Patriots

Jerod Mayo returns to football as Patriots' linebackers coach

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Jerod Mayo returns to football as Patriots' linebackers coach

If it looked to you like talking about football on television was enough to scratch Jerod Mayo’s itch for the game, you weren’t alone.

I thought the same thing.

But the former Patriots linebacker, best known for his nine-year run in the NFL, and then as a weekly guest and subsequent in-studio host on Quick Slants, is pulling the ripcord and going back to the game. Mayo has agreed to become the Patriots linebackers coach.

The departures of Brian Flores, Josh Boyer and Brendan Daly put the Patriots defensive coaching staff in transition mode. The addition of Greg Schiano as defensive coordinator was one move. Mayo is another.

Mayo retired in February 2016 after three straight seasons in which he ended up on season-ending IR (torn pec, torn patella, shoulder mayhem). With his reputation as a leader and as one of the smartest players Bill Belichick coached, immediate speculation was that he’d go right into coaching.

But while he was playing, Mayo was also building experience in the business world and he transitioned from the field into a job with Optum.

At the time, Mayo said, "I love the game of football. I'm not going to rule [coaching] out, but right now I just need a little break.”

Now he’s back. Mayo figures to be in position to have a big impact on second-year linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley who was outstanding through training camp and into the early regular season before a torn biceps landed Bentley on IR. Mayo’s command of the on-field responsibilities in the Patriots defense -- not just at linebacker, but in the front-seven in particular -- will presumably help ease the loss of Daly and Flores.

Mayo’s relentlessly upbeat personality also figures to make an impact on the Patriots who said goodbye this offseason to “character coach” Jack Easterby.

Belichick’s ode to Mayo at the 2016 owners meetings are worth revisiting.

"I'll start out this morning, first of all, to talk about Jerod Mayo," Belichick said. "There have been very few players in my career that I've had the opportunity to coach that I'd say had more of an impact on a team than Jerod has from day one, which is unusual."

"From the first day he walked in the facility, which was his pre-draft visit, after we drafted him in 2008, he's been a pleasure to coach, a great addition to our team, both on and off the field," Belichick continued. "I'm sure I learned a lot more from him than he did from me. Jerod, (Mayo’s wife, Chantel) and their family brought a special glow to our team, to our organization. Although Jerod will always be part of the team and is always welcome, he'll be missed on a daily basis, the attitude, work ethic and love of football that he brought was special. He was very special.”

The expectation is that this is going to curtail Mayo’s Quick Slants availability. We’ll miss him too.

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Can Patriots QB Jarrett Stidham handle the spotlight? Ex-coach has encouraging take

Can Patriots QB Jarrett Stidham handle the spotlight? Ex-coach has encouraging take

It's always tough being the guy who follows the guy, and that's the challenge Jarrett Stidham likely will face during the 2020 NFL season.

Tom Brady left the Patriots as a free agent in March after winning six Super Bowl titles and setting plenty of records in his 20 years with the franchise. Next up at quarterback figures to be Stidham, who's the favorite to win the starting job over veteran Brian Hoyer.

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Being the one to replace Brady is going to put tons of pressure on Stidham. Fans, fairly or not, will expect great performances from him right away. And, as anyone who lives in this region understands, these fans aren't afraid to call out players who don't play at a high level.

Should we be confident Stidham can handle the spotlight? Troy head coach Chip Lindsey, who was the offensive coordinator at Auburn during Stidham's time with the Tigers, seems to think so.

“I know he’s extremely excited about this opportunity,” Lindsey told NESN.com's Doug Kyed. “I think he’s a guy that’s kind of -- when you come play at Auburn in the SEC. I don’t know how much you’re familiar with this league or not, but you’re under the microscope every week. You’re playing the biggest game of the week every week it seems like.

"He’s had his fair share of being in the limelight, good and bad, and I think he understands very well that, as a quarterback, by nature of the position, you get more credit than you deserve and more blame than you deserve. I think he’s totally comfortable with that and very comfortable with himself, which I think will serve him well.”

Lindsey is right about the SEC. No other conference in college football puts players under more pressure. It's the best conference in the nation, and 11 of the 19 FBS champions this century call it home. It's not the same as the NFL, obviously, but playing in that kind of environment where just about every opponent has NFL-caliber players on defense certainly benefited Stidham.

The only way to find out if Stidham can be a quality starting quarterback at the pro level is to give him a chance, and based on everything we've seen from the Patriots this offseason, it looks like his opportunity will come sooner rather than later.

Patriots' N'Keal Harry must break this bad habit in 2020, trainer says

Patriots' N'Keal Harry must break this bad habit in 2020, trainer says

If you ask Rischad Whitfield, an ankle injury wasn't the only thing that slowed N'Keal Harry down last season.

Whitfield, a personal trainer who brands himself as "The Footwork King," has been working with Harry this offseason to improve the New England Patriots wide receiver's footwork.

Specifically, Whitfield is trying to get Harry to play lighter and faster -- and get the 22-year-old out of improper foot mechanics that have slowed him down.

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"N'Keal told me, he goes, 'All my life, I've been told to stay low, stay low, stay low.' But the lower you get, the heavier you get," Whitfield told NFL Media's Mike Giardi in a recent interview.

"That's a science. Anybody can do a squat right now with no barbell on their back, have a little squat and then jump. The lower they get, the heavier they get. They can't move. I'm breaking him out of that mold."

The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Harry used that low, wide base to overpower defensive backs at Arizona State. But Whitfield, who has worked with Odell Beckham Jr., Mecole Hardman and Deebo Samuel among other talented wide receivers, believes that approach won't work against the NFL's bigger, stronger cornerbacks, which is why he's trying to make Harry more nimble.

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"He gets really wide, so I'm keeping him working with his base narrow and a little bit higher, just like a boxer," Whitfield said.

"This is the prime example I give him: You can't box with no footwork. You got to bob and weave and move out of the way. They're nimble. They're light. I got to get him to that, because he'll get wide. He'll stomp. He'll move his feet, but it's so heavy that it's not going anywhere. He's not moving the defensive back vertical."

That's not an encouraging assessment of Harry, the Patriots' first wide receiver taken in the first round since Terry Glenn in 1996. But it may explain why Harry created an average of just 2.2 yards of separation on his routes in 2019, which according to Next Gen Stats was the lowest on the team.

The good news is that Harry has multiple coaches working with him on his footwork -- he's also training with ex-Patriots tight end Dwayne Allen's brother, Justin Allen -- and if that hard work pays off, he could be a prominent weapon for second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham.