Patriots

How will Patriots react now that Giants have hired Joe Judge?

How will Patriots react now that Giants have hired Joe Judge?

Joe Judge is headed to the Giants as their next head coach. Raise your hand if you saw that one coming. 

Highly thought of inside the building at One Patriot Place, Judge was trusted to take on the responsibilities of both the special teams coordinator and receivers coach in 2019 as the coaching staff underwent a series of changes before the season.

Judge joined the staff in 2012 as a special teams assistant to Scott O'Brien and served in that role for three seasons. He took over the coordinator's role in 2015 and then added receiver responsibilities last year. 

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In Judge's five seasons as special teams coordinator, his kicking units were graded by Pro Football Focus as 8th, 1st, 10th, 5th and 7th in football. According to Rick Gosselin's special teams rankings — rankings that Bill Belichick has referred to multiple times over the years for their ability to compile metrics from all units and package them together for a relatively accurate, all-encompassing view — Judge's units ranked 3rd, 6th, 3rd, and 10th from 2015-2018. 

Judge also watched Stephen Gostkowski become the franchise's all-time leading scorer, he helped Matthew Slater win two first-team All-Pro nods, and he helped rookie punter Jake Bailey quickly establish himself as one of the best at his position this season while also taking on kickoff duties with Gostkowski out injured. The Patriots also blocked four punts this season, a new team record.

Judge taking the Giants gig means one less job on the table for Josh McDaniels to potentially scoop up. He was scheduled to interview with the Giants for the second time in three years later this week. McDaniels was also a candidate for the Panthers job, which went to Matt Rhule on Tuesday. 

With Judge gone, though, Bill Belichick will have to replace one of the most valuable pieces on his staff. 

On special teams, Cam Achord looks like the favorite to replace Judge. He's been with the Patriots for two seasons, joining in 2018 as Judge's assistant. Achord spent five seasons with Southwest Mississippi Community College as offensive coordinator, special teams coordinator, quarterbacks, running backs and tight ends coach. 

With the receiver, the Patriots could turn to a name that would be much more familiar to fans of the organization. Troy Brown joined the staff in the spring to assist with receivers and returners, and he maintained that role throughout training camp and through the season.

He spent significant amounts of time with young receivers, in particular, trying to get rookies N'Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski up to speed. He also worked closely with Mohamed Sanu and Antonio Brown when they joined the team mid-season. With Judge's responsibilities split between two units, Brown had plenty on his plate in his first year in pro coaching. 

The Patriots could potentially turn to another familiar face at the receiver spot. Former receivers coach Chad O'Shea left the team last year to join the Dolphins as their new offensive coordinator. But after one season in Miami, the Dolphins parted ways with O'Shea. With a staff and front office that could use reinforcements this offseason, would the Patriots be open to bringing O'Shea back into the fold? 

That remains to be seen. But with Judge taking off for New York, the Patriots have some work to do to fill his multiple roles.

Bills WR gives Patriots bulletin-board material after Tom Brady departure

Bills WR gives Patriots bulletin-board material after Tom Brady departure

Is the AFC East officially wide open now that Tom Brady is no longer a member of the New England Patriots? At least one Buffalo Bills player thinks so.

Bills wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie was ecstatic to hear the news of Brady signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That comes as no surprise, as the ex-Pats QB is an absurd 32-3 against Buffalo in his 20-year career and New England has won 11 straight division titles with Brady under center.

During an interview with WROC in Buffalo last week, McKenzie expressed his excitement about Brady leaving while giving the Patriots some bulletin-board material.

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“The Brady situation, I cheered,” McKenzie said. “He’s a great player. Our team is stacked. The last two years we’ve been giving him a run for his money, but now that he’s gone, it’s going to kind of be the Bills’ time to take over.”

McKenzie's confidence isn't unfounded. The Bills made a big splash earlier this offseason by trading for star wide receiver Stefon Diggs, giving Josh Allen another dangerous weapon opposite John Brown. With Brady and several other key contributors leaving in free agency, the Patriots may have their work cut out for them next season.

Bills general manager Brandon Beane sang a much different tune than McKenzie on Thursday, saying it's "funny and comical how people are writing off the Patriots in the AFC East." Still, it's safe to bet McKenzie's words will be remembered in Foxboro when the 2020 campaign kicks off.

Scott Pioli: Why Bill Belichick, Cam Newton are 'like oil and water'

Scott Pioli: Why Bill Belichick, Cam Newton are 'like oil and water'

At various points this offseason, the New England Patriots have been connected to some of the free-agent quarterbacks on the open market. And after they lost Tom Brady to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, speculation increased that they could add a veteran to compete with Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer in the quarterback room.

One guy that has been mentioned quite a bit is Cam Newton. The 2015 MVP was released by the Carolina Panthers this offseason but has yet to sign with a team.

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Newton has been tied to the Patriots mostly by betting odds, which does make some sense. After all, Stidham is inexperienced and Hoyer has been an average-at-best starter during his time in the NFL. Newton has a history of high-level play when healthy, so perhaps he'd be worth the gamble for the right team.

But will the Patriots actually pursue him? One of the team's former personnel executives doesn't think so.

In a recent interview with Zach Gelb of CBS Sports Radio, Scott Pioli, who worked in the Patriots front office from 2000-2008, spoke about Newton's connection to the Patriots. And ultimately, he doesn't think that Bill Belichick and Newton would be able to coexist.

"With Cam Newton, the Patriots thing is interesting because I've heard a lot of people talk about that. In my mind, having spent as much time with Bill as I did, I don't see those two coexisting together," Pioli said. "The personalities and beliefs of how the game should be played and is played, it seems like oil and water."

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Pioli joked that the Patriots will probably go right out and sign Newton after hearing these comments. But he ultimately just thinks Belichick and Newton wouldn't mesh well.

"I just see them as being very different personalities and having very different approaches to the game," Pioli said. "Bill believes in football more than entertainment. Cam believes that football and entertainment are almost equal partners. And in this day and age, it is, but Bill has the soul of a football man. I couldn't see that one working out too well. And if I did, it would probably have to be for one season."

Pioli makes some good points and perhaps that is why the team hasn't shown a lot of interest in Newton so far. Given that the team seems to believe in Stidham, it probably wouldn't make sense for them to bring in Newton to compete for the job if they're worried about how he might fit with the team.

Patriots fans should have a better idea of what the quarterback room will look like once the 2020 NFL Draft comes and goes. The Patriots may take another young player at the position to compete with Stidham and Hoyer. If they do, that would likely fully eliminate the possibility of them adding another veteran quarterback, if that option isn't already off the table.