Patriots

Could this former Patriots receiver's son be the next Patriots receiver?

Could this former Patriots receiver's son be the next Patriots receiver?

One way to get a feel for just how long Bill Belichick has been head coach in New England? Players who were kicking around the league in the early portion of Belichick's Patriots tenure have children Belichick has the opportunity to draft in April. 

Last week we touched on the fact that Randy Moss has a son entering the NFL Draft as a tight end out of LSU. Thaddeus Moss could end up being a mid-to-late round option for a team in need of a tight end. 

This week? Another former Patriots receiver has a son who's putting on a show in Mobile, Ala. for this week's Senior Bowl. 

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Belichick never had a chance to coach Shawn Jefferson. The longtime NFL wideout with over 7,000 career receiving yards left the Patriots via free agency for the Falcons after four years in New England.

His first year with Atlanta, 2000, was Belichick's first as head coach of the Patriots. (The two did overlap in Foxboro in 1996, when Belichick coached defensive backs under Bill Parcells.)

But might Jefferson's son end up a Patriots draft target?

Van Jefferson, from the University of Florida, has been one of the most impressive performers at his position at this year's Senior Bowl. The week's practices — thoroughly covered and broadcast by NFL Media these days — has allowed Jefferson to put his nuanced skills on display against some of the best defensive backs in the country. 

After a strong showing on Tuesday in the week's first practice, Jefferson was one of the best pass-catchers on the field again Wednesday.

Despite lacking the athleticism of some of the others at his position who will be considered first-rounders this year — it's thought to be an incredibly deep class at receiver — Jefferson has made plays this week both down the field and at the intermediate level by understanding leverage and making contested catches.

"He is a route technician on a level that has the corners tripping over themselves," The Athletic's Dane Brugler wrote this week. "And it is tough to blame them because they haven’t faced many players at the college level with Jefferson’s detailed patterns. Instead of pure speed, he relies on pace, tempo and purpose, making every step matter and tying defenders in knots."

Jefferson spent three years at Ole Miss before transferring to Florida. The 6-foot-1, 197-pounder finished his collegiate career with 2,159 yards and 16 touchdowns. He caught 49 passes for 657 yards and six scores in his final season.

Belichick and his coaching staff are in Mobile for college football's premier postseason all-star game. Perhaps what they see from the Florida wideout with some Patriots connections will push them to consider him on draft weekend to bolster a receiving corps that needed all the help it could get this season.

Or not. Jefferson's father is currently assistant head coach and receivers coach for the Jets.

NFL Rumors: Patriots exploring trade for Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst

NFL Rumors: Patriots exploring trade for Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst

The New England Patriots desperately need tight end depth, and they may turn to an AFC rival to acquire it.

The Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars both are "exploring" a trade for Baltimore Ravens tight end Hayden Hurst ahead of the NFL Draft, the Florida Times-Union’s Eugene Frenette reported Monday.

Hurst, the No. 25 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, caught 30 passes for 349 yards and two touchdowns last season in Baltimore, which are decent stats considering he competed with Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle for targets at a crowded position.

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The 26-year-old also is a strong athlete, spending two seasons in the Pittsburgh Pirates' minor league organization out of high school before turning to football and attending South Carolina.

Hurst is under team control through 2021 and is set to make just over $3 million in 2020.

The Patriots have a wealth of 2020 draft picks in their arsenal, so a trade for Hurst certainly seems feasible if they don't covet any tight end prospects in the draft.

New England has incentive to get a deal done quickly, however, as Tom Brady becomes a free agent March 18.

Is Tom Brady really, really, really ready to go it alone?

Is Tom Brady really, really, really ready to go it alone?

Danny Amendola’s going back to the Lions.

That doesn’t really tip the NFL’s balance of power. But it is a tipoff.

Either Amendola and Tom Brady weren’t the free agent package deal they were reported to be or — and this is the more likely scenario — the sure thing was the smart thing for the 34-year-old wide receiver.

Amendola’s decision to return to Detroit raised some eyebrows in Foxboro where it was taken as a sign that players may not be able to wait on Brady’s free agent decision.  

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Does it matter to Brady whether or not he’s able to round up a collection of players he’s familiar and comfortable with? To some degree, it has to.

So much of the Patriots’ 2019 offensive struggles were related to the learning curve the majority of Brady’s receivers faced.

He did little to mask his frustration that the team marched into camp with N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski, Maurice Harris, Bruce Ellington, Matt LaCosse, Dontrelle Inman and Braxton Berrios as the complements to Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett.  

And it went about as Brady expected as the combination of inexperience, unfamiliarity and ineptitude left Brady flinging the ball into the cheerleaders at an alarming rate.

If Brady and the Patriots can’t reach an agreement before free agency, he’s lighting out for the territories. Which means unfamiliarity with personnel, scheme, city, coaching staff, owner, GM, scouting department, etc. wherever he goes.

It was easy to project Amendola as a comfortable wingman for Brady. Even at 34, he’s still incredibly reliable. In four of the past five seasons, he’s caught 65, 61, 59 and 62 passes. His outlier season was injury-marred 2016 and he atoned for the 23-catch regular season by ripping it up in the playoffs. He also delivered the Patriots to Super Bowl 52 with his fourth-quarter performance in the AFC Championship Game.

Amendola coming off the board underscores the fact that — wherever he goes — Brady’s starting fresh.

That may not faze him in the least. Especially if — during the recruiting process — he’s enthusiastically embraced and told he’ll be owner-operator of an offense rather than assistant manager.

In how many cities might that happen? Probably a few.

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Take Nashville, for instance. Brady’s never thrown a pass to Adam Humphries, Jonnu Smith, A.J. Brown or Corey Davis. There will be a learning curve. But there will also be a better offensive line, a more potent running game (especially if the Titans retain Derrick Henry) and one would think 37-year-old offensive coordinator Arthur Smith can see his way clear to letting Brady have a big say.

It’s worth noting that, when the Patriots practiced with the Titans in August, Brady eviscerated their defense with Berrios and Meyers as his main targets that week. That probably left as much of an impression about what Brady is capable of as the Patriots playoff loss last month.

But moving on — even to a franchise that rolls out the reddest of carpets for him — means radical change. The easiest thing in the world for Brady to do would be to shrug his shoulders and come back to the Patriots.

Does he want to come back to a familiar situation where he’s been increasingly uncomfortable?

Or does he want to deal with the unfamiliarity and short-term discomfort because he believes it will feel differently in the end?