Patriots

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.


 

Ex-Ravens scout unearths Bill Belichick's blueprint for ideal quarterback

Ex-Ravens scout unearths Bill Belichick's blueprint for ideal quarterback

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick has done things by the book since his days as the Cleveland Browns head coach nearly 30 years ago. 

After a long wait, Belichick finally landed his perfect quarterback in 2000 (though he didn't start him until 2001). Well, at least in relation to a 1991 handout that detailed what he looks for and expects from the ideal QB in his system. 

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Daniel Jeremiah, an ex-Baltimore Ravens scout, revealed a document he received in his time with the Ravens, who descended from the Cleveland Browns after they moved from Baltimore. It details what Belchick's ideal offense looks like. Most notable was Belichick's description of what he's looking for in a QB: 

 

QB: #1 is to make good decisions -- then arm, size, physically tough, leadership, guys look up to and have confidence in, a real competitor. Accurate rather than guy with a cannon. Emphasis on our game will be on decision, timing, accuracy -- guy needs to be confident, intelligence is important but not as much so as field awareness and judgement. Can't be sloppy fundamentally unsound guy w/ ball handling, tech's, etc. Footwork, drops, release, etc. -- QB has to be able to throw the ball with accuracy. 

Sound like anyone familiar? After 10 years (remember, this document was from 1991), Belichick finally landed his guy in Tom Brady when he drafted the Michigan QB in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft and eventually replaced Drew Bledsoe the next season. What's more remarkable is he managed to hang on to his dream QB for 20 years before Brady decided to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency. 

Brady certainly fits that description -- he makes extremely good decisions, has a strong arm and is a true competitor. While Brady doesn't necessarily have a "cannon" of an arm compared to other QBs, he's accurate and places a high value on the fundamentals. 

The descriptions in the document Jeremiah tweeted definitely still hold true to what Belichick maintains as his standards today. It'll be interesting to see if he does, in fact, draft a quarterback this year.

If he does, you can bet that guy will be someone who makes smart decisions above anything else. 

 

This Patriots fan is still rooting for Tom Brady, even with the Bucs

This Patriots fan is still rooting for Tom Brady, even with the Bucs

In every good story you need a protagonist (our hero) and the antagonist (the villain).

What I have observed in the Patriot fan base is an equal balance of views that place Tom Brady or Bill Belichick in either category. Logical? Certainly, because both possess justifiable reasons for their actions. 

But that’s no fun!

Riding in from the North on his steady and loyal steed named Alex, the white hat-wearing, TB12-pitching, best ever to play the game quarterback gallops into Tampa Bay to not only save the day but save his career as well. 

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For the third time in his life, he is the underdog.

He is John Wayne’s Rooster Cogburn charging across the field with reins in mouth and a gun in each hand blowing away the bad guys. He is Paul Newman’s Frank Galvin who battles his own demons and the Boston medical establishment in "The Verdict." He is Robert Downey Jr’s. Tony Stark/Iron Man in "Avengers: Endgame," willing to give his life in order to save humanity. 

Sorry, I got carried away on that last one.

I just wanted to throw a movie reference in from this century. If you haven’t seen "True Grit" (the original, though Bridges and Damon perform admirably in the remake) or "The Verdict," penned by David Mamet, stream them. What else do you have to do? 

Let’s be real, people. Tom is Luke Skywalker and Bill is Darth Vader — yes, he is his football father! Bill wears that damn hoodie that he has made legendary but in actuality, it looks like hell. With that hood on, Belichick even looks like he is the dark side.

Tom represents what we have all experienced at one time or another: the feeling of being unwanted. That's whether you have been dumped by a boyfriend or girlfriend, cut from a team or fired from a job. (I have been whacked twice by the way. It sucks!) 

The Patriots and Darth Belichick no longer wanted Tom Skywalker. Holy Jabba The Hutt!

It does not matter that Tom is 43 years old and no longer a fit for the Patriots’ rebuild, and it is a rebuild. Or that Belichick has never been wrong when letting go of a veteran. Or that the way to go is with a more mobile quarterback who can throw on the run. 

NO! NO! NO! 

None of those perfectly justifiable reasons will keep me from rooting for Tom Skywalker. You can’t go against the underdog!

May the Force be with you, Tom.

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