Patriots

Jason McCourty explains how Patriots' Joejuan Williams 'got better' as a rookie

Jason McCourty explains how Patriots' Joejuan Williams 'got better' as a rookie

Joejuan Williams didn't play much as a rookie in the 2019 NFL season, but one of his teammates is confident he'll be ready when the opportunity arrives.

The New England Patriots selected Williams out of Vanderbilt in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. The 22-year-old cornerback played in nine regular season games for the Patriots in his rookie campaign, and he played more snaps on special teams (84) than he did on defense (80).

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Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty liked what he saw from Williams last season despite his limited playing time. In a video conference call with reporters Wednesday, McCourty explained how Williams' compete level was a huge factor in his improvement during the 2019 campaign.

"He loves to compete," McCourty said. "I think that’s something that you need. Obviously, at our position, when you’re in the back end, any mistake can be a 70-yard touchdown or a game-changing play, so I think you’ve got to have guys that are willing to go out there every single day and compete your butts off and get better. That’s what he did last year. As a rookie, he came in, he was willing to learn, he was willing to listen, and I felt like every day when we went out there on the practice field, he got better.

"I think not only for him being a rookie, but for all of us as a team, that’s what the process is about. Whether you’re in year one or you’re in year 12, every day you’ve got to show up with a willingness to compete and to prove that you belong there and a willingness to get better and listen to coaching. I think whether it’s Joejuan, whether it was D’Angelo (Ross) before he got here, Malik (Gant), all of those young guys came in and they were willing to listen to the older guys, listen to the coaches and really do everything that was asked of them on a daily basis to make sure they were making the necessary movements forward to get better as a football player."

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Did Williams prove he belonged? McCourty said he did, but not before getting in a friendly jab at Vanderbilt.

"I mean, he went to Vanderbilt, so that’s a little bit of a knock on him. In the SEC, they’re one of the weaker schools, but other than that, yeah, he definitely did."

One way for Williams to play more snaps in 2020 is by learning to play safety. The ability to fill in at cornerback and safety would provide the Patriots defense with valuable versatility, and we know Patriots head coach Bill Belichick very much values players who excel at multiple positions.

The Patriots have tons of depth and loads of talent in their secondary -- highlighted by reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year award winner Stephon Gilmore -- but that doesn't mean Williams won't fill a key role for that group next season, especially if he's able to play both cornerback and safety.

Former Patriots exec thinks Cam Newton addition was a 'no-brainer' move

Former Patriots exec thinks Cam Newton addition was a 'no-brainer' move

The New England Patriots lost the best quarterback of all-time in free agency when Tom Brady took his talents to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Replacing him is an impossible task, but the addition of Cam Newton should give the Patriots a tremendous chance to remain competitive in the 2020 NFL season.

The veteran quarterback reportedly agreed to a one-year contract with the Pats that pays him just $550,000 guaranteed and could be worth up to $7.5 million if all incentives in the deal are met.

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Michael Lombardi is a former league executive who's worked with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during his time in New England and with the Cleveland Browns. On the latest episode of Lombardi's "The GM Shuffle" podcast, he explained why bringing in Newton was a "no-brainer" for Belichick.

“You talk about 2015, granted that was the MVP season, but if you really study '18 and really examine those eight games in 2018 -- the last time he won was Nov. 4, 2018 against the Buccaneers -- he was sensational,” Lombardi said. “Here's what you're going to get with Cam Newton: You're going to get a guaranteed 3,600 yards passing. You're going to get 600 yards, minimum, rushing. You're going to get over seven yards per pass attempt. And you're going to get a low percentage of interceptions

"In 2018, he threw 15 touchdown passes and four interceptions before the shoulder injury. He was averaging 7.2 yards per attempt. He was electrifying. He only was sacked 12 times in those eight games, which was really low for the Carolina Panthers with their offensive line. So book those numbers and then add in the Josh McDaniels factor, add in the Patriots factor, and you’re probably looking at 4,200 yards passing, you’re probably looking at 750 rushing, and you're looking at 7.3 or 7.4 yards per attempt. If he stays healthy, he’s going to get Comeback Player of the Year. This was a no-brainer for the Patriots to do it."

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The money alone makes the deal an easy one for the Patriots. New England has almost no salary cap space, so to get a player of Newton's caliber for so little money easily is worth the gamble. 

Newton, if healthy, is still a fantastic quarterback capable of exposing defenses with his arm and his legs. The worry is Newton's durability. He's 31 years old and coming off a 2019 season during which he missed the Carolina Panthers' last 14 games due to injuries. 

So, there's some risk in adding Newton to the roster, but there's no doubt he'll be extremely motivated to shut up his critics and earn another huge payday next offseason. From a motivation and team need perspective, Newton and the Patriots have the potential to be a great partnership.

Cam Newton sets record straight on Patriots contract in Instagram post

Cam Newton sets record straight on Patriots contract in Instagram post

Cam Newton might get paid like a backup NFL quarterback in New England -- and he could care less.

The three-time Pro Bowler and 2015 NFL MVP reportedly signed a meager contract with the Patriots on Sunday that includes a $1.05 million base salary and just $550,000 in guaranteed money.

But in an Instagram post Thursday, Newton insisted he's not concerned about his light paycheck.

"This is not about money for me; It's about respect," Newton wrote in the caption, which included the hashtag #ImBettingItAllOnMe.

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Newton was an elite QB before shoulder and foot injuries derailed his career, forcing him to miss a total of 16 games between 2018 and 2019. Those injuries led the Carolina Panthers to release Newton in March and seemingly scared away 30 other teams that viewed the 31-year-old as damaged goods.

But Newton has a great opportunity to revive his career in New England, where he can help the Patriots continue their success in the post-Tom Brady era if he's able to stay healthy.

By regaining that respect, Newton also can help himself get paid: His contract reportedly doesn't prevent New England from franchise tagging him in 2021, which would vault the QB's salary well north of $20 million.

Newton made more than $121 million during his nine seasons in Carolina, so it appears he was willing to take a bargain deal with the Patriots if it meant showing the NFL he can still bring it.