#parent | #kids | Patriots notebook: Need for pass-catching help becoming apparent for New England’s offense

The Patriots were able to move to 1-0 on the season last week after taking down the Miami Dolphins, but that winning effort did highlight New England’s drastic need for another pass-catching weapon to add into the mix for Cam Newton. The veteran quarterback impressed in his first start with the Patriots — especially with his legs — but the passing attack will need to be a bit more prolific if they want to be looked at as serious threats in the AFC East and in the conference overall. 

While Newton was efficient with his passes in the opener (78.9 completion percentage) and should only improve as the weeks go on as he gets more familiar in the Patriots system, this offense will need to see an injection of talent sometime soon. That could come in-house if 2019 first-round pick N’Keal Harry takes a jump, but he’s not off to a great start after fumbling a would-be touchdown into the end zone for a touchback against the Dolphins. Rookie tight end Devin Asiasi is another intriguing talent to watch when New England kicks off against Seattle in Week 2. 

That said, the Patriots’ need for pass-catchers likely needs to extend beyond what the organization currently has. In the opener, only two wide receivers were able to log catches (Harry and Julian Edelman), while James White, Ryan Izzo and J.J. Taylor were the other weapons to haul in at least one pass from Newton. Having legitimate production from that collection of players doesn’t seem sustainable for New England if they are intent on going on a playoff run, especially with Harry (shoulder) and Edelman (knee) already popping up on the injury report. Top-tier talent and depth are greatly needed. 

How could the Patriots fill that? Well, they should carefully monitor two situations currently unfolding in the NFC. Chicago receiver Allen Robinson reportedly grew frustrated with his contract talks with the Bears and made headlines this week after ridding his social media of any affiliation with the team. The two sides have since gone back to the negotiating table, but there is reportedly still a significant gap in where they stand. Meanwhile in Philadelphia, Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz’s extension talks with the Eagles have gone south in recent weeks and he reportedly got into a heated discussion with GM Howie Roseman following a practice. 

If either one of those situations continues to spiral downward, it’d behoove Bill Belichick to pick up the phone and see what it may take to bring either one of those talents aboard. Excluding potential compensatory picks, the Patriots have a first, second, and fourth-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft as higher-profile assets that they could use in a trade along with, of course, players on the roster. 

Again, we’re only a game in, but if Newton and the Patriots are simply outgunned in their contest with Seattle, it would only further put an emphasis on bringing in outside help. 

Before we jump into some more news and notes surrounding New England, here’s how you can watch Sunday’s primetime matchup:

How to watch

Date: Sunday, September 20 | Time: 8:20 p.m. ET
Location: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington) 
TV: 
NBC | Stream: fuboTV (try for free) 
Follow: CBS Sports App

How Patriots are preparing for Russell Wilson

As Bill Belichick noted earlier this week, Russell Wilson “can do everything” you’d possibly want out of a quarterback. Because of that, it’s hard to prepare for someone so skilled, but New England is trying its best at it with undrafted defensive back Myles Bryant (Yup, you read that right.).

The rookie was promoted off the practice squad this week and has been pretending to be Wilson in practice. Specifically, Bryant has been running around in drills with defensive backs to help prepare for the Seattle quarterback’s elusiveness and ability to extend plays with his feet. 

“You have a guy like Myles (Bryant), who’s very slippery, very athletic and so he’s trying to imitate Russell Wilson right there with them,” Patriots linebacker Brandon Copeland said Friday, via NESN.com. “I won’t sit here and say that Myles can throw like Russ. I won’t disrespect Russ like that, and I won’t give Myles that type of credit because I’m sure he’ll try to switch his position. But, you know, he definitely gave us a great look today, and you do what you have to do to get your guys prepared.”

Bryant does have a similar athletic ability to Wilson when looking at their numbers from the NFL combine. Along with similar 40-yard dash times, Bryant recorded a 6.81-second 3-cone drill and a 4.02-second short shuttle while Wilson clocked in a 6.97-second 3-cone drill at the 2012 combine along with a 4.09-second short shuttle. 

It’s a bit unorthodox, but this is certainly an intriguing way to prepare for such a unique talent that Wilson is.  

Cam Newton’s evolution in Patriots offense

Week 2 gives us another chance to evaluate New England’s new-look offense with quarterback Cam Newton at the helm. A lot has been said this week about his 15 carries in the opener and rightfully so. While his 75 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground were successful against the Dolphins, I don’t believe it’s sustainable. If Newton continued at this usage rate as a runner, he’d be looking at 240 carriers. For reference, that would place him inside the top-15 of all rushers in 2019 and ahead of the likes of Aaron Jones, Saquon Barkley and Mark Ingram. Luckily for Newton, the Patriots seem to realize this. 

“I was thinking about this the other day: We’ve been a part of games where we’ve thrown it 65 times,” Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels told reporters this week. “That’s difficult to sustain for a long stretch of time. We’ve had games where we’ve run it an inordinate amount of times. I mean, I’ve called over 50-some runs at different times in my career here. No matter what it is you do one week, you’d better be ready to handle a totally different challenge the next week.

“And I would say there’s probably not a greater discrepancy between two different types of defenses than the two that we’re playing here to start the season. So I know we saw some new things (in Week 1). Again, it’s a function of what we felt like we could do best against Miami. Now we’re working hard to figure out what’s going to be in that bucket here for Sunday night against Seattle.”

Not only is it beneficial for the Patriots to try and evolve Newton as a passer in their offense, but the quarterback has historically struggled against Seattle as Pete Carroll has been able to limit his rushing ability. Newton is 2-6 against Seattle in his career and averaged just 3.89 yards per rush. Look for the quarterback to drop back and pass more in this one. 

It really wasn’t all that long ago that we were talking about Jarrett Stidham having the inside track at earning the starting job in New England and succeeding Tom Brady under center. The arrival of Cam Newton, however, started the steady decline in Stidham’s stock and it seemingly hit a low last Sunday when he was a healthy scratch and Brian Hoyer served as the primary backup. 

“I mean, we’ve played one game,” Bill Belichick told WEEI’s Ordway, Merloni & Fauria on Monday when asked if Hoyer will remain QB2 going forward. “I don’t think anybody has established a lot at this point. Some guys are ahead of other guys, but we’ll see how that goes. I don’t know.”

While Belichick didn’t want to pay it much mind, Stidham’s development is still worthy to follow considering that Newton is only on a one-year deal, thus leaving the door open for the Patriots to need another new quarterback in 2021. If Stidham can’t even earn the backup job, however, that’s telling. 

The Patriots made headlines prior to the opener after the club was able to rework star corner Stephon Gilmore’s contract. While it was originally characterized as a raise, Albert Breer of the MMQB points out that it’s really more of maneuvering of money. He reports that New England moved $4.5 million from Gilmore’s contract in 2021 and brought it up to this season while adding a $2 million incentive if he’s able to win Defensive Player of the Year again in 2020.

However, that wasn’t even the biggest nugget dropped by Breer as he also reported last Sunday that the Patriots floated Gilmore’s name “on at least two separated occasions” before the draft and during training camp. Breer noted that context is big with this situation as New England was not working with a lot of cap space for the large majority of the offseason and only gained some breathing room following some of the player opt-outs. 

With this information now in front of us, it does leave one wondering if Gilmore is playing in his final year in New England. The corner does have one more year remaining on his contract but this reworking of his deal for 2020 actually makes him a bit easier to trade next offseason as his base salary is now just $7 million, down from $11.5 million. 

If Belichick was already looking to move him once, it wouldn’t come as too much of a shock to hear about him dangling the All-Pro corner in trade talks next offseason prior to him entering a 2021 season where he’ll turn 31 years old. 

Ex-Patriots nominated for Pro Football Hall of Fame

The Pro Football Hall of Fame has begun breaking down its list of candidates for the 2021 class, announcing 130 modern-era nominees on Monday which includes a number of former Patriots. 

Fred Taylor, Steven Jackson, Torry Holt, Brian Waters, John Lynch, and Jeff Feagles are among the nominees that earned their potential Hall of Fame credentials elsewhere in the NFL but did make a brief stop in New England at some point in their careers. Of the notable names above, Seymour was a finalist last year while Mankins, Welker, and Mayo are first-time nominees. 

This list will later be reduced to 25 semifinalists in November and to just 15 finalists by January before ultimately determining who will be the enshrinees for this year’s class. 

Bill Belichick remembers his mother

Condolences to Bill Belichick and his family following the loss of his mother, Jeannette, who passed away at the age of 98 on Monday of natural causes. After canceling his media availability on Wednesday, the head coach thanked the number of people in the NFL community who offered their thoughts and prayers to him as he opened up his Thursday presser. Belichick then talked about how strong of a relationship he had with his mother, being an only child. 

“You know, as an only child – I mean, everybody’s close with their or has a certain relationship with their mom and dad – but as an only child, I was especially close to my parents,” he said. “My mom and I spent a lot of time together and she was a great woman. I certainly learned pretty much everything from my parents. And then, you know, with her love that she gave to her grandkids, to Amanda, Steve and Brian, was ultra-special to me as well. So, I appreciate everyone’s thoughts and condolences that have been expressed. She had almost 99 years, so a very long and happy life. So, she’ll be with my dad now.”

Belichick later recalled watching hundreds of games with her on weekends while his father was away working on the Navy football staff primarily as a scout. 

“She was a very unselfish person and sacrificed a lot for her family, and so of course me personally, and I appreciate and love her for that and many other things,” he said. “But, yeah, you know, my dad was away a lot on scouting trips, and so I always kind of grew up with her on the weekends, on football weekends, at home. So, we watched hundreds of games together, whether it was Navy games or listened to them on the radio or watched other games that were on TV and so forth when my dad was away on Friday night, Saturday and sometimes Sunday morning, depending on how far he had to travel for the games that he was scouting. So, football season for me as a kid was my dad getting home late during the week and my mom on the weekends to watch football games. And we became very close and shared those experiences together. 

“And then, you know, the only time really that I saw my dad during the end of the game week was the Army-Navy game. And then, like I said, when he got home later at night, and when I was older, I was able to stay up and see him. If I stayed out of trouble, I might get to do something with him later at night. But, I just didn’t want to act badly for my mom and have her turn me in, which she didn’t do very often, even though I was deserving of it. But, yeah, we had a very close relationship there. 

“My mom was really kind of an academic person. She was very good in college, and then after college, she worked for the map service during World War II and translated European maps because she spoke seven languages. Well, six at that time – she didn’t know Croatian – but, she was involved in the translation of maps during the war effort and then came back and taught languages at Hiram [College] after the war starting in 1945. Unfortunately, those language skills didn’t rub off on her son, and one language is really about all I have. But, she encouraged me to do the things that I wanted to do. She was very supportive of those. I wish I could have been better in the field that she was very good at. I tried that for a while, but I just didn’t have it in all honesty – so just ‘un peu’ of French, and that’s about it.”

Jennette will be buried alongside Bill’s father, Steve Belichick, who passed away in 2005 at the age of 85. He is buried at that US Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, Maryland after spending decades as a coach and scout at the school. 


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