Patriots

Bill Belichick stays mum on Jerod Mayo's responsibilities for Patriots

Bill Belichick stays mum on Jerod Mayo's responsibilities for Patriots

Bill Belichick put a bow on the Patriots impressive blasting of the Lions with a conference call Friday morning.

It was heavy on generalities as his post-exhibition game conference calls have been for the better part of 20 seasons.

Something that piqued my interest before and during the game was focusing on how the coaching staff operated. We’ve detailed the number of new coaches in new spots or old coaches who’ve assumed extra spots.

Joe Judge, longtime special teams coordinator, has added wide receivers coach to his job description. If any group deserved an “attaboy” after last night it was the wideouts. But the special teams were pretty good too, especially punt return where the Patriots were working in a pair of guys — Braxton Berrios and Gunnar Olszewski.

They took back seven punts for 69 yards. Meanwhile, eight different wide receivers had catches, led by undrafted rookie Jakobi Myers’ six catches on eight targets. Berrios caught all three sent his way.

“Joe does a good job,” stated Belichick when asked about the results Judge’s units provided. “He has a lot of responsibility. He does it very well."

I also took a run at trying to pin down the in-game responsibilities of Jerod Mayo, who’s in his first year as inside linebackers coach but is clearly a big part of the defensive play-calling operation already.

Asked if he could reveal what Mayo is doing with the defense, Belichick answered, “We’ll always do what’s best for the football team. That’s what we’ll always do so I don’t see that changing. We’re doing what’s best for the football team.”

Of that, we had no doubt.

As for his impressions of impressive rookie quarterback Jarrett Stidham making smooth reads, Belichick said, “There were several plays that fell into all the categories. There were quick throws where the read was clear and the receiver was open. Then there was maybe a play where there was a secondary read and he’d scramble and extended the play. He ran a couple of times and completed a pass, there was a little bit of everything there.

“The most important thing for a quarterback is not to turn the ball over, make good decisions and throw accurately. He did all of those at times,” Belichick concluded.

The only wideout whose overall night could be quibbled with was Maurice Harris. He followed up a first-quarter touchdown by failing to come up with a pair of well-thrown passes by Stidham down at the goal line. There was plenty of subtle contact on both incompletions, perhaps enough to take a run at reviewing for DPI. The Patriots passed on both.

Was a challenge considered and what were his thoughts on Harris’ not coming down with those throws?

“Again, challenges definitely fall under the category of doing what’s best for the football team,” said Belichick. “So that’s what we try to do. Whether we challenge or don’t challenge. And there’s a lot of tight plays. The Lions are a good coverage team. They’re well-coached, they have a good secondary, their corners cover well. There are gonna be some tight throws, we hope to get as many of them as we can. Realistically we aren’t going to get all of them. We had some. And there were some we didn’t get. Tight ends and receivers so …”

Who popped & who dropped in preseason opener?

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Awesome NFL video highlights all 36 turnovers forced by Patriots defense in 2019

Awesome NFL video highlights all 36 turnovers forced by Patriots defense in 2019

The New England Patriots defense ranked among the NFL's best in 2019, and a huge reason for this unit's success was its ability to force turnovers.

The Patriots forced the second-most turnovers in the league with 36 during the regular season. They also led the league with 25 interceptions and a plus-21 turnover differential. Veteran cornerback Stephon Gilmore tied for the league lead with six interceptions and was named AP Defensive Player of the Year.

It's safe to say the Patriots defense was aggressive and opportunistic throughout 2019, and it certainly helped overcome some of the team's offensive struggles during the second half of the campaign.

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Check out all of the turnovers forced by New England's defense last season in the video below:

The Patriots' Super Bowl title defense ended surprisingly early with an AFC Wild Card loss to the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium. The defense played pretty well, holding the Titans to just 13 offensive points. Tom Brady and his offense couldn't generate much of anything versus the Titans defense, though, and the Patriots lost 20-13.

New England's defense could look much different in 2020. The unit has several key players eligible for unrestricted free agency, including safety Devin McCourty, linebackers Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy, and defensive tackle Danny Shelton, among others.

Curran: Where things stand for Brady, Pats a month from free agency

Chris Simms' Tom Brady-Ryan Tannehill take may grind Patriots fans' gears

Chris Simms' Tom Brady-Ryan Tannehill take may grind Patriots fans' gears

We can understand Derrick Henry supporting Ryan Tannehill amid speculation that Tom Brady may consider joining to the Tennessee Titans.

Tannehill is Henry's quarterback, after all. He's not going to throw him under the bus.

But Chris Simms has no stake in the game -- and still believes the Titans would be better off with Tannehill than the six-time Super Bowl champion in 2020.

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Here's Simms on Wednesday's edition of NBC Sports PFT Live with Mike Florio:

 

"Everybody out there: You're crazy!" Simms said. "Tom Brady is not better than Ryan Tannehill right now! I'm just sorry! 

"I know Tom Brady is arguably the greatest quarterback ever, certainly the most accomplished. (He's) the man. But that doesn't mean he's the best in 2020."

Simms didn't stop there, suggesting the Titans may not have defeated the Patriots in the AFC Divisional Round if Brady was under center instead of Tannehill.

"The Titans weren't a team that had weapons galore," Simms said "They didn't have great weapons (either). We didn't really know about A.J. Brown until Ryan Tannehill got in there."

Got all that, Patriots fans?

This kind of take is nothing new from Simms, who ranked Brady as the NFL's ninth-best quarterback last summer and put Matthew Stafford ahead of the 14-time Pro Bowler at the midseason point.

He's also not wrong that Tannehill was excellent last season, leading the NFL in yards per attempt (9.6) and ranking second in touchdown percentage (7.7 percent) while going 7-3 as Tennessee's starter.

But 10 starts do not an elite quarterback make -- especially a QB who had the NFL's 2019 leading rusher (Henry) taking the heat off him.

Were Brady's numbers worse than Tannehill's in 2019? Sure. His 6.6 yards per attempt were the second-lowest of his career, while his 3.9 touchdown percentage represented his lowest rate ever.

As Patriots fans will tell you, though, Brady also helped a team with a revolving door of mediocre offensive weapons score the seventh-most points in the NFL while finishing 12-4.

All debates aside, the money could prove Brady's worth compared to Tannehill: The former may command north of $30 million in free agency, while the latter might be several million below that number.

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