Patriots

Bean: Is Trent Brown trade the latest coup for the Patriots?

Bean: Is Trent Brown trade the latest coup for the Patriots?

The best news to come out of Patriots training camp is the emergence of Trent Brown as a very good solution at left tackle after the loss of Nate Solder to free agency.

You've heard Brown, a trade acquisition over the offseason for minimal draft capital, go from being described as looking better than expected to looking like an actual player. On Thursday's "Felger and Mazz," Greg Bedard repeatedly said Brown has been "awesome" and looks like a "franchise left tackle." Mike Giardi said he's "dominating" in camp. 

That was easy. 

This isn't what's supposed to happen. When you lose your starting left tackle of several years to free agency, then don't get a bonafide experienced left tackle to replace him, you're supposed to be a mess on the offensive line. 

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But instead, it seems the Patriots will be OK, or even better than that. Brown is a 6-foot-8, 355-pound planet and is only 25 years old. Moving down a round and a half in the late third to get this guy could go down as a coup and a half. 

It's not like the Patriots placed all their eggs in Brown's basket. They invested a first-round pick on a tackle (Isaiah Wynn), but the idea of him sliding in to replace Solder on the left side seemed risky. The Brown trade was seemingly part of the plan. Now it might be the whole plan. 

If Brown becomes what observers think he might, it will be the latest case of the Patriots not experiencing certain problems the way other teams do. Other teams don't have Dante Scarnecchia as their offensive line coach (they have the 31 offensive line coaches, none of whom we can name) to turn someone else into The Guy when The Guy leaves. 

When you look at the Patriots during the Brady era, they've gone from years of certainty with Matt Light to years of certainty with Nate Solder. It's easy to argue that the most questions anyone has had about the Pats' offensive line were 2014 and 2015, which were the two years that Scarnecchia spent retiring before returning. The Pats still won a Super Bowl in one of those years. 

It's not like other problems don't persist. The wide receiver situation is dire, even if we're overstating how dire it is. If Kenny Britt is healthy by the start of the season and Eric Decker even has a little left in the tank, Tom Brady should be able to duct-tape something together for a month until he has Julian Edelman back. 

But offensive line was supposed to be just as big a question. So far, it isn't. Trent Brown could be another name in the long list of players -- Mike Vrabel, Randy Moss, etc. -- for whom the Patriots gave up little and from whom they got a lot. 

Of course, the Patriots make plenty of bad trades. Jimmy Garoppolo for a second-round pick looks like a bigger ripoff than perhaps any steal the Patriots have executed. 

But you take the bad with the good, and it's often good for the Patriots. Other teams can't bank on turning someone else's so-so player into a potential stud. The Patriots can, as if they needed any more advantages over the rest of the league the last two decades. 

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NFL opt-outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL opt-outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL training camps officially began Tuesday, but there were some notable absences.

Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif became the first NFL player to opt out of the 2020 season last Friday, citing health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since then, multiple players have followed suit, continuing a trend across all major North American professional sports of players declining to participate in their seasons as COVID-19 persists in the United States.

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The Patriots especially have felt the impact of this trend: Six New England players -- including star linebacker Dont'a Hightower -- already have opted out, the most of any NFL team.

Below is a running list of the players who have opted out of the 2020 NFL season, according to reports or team/player confirmations. The list is sorted alphabetically after the Patriots, with the date of the players' opt-outs in parentheses.

New England Patriots

RB Brandon Bolden (July 28)
OT Marcus Cannon (July 28)
S Patrick Chung (July 28)
LB Dont'a Hightower (July 28)
WR Marqise Lee (August 1)
OG Najee Toran (July 27)
FB Danny Vitale (July 27)
TE Matt LaCosse (August 2)

Arizona Cardinals

OT Marcus Gilbert (August 4)

Baltimore Ravens

OT Andre Smith (July 28)
WR/KR De'Anthony Thomas (July 27)

Buffalo Bills

CB E.J. Gaines (August 2)
DT Star Lotulelei (July 28)

Carolina Panthers

LB Jordan Mack (July 28)
LB Christian Miller (August 3)

Chicago Bears

DT Eddie Goldman (July 28)
S Jordan Lucas (August 3)

Cincinnati Bengals

OT Isaiah Prince (July 31)
DT Josh Tupou (July 31)

Cleveland Browns

DT Andrew Billings (August 4)
OL Drake Dorbeck (July 29)
OL Drew Forbes (July 29)
OL Colby Gossett (August 4)

Dallas Cowboys

CB Maurice Canady (July 27)
WR Stephen Guidry (July 28)
FB Jamize Olawale (August 2)

Denver Broncos

OT JaWuan James (August 3)
DT Kyle Peko (July 28)

Detroit Lions

DT John Atkins (July 29)
WR Geronimo Allison (August 2)

Green Bay Packers

WR Devin Funchess (July 28)

Houston Texans

DT Eddie Vanderdoes (July 28)

Indianapolis Colts

DB Rolan Milligan (August 5) 
LB Skai Moore (August 4)
DB Marvell Tell (August 5)

Jacksonville Jaguars

EDGE Larentee McCray (August 1)
DL Al Woods (July 31)

Kansas City Chiefs

OG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (July 24)
RB Damien Williams (July 29)

Las Vegas Raiders

LB Ukeme Eligwe (August 4)
CB D.J. Killings (August 3)
DE Jeremiah Valoaga (August 3)

Los Angeles Rams

OT Chandler Brewer (July 31)

Miami Dolphins

WR Allen Hurns (August 4)
WR Albert Wilson (August 5)

Minnesota Vikings

NT Michael Pierce (July 28)

New Orleans Saints

TE Jason Vander Laan (July 28)
TE Cole Wick (July 28)

New York Giants

WR Da'Mari Scott (August 2)
LT Nate Solder (July 29)

New York Jets

OL Leo Koloamatangi (July 28)
LB CJ Mosley (August 1)

Philadelphia Eagles

WR Marquise Goodwin (July 28)

San Francisco 49ers

WR Travis Benjamin (August 4)

Seattle Seahawks

OG Chance Warmack (July 27)

Tennessee Titans

OL Anthony McKinney (July 28)

Washington Football Team

DT Caleb Brantley (July 27)
LB Josh Harvey-Clemons (August 3)

Free Agents

G Larry Warford (July 28)

Can Cam Newton handle being called out by Bill Belichick? Ex-Patriots DT has doubts

Can Cam Newton handle being called out by Bill Belichick? Ex-Patriots DT has doubts

Will Cam Newton be able to take the same kind of verbal upbraiding that Bill Belichick directed at Tom Brady over the years?

Kyle Love, who started his career in New England before spending the past five seasons in Carolina, has his doubts.

Love spoke with Andrew Callahan of The Boston Herald about Newton’s prospects as a Patriot.

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And while Love was high on the potential for success, he mentioned a dynamic that we’ve spoken about on NBC Sports Boston recently. How well will Cam take the heat?

“This is just my opinion, but I don’t feel like Cam can take the pressure of coaches talking down about his play,” Love told Callahan. “If he had a bad game in Carolina, the coaching staff wouldn’t say much to him because they may have felt he could be a little frail about it or maybe pout. They never really corrected to the point Bill used to correct Tom.”

It’s a very intriguing point and it will be a dynamic that Newton’s new teammates will no doubt watch closely. Will Newton feel entitled to different treatment? Will Belichick be a kinder, gentler version of himself so as not to rankle Newton?

Belichick could easily write a best-seller on sports psychology and leadership. He’s got a feel for who needs what kind of coaching and when.

Newton is a 32-year-old former superstar on a prove-it contract who’s had his football life turned upside down. Regardless of the invulnerability his social media posts try to convey, there’s probably a guy in there who’s got a shadow of a doubt about how this is going to go. He’s walked across the bridge to Belichick. An arm around the shoulder might fit better than a boot in the ass as the two men get going.

With Brady, there was a method to the meanness. First, Brady didn’t come in as the No. 1 overall pick and Heisman Trophy winner. So when Belichick railed at him during his first camp, “I can’t stand it. can’t stand it, run it again! Huddle up and run it again, Brady!” Brady did it with the knowledge his chubby self could be on its way back to San Mateo.

As Brady became more accomplished, Belichick tamped down celebrity quarterback tendencies as best he could and Brady — attuned to Belichick’s worries he would go Hollywood and get soft — responded.

Belichick — knowing he had a willing target who could take the heat — would turn it up on Brady knowing the impact it would have on everyone else.

First, nobody was above criticism. Second, Brady’s response was almost always to attack back with his performance.

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Martellus Bennett recounted last May how this all worked.

“One day we were at practice and the defense is crushing us," Bennett said. "We can’t complete any passes. Sometimes they do the install and it’s just the right install. So we come into the meeting and Bill (Belichick) always had bad plays of the day and he’s just calling out Tom, ‘We have quarterbacks that can’t make throws.’

“I’m like ‘This is Tom Brady. He can make all the throws.’

"I’ve never seen coaches really call out the quarterbacks in group meetings. I sit right behind Tom because I’m the quarterback whisperer. I like to whisper in their ear when I see things. So, after we break that meeting, I go to finish my workout or whatever and Tom is in there doing dropbacks. He’s just throwing dropbacks. He’s pissed off. The next day we go 33 for 33 or something like that at practice, and from then I was just like, ‘Oh, we’re gonna be great.’ I’ve never seen anyone that didn’t shut down. He was like, ‘Alright, I’m gonna show you tomorrow.’ He just picked them apart. Take this, take that.”

"He'll call out anybody," Bennett said of Belichick. "I try not to laugh sometimes because, like, the way he does it is funny to me. I find Bill to be hilarious. But he calls everybody out. That's the first team I've been on where I felt everyone was equal."

The stories are legion.

“Bill’s going to be Bill, and he’s going to let Cam know how he feels no matter what. Everybody is treated equal, and I actually love that about Bill because that let the whole team know you’re going to be held accountable,” Love told Callahan.

“Being a professional in New England is different from being a professional in Carolina. It’s a whole different ballgame,” Love said. “Bill wants things run a certain way, wants things practiced a certain way and said a certain way in the classroom and in the media. New England is not for everybody. Every player does not fit well there physically or mentally.”

Brady’s longstanding willingness to get aired out for the sake of getting aired out eventually waned. But before it did, it was frequently cited as a lesson in what it meant to play for the dynastic Patriots.

The interplay between Newton, Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and how quickly they get comfortable is a fascinating part of this preseason.

And there’s really no time for walking on eggshells.