Patriots

Pats put an end to the Jordan Richards error

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Pats put an end to the Jordan Richards error

When it comes to the draft, the Patriots are very good early and they are really good late. 

But in the second round, they have a tendency to take mammoth swings that result in either towering home runs or wild misses. 

Playing the hits? Since 2009, there’s Sebastian Vollmer, Patrick Chung, Rob Gronkowski, Shane Vereen, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jamie Collins (regardless of how it ended for him, Collins was a beast).

And the misses? Ron Brace, Jermaine Cunningham, Ras-I Dowling, Tavon Wilson, Aaron Dobson and Jordan Richards. 

Richards -- drafted in 2015 and traded on Friday to the Falcons for a conditional pick in the 2020 draft -- may have been the most damaging miss.

GETTING CLOSE TO CUTDOWN DAY

See, Richards wasn’t just unavailable because of injury like Dowling, for instance. And he wasn’t just “meh” like Brace, Cunningham or Dobson. 

In the regular defense, he didn’t do anything to make the team better. He actually made it worse. He was stiff, took bad angles, didn’t run exceedingly well, overcommitted in both the running game and the passing game and – unless someone was running right at him – was a below-average tackler. 

Richards put that disastrous defensive jambalaya on display during one play in the final real game he played for the Patriots, Super Bowl 52. 

Charged with covering Eagles running back Corey Clement on a third-and-3 late in the half, Richards . . . I mean . . . just watch the clip. 

Had Richards not been on the field as much during the Super Bowl, maybe hearing his name wouldn’t create a tsunami of bad feeling. More like a ripple. 

GETTING CLOSE TO CUTDOWN DAY

But he was on the field, in part, because Malcolm Butler wasn’t. Which created a secondary domino effect that moved Chung, a deft coverage player, around the defense more. So there’s a double-agitation there. 

The Patriots fell for Richards because he looked the part of a possible box safety that could be an understudy to Chung. Coming out of Stanford, you knew he was sharp and his command of the game while there had his teammates calling him “Coach.” 

The day he was drafted, Bill Belichick predicted the media would really enjoy Richards because he was so personable. 

So with all that and his draft position, the bar was set high. He wound up being a good special-teams player. 

It's worth remembering that it’s not the kid’s fault he got picked where he did. And information about his limitations was readily available. 

GETTING CLOSE TO CUTDOWN DAY

This was a draft analyst’s predraft take on Richards in 2015: “Recorded the shortest broad jump of any player at the combine -- limited explosion and athletic ability. Recorded a 32-inch vertical jump, the lowest of all strong safeties at the Combine. Limited recovery speed, body control, balance and burst. Cannot match up with slot receivers in man coverage.”

While Richards dodges the indignity of being released, a conditional pick in 2020 (reported to be a seventh-rounder) is about as minor a return as a team can get aside from “cash considerations.” (Do teams do that anymore?)

The Patriots took Richards when they could have had players like receiver Tyler Lockette, guard A.J. Cann or running back Tevin Coleman. Imagine the damage Lockette could have done for them as a return man and slot apprentice behind Julian Edelman? (This ain’t revisionist history, either . . . ). 

Jordan Richards was a disastrous selection. 

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Patriots confirm coaching changes, front office promotions for 2020 season

Patriots confirm coaching changes, front office promotions for 2020 season

The puzzle pieces of the New England Patriots' coaching staff and front office have fallen into place.

The Patriots saw turnover in both departments this offseason, as longtime offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia retired while director of college scouting Monti Ossenfort joined the Houston Texans as their director of player personnel.

The club also welcomed some new faces, including former Los Angeles Rams offensive assistant Jedd Fisch (the team's new quarterbacks coach) and ex-Cleveland Browns executive Eliot Wolf.

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So, how have the coaching staff and front office changed since last season? The Patriots have unveiled their 2020 media guide, which confirmed the new roles of several staffers.

Here's a rundown of the notable changes:

- Troy Brown officially is on staff as a running backs and kick returners coach. The former Patriots wide receiver will work with head running backs coach Ivan Fears and special teams assistant Joe Houston.

- Director of pro scouting Dave Ziegler has been promoted to assistant director of player personnel, reporting to director of player personnel Nick Caserio. He'll essentially fill Ossenfort's former role.

- Tyler Hughes, who reportedly joined the team in June, is listed as an "offensive assistant." Hughes most recently was the head coach at Bountiful (Utah) High School.

- Vinnie Sunseri joins the Patriots as a defensive assistant after spending the 2019 season as a graduate assistant for Nick Saban at Alabama. Sunseri had a brief stint in New England as a player during 2016 training camp.

- Wolf's official title is "scouting consultant." He served as Cleveland's assistant general manager in 2018 and 2019 after 14 seasons with the Green Bay Packers.

The Patriots go through personnel changes every year, but 2020 presents a unique challenge: Not only has COVID-19 prevented staff members from meeting in-person, but the club has lost a lengthy list of core veterans to free agency (Tom Brady, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, etc.) and opt-outs (Dont'a Hightower, Patrick Chung, Marcus Cannon, etc.) this offseason.

Head coach Bill Belichick isn't one to make excuses, though, so expect his staff to be hard at work this week as the Patriots begin on-field training camp work at Gillette Stadium.

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NFL opt-outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL opt-outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL training camps officially began Tuesday, but there were some notable absences.

Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif became the first NFL player to opt out of the 2020 season last Friday, citing health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since then, multiple players have followed suit, continuing a trend across all major North American professional sports of players declining to participate in their seasons as COVID-19 persists in the United States.

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The Patriots especially have felt the impact of this trend: Six New England players -- including star linebacker Dont'a Hightower -- already have opted out, the most of any NFL team.

Below is a running list of the players who have opted out of the 2020 NFL season, according to reports or team/player confirmations. The list is sorted alphabetically after the Patriots, with the date of the players' opt-outs in parentheses.

New England Patriots

RB Brandon Bolden (July 28)
OT Marcus Cannon (July 28)
S Patrick Chung (July 28)
LB Dont'a Hightower (July 28)
WR Marqise Lee (August 1)
OG Najee Toran (July 27)
FB Danny Vitale (July 27)
TE Matt LaCosse (August 2)

Arizona Cardinals

OT Marcus Gilbert (August 4)

Baltimore Ravens

OT Andre Smith (July 28)
WR/KR De'Anthony Thomas (July 27)

Buffalo Bills

CB E.J. Gaines (August 2)
DT Star Lotulelei (July 28)

Carolina Panthers

LB Jordan Mack (July 28)
LB Christian Miller (August 3)

Chicago Bears

DT Eddie Goldman (July 28)
S Jordan Lucas (August 3)

Cincinnati Bengals

OT Isaiah Prince (July 31)
DT Josh Tupou (July 31)

Cleveland Browns

DT Andrew Billings (August 4)
OL Drake Dorbeck (July 29)
OL Drew Forbes (July 29)

Dallas Cowboys

CB Maurice Canady (July 27)
WR Stephen Guidry (July 28)
FB Jamize Olawale (Aug. 2)

Denver Broncos

OT JaWuan James (Aug. 3)
DT Kyle Peko (July 28)

Detroit Lions

DT John Atkins (July 29)
WR Geronimo Allison (Aug. 2)

Green Bay Packers

WR Devin Funchess (July 28)

Houston Texans

DT Eddie Vanderdoes (July 28)

Jacksonville Jaguars

EDGE Larentee McCray (August 1)
DL Al Woods (July 31)

Kansas City Chiefs

OG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (July 24)
RB Damien Williams (July 29)

Las Vegas Raiders

CB D.J. Killings (August 3)
DE Jeremiah Valoaga (August 3)

Los Angeles Rams

OT Chandler Brewer (July 31)

Miami Dolphins

WR Allen Hurns (August 4)

Minnesota Vikings

NT Michael Pierce (July 28)

New Orleans Saints

TE Jason Vander Laan (July 28)
TE Cole Wick (July 28)

New York Giants

WR Da'Mari Scott (August 2)
LT Nate Solder (July 29)

New York Jets

OL Leo Koloamatangi (July 28)
LB CJ Mosley (August 1)

Philadelphia Eagles

WR Marquise Goodwin (July 28)

Seattle Seahawks

OG Chance Warmack (July 27)

Tennessee Titans

OL Anthony McKinney (July 28)

Washington Football Team

DT Caleb Brantley (July 27)
LB Josh Harvey-Clemons (August 3)

Free Agents

G Larry Warford (July 28)