Patriots

Sunday Notes: McDaniels, Patriots offense will make size matter in 2019

Sunday Notes: McDaniels, Patriots offense will make size matter in 2019

FOXBORO – When the Patriots traded for Josh Gordon last September, it was the 28th wide receiver transaction the team had made to that point.

In trying to overhaul a position that lost Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks, the team cycled through a parade of players – Kenny Britt, Malcolm Mitchell, Eric Decker, Jordan Matthews, Devin Lucien, Corey Coleman – who didn’t work out for various reasons.

Gordon was anything but a sure bet, but the Patriots were desperate. Now, it can be easily argued that the Gordon bet didn’t pay off. He was gone from the team before the end of the regular season. Hence, fail.

But I’d contend it was a success on two fronts.

First, his production – 40 catches on 68 targets in 11 games – exceeded what I believed he’d give and helped the Patriots buy time as they figured out their 2018 offensive personality. He helped them win games.

Second, Gordon’s playing style opened a door in Tom Brady’s game that’s only been occasionally cracked open. It gave him a big, strong outside receiver who could defeat defensive backs with physicality. And even if Gordon wasn’t the perfect co-worker, Brady warmed to the option and went to Gordon. A lot. And the Patriots became more of a bully on offense.

And it’s clear they plan on continuing on that path.

On Friday, I asked offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels about first-round wide receiver N’Keal Harry. How he’s a unique addition to the offense, the way he foresees the offense utilizing him and the overall philosophy of being able to morph.

“I think the biggest thing we try to do with our team and our offense in particular is take guys who have a skill and a talent and don’t try to fit them to what we’ve done in the past,” said McDaniels. “If you try to do that, you tell me where the next Troy Brown is. Or the next Logan Mankins or the next Tom Brady. We’ll try to go get that guy. It’s not that easy.

“You have to have enough flexibility and versatility in your system that you can maybe feature the X-receiver. Or the Z-receiver. Or the tight end. Or two tight ends. Or the halfback. Whatever style you want to be, it should reflect the talent of your team. So that’s what we’re gonna do with (Harry) and see what happens. Now, he’s a rookie and he’s got a long way to go but in terms of him being different, he is. And we’ll try to see what he does well and see what can fit in his wheelhouse.”

“It’s always interesting when you add an element for players that maybe they necessarily haven’t done as much of something,” McDaniels said when asked about how the 42-year-old Brady might warm to a player with Harry’s obvious physical skills. “Years ago, we hadn’t been a big 12 (one back, two tight ends) personnel team and all of a sudden we did that. Back in 07, we went to 11 (one back, one tight end) personnel and spread the field. Years after that, we were more of a tempo team. It kind of moves and really reflects your team.”

What the drafting of the 6-foot-3 Harry and the signings of 6-foot-3 Demaryius Thomas, 6-foot-3 Maurice Harris and 6-foot-3 Dontrelle Inman indicates is that they want to be bigger at wideout than they were when it was Cooks, Amendola, Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett and Julian Edelman at the receiver spots. If Gordon ever gets back from indefinite suspension, there’s another player that’s 6-3.

In replacing Rob Gronkowski, they have added 6-6, 260-pound Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, 6-foot-6, 245-pound Matt Lacosse and 6-3 Benjamin Watson who is as physically strong a tight end as there is in the league.

They run with a fullback, James Develin. They are now two-deep with between-the-tackles backs having spent a first-round pick on Sony Michel last year and a third-rounder on Damien Harris this year.

NFL defenses began embracing the use of five, six and seven DBs and defensive linemen who built for speed almost a decade ago. The Patriots’ dabbled in exploiting that trend for a while but the second half of last season seemed to be when they said, “Screw it, this is who we will primarily be.”

Up-tempo and empty will never go out of style for the Patriots offense, but now they are very well-equipped to be a grinding offense rather than a finesse one.

Who will they be week-to-week? As always, said McDaniels, whoever they need to be.

“You have to look at who you have and what they do well and then you gotta look at, ‘Alright, who are we playing and what are the best advantages we can gain this week?’ “ he explained. “You try to, as many times as you can in a game, you try to gain an advantage. Sometimes that’s with skill. Sometimes that’s with size, sometimes that’s with tempo, sometimes that’s with play-style or personnel groupings. But you just take as many good football players in a room and coach them as best you can.

“Right now, we’re not making any of those determinations,” McDaniels added. “Today and for the next couple months, we’re not doing any of that. Now it’s about foundation, evaluation, let them rep, see what happens. Is it good enough? Is it not? Do we keep doing it? I don’t think we really know the ansewers about what we’re gonna look like in September and October yet. That’s for another day down the road but that’s why this part of the year is fun.”

*****

As we discussed the wide receiver personnel with McDaniels, he acknowledged that the Patriots are perceived to be a “small wideout” team.

“I know people make a big deal because we have had some players that are a little smaller be successful, whether it be Troy (Brown) or Wes (Welker) or Danny (Amendola),” said McDaniels. “I don’t really include Julian in that category but Julian’s not a big, big guy.”

Ben Volin of the Boston Globe raised an eyebrow on the exclusion of Edelman.

“He plays some of the some of the same position but I think in general terms that’s always been kind of a misconception,” McDaniels said of Edelman being perceived as a slot receiver. “Troy played inside the formation, Wes played inside the formation, Danny played inside the formation. Julian plays a lot outside the formation. Does Julian do some of those things inside the formation? Absolutely he does. But he does a lot more on the outside in the running game and passing game. It’s what he’s become. There’s a little bit of a difference based on the way we’ve used him than those other guys.”

The versatility Harry showed at ASU as a player who could perform inside the formation and win with size and vise-grip hands could give Edelman a chance to bounce outside more than he was able to in 2018. Again, that’s a developing situation but it seems that the Patriots would prefer Edelman not be consigned to the slot.

Dontrelle Inman could be Hogan-like addition for Patriots>>>

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Does Caserio's contract clause with Patriots violate NFL rules?

Does Caserio's contract clause with Patriots violate NFL rules?

The tampering dispute between the Patriots and Houston Texans over Pats director of player personnel Nick Caserio appears to be settled - for now - after an exchange of statements Friday between Robert Kraft and Texans CEO Cal McNair.

Still, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk points out that the clause in Caserio's contract that keeps him from leaving for other teams being questioned. "Some in league circles are now asking whether the Caserio clause complies with league rules," as Florio puts it.

Other teams thinking the Patriots are violating league rules? When has that ever happened?

This is the part of the NFL's anti-tampering rule that's the focus of the issue:

"..the inquiring club is prepared to offer a position as a high-level employee . . . the employer club may not deny the employee the opportunity to discuss and accept such employment.”

Seeking a Patriots employee to become your team's general manager would certainly qualify as "high-level." Florio reports that one source says at least one other team's non-"high-level" employee had a similar clause and when it was challenged, the NFL ultimately invalidated it.

The NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reports that the Texans asked what they would have to give up in a trade to get Caserio, whose Patriots contract is up after the 2020 draft.

The Texans will reportedly go without a GM this season. Sounds as if this is far from over.

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Chandler Jones motivated by trade from Patriots: 'I never want to be traded again'

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Chandler Jones motivated by trade from Patriots: 'I never want to be traded again'

Chandler Jones has settled in as a member of the Cardinals, but he isn't getting too comfortable.

The former Patriot knows the nature of the business in the NFL and that he can be traded any given moment. Jones found that out the hard way when he was traded from New England to Arizona back in 2016, and he still uses that trade as motivation three years later.

“I feel like at any time I can be traded,” Jones said, via Kyle Odegard of azcardinals.com. “It might sound bizarre to say, but I’m someone who has been in that situation. I’ve been traded before and that little sense of rejection is a crappy feeling, honestly. That’s what drives me. That’s what motivates me. I never want to get traded again.”

Jones shifted from defensive end to linebacker after joining the Cardinals, and he continues to produce at a high level. The 29-year-old has racked up double-digit sacks in each of his three seasons with Arizona (11 in 2016, 17 in 2017, 13 in 2018).

But it appears Jones may have learned a valuable lesson from his time under Pats head coach Bill Belichick: it isn't all about stats.

“It’s not about getting double-digit sacks,” Jones told Odegard. “The big thing is just being consistent. Speaking from a coach’s perspective, you want a player that’s consistent. You want a player that you know what you’re going to get day in and day out, on and off the field. A lot of that gives credit to some of my numbers, and hopefully I can stay consistent.”

Jones signed a five-year, $82.5 million extension in 2017, so using his trade from the Patriots as fuel certainly seems to have paid off.

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