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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Here's why a lot of Patriots recent draft picks have Senior Bowl experience

Here's why a lot of Patriots recent draft picks have Senior Bowl experience

Bill Belichick was there. Josh McDaniels was there. The Patriots had a large contingent down in Mobile, Ala. for this week's Senior Bowl practices (the game will air Saturday on NFL Network at 2:30 p.m.), which should come as no surprise.

Just look at how the Patriots have drafted of late. 

In 2019, they selected Jarrett Stidham, Byron Cowart and Jake Bailey -- all of whom participated in the Senior Bowl. They also signed undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers, who played in the game. 

In 2018, they grabbed Isaiah Wynn in the first round, Duke Dawson, Ja'Whaun Bentley and Braxton Berrios after they'd competed in the Senior Bowl.

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Three of their four draft picks from 2017, plus two undrafted rookies, were in the Senior Bowl. 

From 2013-16, they brought aboard 20 Senior Bowl participants as rookies.

"The great thing about the Senior Bowl is that you're seeing some of the best players," Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio said last spring. 

"There have actually been some underclassmen who have been incorporated into that mix. So you're seeing them against good competition and it's a different dynamic or different situation that they've been placed in. You're kind of taking them out of their environment that they've been in and kind of giving them something new and seeing how they handle it against good people."

The small-school players -- or the players who are asked to do something they didn't do much as collegians -- are the ones who have an opportunity to really land on radars during Senior Bowl work. For the Patriots, who constantly harp on the benefit of having seen players work against great competition on a regular basis when they hail from an SEC program, seeing some of the best in the country work against one another matters.

"It’s one thing if they do it against a lower-level team," Caserio said back in 2016, when asked about the Senior Bowl. "I mean, look, not all teams are created equal. Not all conferences are created equal. That’s just a fact. We can’t control that. So when you can see them actually play against really good players or good players that are at a comparable level of competition that they’re going to see every Sunday, that has to be a part of [the evaluation], no question."

The next year, the Patriots took two Senior Bowlers from smaller programs: Youngstown State's Derek Rivers and Troy's Antonio Garcia. 

"Where [the Senior Bowl] probably helps a little bit is players on a lower level that maybe haven’t competed against the same level of competition," Caserio said back in 2017. "Obviously, they’re making a big jump. . . Garcia was down there. That’s going to be a big jump in competition because this is what they’re going to be playing against. 

"With all due respect to whatever conference Youngstown State is in, there’s not a lot of NFL players in that conference. I mean, that’s just the way that it is. You’re going to have to see him against NFL competition, which the Senior Bowl is usually a pretty good indication of that because you’re talking about the top seniors in the country. It’s a part of the process. You’re not making a decision based off of that, but maybe a player who doesn’t have as much experience against that level, you’re going to see how he fares, and then you just kind of continue to move forward."

Some small-school prospects who may have caught Belichick's eye this week? 

Dayton tight end Adam Trautman was already considered one of the better tight ends in the draft class and seemed to only help his stock.

Safety Kyle Dugger -- who hails from Division II Lenoir-Rhyne University -- impressed. Ditto for Division III offensive lineman Ben Bartch out of Saint John's, who saw rushers from Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, Ole Miss and other high-end programs and reportedly held his own.

Perhaps the most recent success story out of Senior Bowl week for the Patriots wasn't with a small-school prospect, though. It might've been with Shaq Mason, a guard coming out of a run-heavy system at Georgia Tech. The Patriots simply hadn't seen him do much in the way of pass protection for the Yellow Jackets.

But Mason got to the Senior Bowl, took to the coaching he received, and the Patriots took notice. 

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"The thing I’ll say about Shaq," Belichick said after drafting Mason in 2015, "is just watching him at the Senior Bowl, I mean it was only one week, but he made a huge improvement just in those, whatever it was, four or five practices, whatever it was down there. His stance is different. You could see each day progressively how he was taking to the coaching down there and his footwork and his hand placement and his body position. I know it was basic. It wasn’t like it was a big scheme thing at the Senior Bowl, but just doing things on a daily basis better than the day before, looking more comfortable doing them. And it was different than what they did at Georgia Tech."

Big school. Small school. Everyone had something to gain in Mobile this week. And that includes the Patriots. That's why -- with more time off this year than recent years -- they were well represented down there.


 

NFL Rumors: Patriots hiring ex-Rams assistant offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch

NFL Rumors: Patriots hiring ex-Rams assistant offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch

The New England Patriots reportedly have made an addition to their coaching staff.

According to Jim McBride of The Boston Globe, they've hired ex-Los Angeles Rams assistant offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch.

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Fisch's official role with the Patriots offense is to be determined. But now that there's an opening at wide receivers coach with Joe Judge joining the New York Giants, Fisch could be a candidate for the job.

He brings plenty of experience to the table having coached Denver Broncos wide receivers in 2008 and Michigan receivers from 2015-16. Fisch also coached Seattle Seahawks quarterbacks in 2010 and was the Jacksonville Jaguars' offensive coordinator from 2013-14.