant for staring down his target and a reluctance to come off that target, a lack of touch and a propensity to deliver many of his throws high, sometimes endangering support staff and fans with his 107 mile-per-hour fastball.  

“Being in the NFL is a challenge,” said Brissett. “Every day, you’re going against the best in the world.”

Brissett did rise up to the challenge last year when thrown into the fire, subbing for the injured Garoppolo midway through the Dolphins game in Week 2, then holding down the fort in Week 3 versus the Texans before being exposed in his final outing of the year against the Bills. His stint on injured reserve following that game certainly “took the wind out of the sails” as Belichick noted on Sirius, but Brissett insists the mental gymnastics he subjected himself to were -- like they are now -- critical to his growth.

“The most important part is the reps I don’t get,” he said. “The times I get to sit down and watch and learn from those guys, so I think [being] able to sit back and watch helped me a lot.”

Brissett believes it was those reps, even when he “didn’t know what I was doing,” that helped him prepare for what life is like now, when there are many days where the young signal caller doesn’t get much work in 11-on-11 situations until sometimes right at the very end of practice.

“It’s just like a game,” he said when I asked him. “It’s like the Dolphins game. I wasn’t playing the whole game then unfortunately the injury happened to Jimmy so you get thrown into the fire so you just gotta be ready to go whenever the time comes.”

He wasn’t all that ready at the end of Tuesday’s joint practice with the Jags, leading to an amusing scenario in which the entire group he was working with had to do pushups. Even Belichick joined in.

“I was impressed he did ‘em,” smiled Brissett. When he was asked if he had an idea of how many pushups Belichick could muster, Brissett did the smartest thing he could do: “I don’t want to say the wrong number to offend him so I’m gonna leave that for him. He can tell you how many.”

Then he was off, with a smile, presumably to get as many mental reps as possible and, hopefully, improve.

Georgia the new Rutgers? Contingent of Bulldogs growing in New England

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AP Photo

Georgia the new Rutgers? Contingent of Bulldogs growing in New England

FOXBORO -- David Andrews was excited. He just had a hard time showing it.

The Patriots center stayed up long enough to see his team pick at No. 23 in the first round of the NFL Draft, long enough to see his Georgia teammate Isaiah Wynn have his name called.

But the Thursday night prime time event isn't for everyone, and so Andrews wasn't fully conscious by the time the Patriots picked a second Bulldog, Sony Michel, at No. 31.

"I was in bed. My wife stayed up and watched it," Andrews said last week. "I was in bed and I saw Isaiah get drafted, and then I passed out. She came busting in th'.;e room about Sony getting drafted, and at that point, I really didn’t care. I was just trying to get to sleep, but . . . No, I was very happy for them. It was awesome to talk to them. They were here the next day. I didn’t really get to see them, but it’s good to see them around, see some familiar faces"

Suddenly, with five Georgia players on the roster -- Andrews, Wynn, Michel, Malcolm Mitchell and undrafted free agent John Atkins -- they now make up one of the largest contingents of players from one school in Bill Belichick's locker room.

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Iowa is right there with Georgia at five players (Aidrian Clayborn, Cole Croston, James Ferentz, Riley McCarron, Matt Tobin). Vanderbilt is next on the list with four (Adam Butler, Andrew Jelks, Jordan Matthews, Ralph Webb), even with Rutgers (Devin and Jason McCourty, Duron Harmon, Kenny Britt). Arkansas follows closely behind with three (Trey Flowers, Dietrich Wise, Cody Hollister).

If you look at the coaches involved in helping certain groups of players develop, the Patriots connections become even a little more clear.

At Iowa, it's Kirk Ferentz, who served as a Belichick assistant in Cleveland back in the 90s. At Vanderbilt, Belichick thinks highly enough of Derek Mason that he gave Mason and the Vandy coaching staff a behind-the-scenes look at spring workouts in New England last year. At Rutgers, Belichick's relationship with former Scarlet Knights coach Greg Schiano has been well-documented.

Then there are the coaches who've bounced around a bit and impacted multiple players on the Patriots roster at different spots.

Bret Bielema, who's been helping the Patriots this offseason (and was spotted with Belichick at The Preakness this weekend), coached all three Arkansas products as well as James White during his time at Wisconsin. Bo Pellini has coached three Patriots (Vincent Valentine and Rex Burkhead at Nebraska, Derek Rivers at Youngstown State).

Then there's that Georgia connection. Kirby Smart coached all three Bulldog rookies as well as the two Alabama products on the Patriots roster (Dont'a Hightower, Cyrus Jones) when Smart was coaching defense for the Crimson Tide. Former Georgia coach and current Miami sideline boss Mark Richt recruited all five Georgia players currently on the Patriots roster, and he coached both Miami rookies now in New England (Braxton Berrios, Trent Harris).

Asked why Belichick and the Patriots front office would be so interested in acquiring so many players from the same school, Andrews replied, "That’s a psychology question. Man, I don’t know . . .  

"You know, no, I don’t think there’s really like one thing. I think those are some great guys. They all work really hard. They’ve been great teammates to me, so that’s something you can always respect, and it’s guys like that you love having in your locker room and playing with.

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No matter how you look at it, the Georgia connection in New England is as strong as ever.

"Georgia the new Rutgers? Oh, I’m going to have to talk to Dev and Du about that and all those guys," Andrews said with a smile. "We might be now. We’ll have to see."

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Johnny Manziel signing with Hamilton of the CFL

Johnny Manziel signing with Hamilton of the CFL

Johnny Manziel won't be in the Patriots' plans at quarterback anytime soon.

The former Browns QB, Heisman winner in 2012 and first-round pick in 2014 announced on Saturday morning that he had decided to sign a contract to play in the CFL in order to "further my football career after a long break."

"I believe this is the best opportunity for me moving forward and I'm eager for what the future holds," Manziel tweeted. 

Manziel also announced that he'll be co-hosting the "Comeback Szn" podcast for Barstool Sports alongside his agent Erik Burkhardt and our buddy, former "Boston Sports Tonight" and "Football Fix" co-host, Kayce Smith.

"It's just a really good fit," Burkhardt said on "Comeback Szn." "Good offense. It's a really good league. It's been around forever, we vetted it well, and at the end of the day, like Johnny said, he wants to play ball."

Manziel, who's been out of football the past two years because of substance abuse and emotional problems, has battled bipolar disorder. He will play for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats under head coach June Jones, who has also coached in the NCAA and NFL ranks. Jones served as offensive coordinator of the Falcons (1991-93) before becoming their head coach (1994-96). He was also quarterbacks coach and interim head coach for the Chargers in 1998 before heading to the college ranks. Jones coached at Hawaii then at SMU, where he was the first person to offer Manziel a college scholarship. 

CFL rookie contracts are for two years, meaning the Tiger-Cats will have his rights through the end of the 2019 CFL season. 

Earlier this year, CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie reiterated the league's stance that they're not in the business of letting players break their contracts to pursue NFL opportunities.

The Patriots took a look at him this spring, but even if they had interest, the possibility of which we discussed on Quick Slants the Podcast last month, any marriage will have to wait. 

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