Patriots

Any regrets on offensive construction? Bill Belichick says Patriots built 'very competitively'

Any regrets on offensive construction? Bill Belichick says Patriots built 'very competitively'

FOXBORO -- Thirteen points. It was enough to win the Patriots a Super Bowl 11 months ago. It got them bounced in the Wild Card round on Saturday night.

Was there enough done to address his offense between Lombardi No. 6 and the start of the 2019 season, Bill Belichick was asked on Sunday morning?

"Um, yeah, well, again, the team was constructed very competitively," Belichick said. "Think that was reflected in our overall play during the course of the year. Again, we lost four games (that) basically came down to the last possession. And the Baltimore game, which, that was a pretty competitive game, too.

"I think there's areas in every phase of the game -- offense, defense, special teams, running game, passing game, pass-rush, pass-protection, wherever you want to go, the coaching, strategy, game-planning, decision-making, all of us -- that had a couple things been a little different, maybe the outcome would've been a little different."

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Here's where the Patriots offense finished this season, according to a variety of different rankings...

* They were 7th in points scored per game (26.3), though that included points scored on defense and special teams.

* They were 15th in yards per game (354.0).

* They were 23rd in yards per pass attempt (6.7).

* They were 17th in quarterback rating (88.2).

* They were 24th in completion percentage (61.0).

* They were 25th in yards per rush attempt (3.8).

* They were 17th in third-down conversion percentage (38.3). 

* They were 26th in red-zone conversion percentage (49.2). 

* They ranked as the 11th-best offense, according to Football Outsiders' DVOA.

* They ranked as the 15th-best offense, according to Football Outsiders' weighted DVOA, which is adjusted so that early-season games are less a factor.

* They ranked as the 17th-best offense in football, according to Pro Football Focus grades.

It did not play like a championship-caliber offense, clearly. And while Belichick indicated he was relatively satisfied with how the team was built, he certainly tried to bolster his offense's overall talent level -- particularly at the receiver position.

He drafted N'Keal Harry in the first round. He welcomed Josh Gordon back. He signed Antonio Brown. He traded a second-round pick for Mohamed Sanu. 

The Patriots never had a consistent option at tight end -- perhaps the biggest second-guess when it came to how the offense was built -- and they missed out on receivers Adam Humphries and Cole Beasley and tight end Jared Cook in free agency. But Belichick, via different avenues, tried to add talented pieces to the passing game. They never panned out.

Now it's back to the drawing board for the head coach and those left on his staff. 

Not only do questions remain at receiver and tight end, but at quarterback as well. Before diving headlong into those decisions, though, Belichick indicated that he was satisfied with how the offense was constructed -- "very competitively," he described it -- while acknowledging there's always room for improvement.

"I think we all had a part in the wins," he said. "We all had a part shared in the losses. We gotta try to do better in all those areas -- each of us that are part of the team going forward. Each of us did that over the course of the year. I wouldn't expect that to be any different."

Curran: The offseason of uncertainty begins

Tom Brady leaves motivational comment on N'Keal Harry's Instagram

Tom Brady leaves motivational comment on N'Keal Harry's Instagram

Tom Brady's future with the New England Patriots is currently up in the air. But at least he's still taking some time to give his Patriots teammates some love on social media.

N'Keal Harry dropped a post on Instagram Friday night that had a picture of him in workout gear at a football practice facility. And the caption with the photo simply read "Cookin' Up".

Here's a look at the post, per Harry's official Instagram account. 

View this post on Instagram

Cookin’ Up👨🏾‍🍳🔥

A post shared by N'Keal Harry (@nkealharry) on

That post should be encouraging enough for Patriots fans, as Harry had some nice moments as a rookie and if he continues to put in work, the first-round pick should improve heading into his second season.

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But Brady weighing in on Harry's post with a motivational comment? That could be even better news for Patriots fans.

Brady's comment read: "Going to be a great year for you" and he tagged Harry's handle in it. Here's a screenshot of the comment, per NESN's Zack Cox. 

That's certainly a nice gesture and it seems Brady is continuing to support his (perhaps soon-to-be-former) teammates despite his uncertain future.

However, skeptics of Brady's potential return will point out that the QB said only "it's going to be a great year for you" when talking about Harry's upcoming season. He could've said us had he known that he was returning to the team, but it's also highly unlikely that he was thinking about that minor difference when posting the comment.

Either way, Brady's future with the Patriots is murky and it remains to be seen what will happen come the official start of free agency March 18. For the time being, at least he's staying in touch with his teammates on social media.

Xavier McKinney on NFL Combine meeting with Patriots: 'It was a little tough, a little awkward'

Xavier McKinney on NFL Combine meeting with Patriots: 'It was a little tough, a little awkward'

The New England Patriots have been the subject of many NFL Combine meeting stories over the years. And 2020 has been no different.

Notably, the team told one tight end prospect that he had a "loser's mentality" at one point in their interview. They also asked one of the quarterback prospects how he would feel to replace Tom Brady. And an LSU tight end said that he was "kinda scared" in his meeting with the team.

Some haven't minded the meetings. And one Clemson Tiger actually "felt comfortable" talking to the Patriots.

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Still, the same can't be said of former Alabama safety Xavier McKinney. 

McKinney had a formal meeting with the Patriots at the combine and he called his interview with New England "tough" and "awkward".

"That was one of the harder meetings that I had. It was a little tough, a little awkward," McKinney said, per Nora Princiotti of The Boston Globe. "But Vinnie Sunseri was in there so it just made me a little more comfortable just knowing that I’ve been in the room with him plenty of other times. It was a good meeting though."

Sunseri joined the Patriots coaching staff this offseason but the former Alabama safety had previously served as a graduate assistant with Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban before. So, he had a connection with McKinney, which eased his nerves a bit.

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But McKinney said he just felt "uncertain" about the meeting coming out of it.

"Just towards the end, I wasn’t sure if they enjoyed the meeting or if I did well," McKinney said. "You kind of walk out of these meetings kind of uncertain sometimes. But I think that’s just how it goes. You just try to do the best you can."

McKinney has a good point and players often are unsure about what teams think of them. That's by design. Some teams really don't like to tip their hand in the lead-up to the draft, and the Patriots are certainly among those that keep their intentions close to the vest. 

So, it's well within the realm of possibility that the team liked McKinney. They just may not want him to realize that right away.

McKinney had 95 tackles, three sacks, and three interceptions in his final season at Alabama. He's expected to be one of the first safeties off the board and our own Phil Perry mocked him to the Patriots in his first NFL mock draft of the offseason in January.