Patriots coaching jobs come into focus: Judge gets receivers and special teams

Patriots coaching jobs come into focus: Judge gets receivers and special teams

FOXBORO -- For months we've been a little unclear on what exactly the Patriots will do to fill out their assistant coaching gigs. 

They lost de-facto defensive coordinator Brian Flores to Miami. Receivers coach Chad O'Shea, as well as corners coach Josh Boyer and assistant quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski joined Flores and the Dolphins. Defensive line coach Brendan Daly took a job with the Chiefs. 

Until Friday, there wasn't much certainty as to how the Patriots would replace those roles. But now we have a better idea of who will be where this season after the team made many of its assistants available to reporters.

There's still no definitive defensive coordinator, which could very well lead to Bill Belichick adding to his responsibilities as head coach. But the linebacker coach role -- which was Flores' official title in 2018 -- will be shared by two coaches: Jerod Mayo will handle inside linebackers; former coaching assistant DeMarcus Covington will handle outside linebackers. Bret Bielema, former Wisconsin and Arkansas head coach, will replace Daly and coach the defensive line. 

In the secondary, Mike Pellegrino will take on an increased role with defensive backs. Steve Belichick remains the team's safeties coach, which means Pellegrino in all likelihood will be spending more time with Patriots corners. 

Offensively, most of last year's group has returned. Josh McDaniels is still coordinating the offense and coaching the quarterbacks. Dante Scarnecchia is still coaching the offensive line, Nick Caley is still the tight ends coach, and Ivan Fears is still running the running backs room. 

Replacing O'Shea, though, will be special teams coordinator Joe Judge. Assisting Judge with special teams duties will be Cam Achord, who is in his second year with the Patriots as special-teams assistant.

That's a lot of moving parts, but at least now we can associate certain names as the coaches who will be focusing on certain position groups. 

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Report: Patriots WR Mohamed Sanu needs surgery on injured left ankle

Report: Patriots WR Mohamed Sanu needs surgery on injured left ankle

With only a couple of weeks until the NFL's free agent frenzy begins, the Patriots offense is dealing with even more uncertainty heading into the 2020 season.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Patriots wide receiver Mohamed Sanu needs surgery on a high ankle sprain that has not healed properly this offseason.

Sanu suffered the injury on a punt return in Week 11 against the Eagles, and even though he was only sidelined for one game, the ankle severely limited his production down the stretch last season.

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After racking up 10 receptions (on 14 targets) for 81 yards and a touchdown against the Ravens in Week 10, Sanu only totaled 15 catches (on 33 targets) for 114 yards and no touchdowns over New England's final seven games, including a Wild Card loss to the Titans — not the type of production the Patriots were counting on when they sent a second-round pick to the Falcons in exchange for Sanu.

It remains to be seen if the uncertainty surrounding Sanu affects the team's offseason plans at wide receiver. Right now, only Sanu, Julian Edelman, N'Keal Harry, and Jakobi Meyers are under contract for the 2020 season, with Phillip Dorsett entering free agency and reportedly already attracting outside interest.

Sanu will earn $6.5 million in 2020, the final year of his contract.

Best safety in 2020 NFL Draft had formal meeting with Patriots at NFL Combine

Best safety in 2020 NFL Draft had formal meeting with Patriots at NFL Combine

Alabama star Xavier McKinney is rated by several experts as the best safety in the 2020 NFL Draft, and he's an intriguing option for the New England Patriots with the 23rd overall pick in the first round.

McKinney told reporters Friday that he had a formal interview with the Patriots at this week's NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

Our Patriots insider Phil Perry actually had McKinney going to the Patriots in his first 2020 mock draft last month. Here's what he wrote about McKinney's potential fit in New England:

The Patriots have so many avenues to pursue come draft weekend. Quarterback? Sure, if Jarrett Stidham (who has impressed behind the scenes) isn't ready to take the reigns and if Tom Brady is out. Tight end? Of course, though there don't appear to be any surefire first-rounders there this spring. How about safety?

That's where I could envision McKinney (6-foot-1, 200 pounds) sliding in. He's a do-it-all type for the Crimson Tide. He plays in the box. He blitzes. He covers tight ends, which has been a problem for the Patriots at times this year. He led Alabama in tackles this year, forced four fumbles, picked off three passes and broke up five more. With Patrick Chung closer to the end than the beginning, perhaps McKinney could someday fill that type of role. A versatile, tough, consistently-productive two-year starter and first-team SEC defensive back who studied under Nick Saban? That'd be worth a first-round choice for Bill Belichick.

The Patriots had one of the league's best secondaries last season, but adding some youth to the group makes a lot of sense. Veteran safeties Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty are both 32 years old. McCourty will be an unrestricted free agent in March unless he and the team agree to an extension beforehand.

It's also possible McKinney could just be the best player available at No. 23, and even though the Patriots have more pressing roster needs than safety, it's not easy to pass on a player as talented as McKinney, especially when you also factor in the amount of high-pressure games he's played in at Alabama.

The Patriots have selected five Alabama players since 2010, and four of them were on defense, including linebacker Dont'a Hightower.

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