The New England Patriots have made some interesting signings to fill out their 90-man roster.
— A second long-snapper (Wes Farnsworth)
— A third kicker (Quinn Nordin)
— A fourth quarterback (Brian Hoyer)
— 30-year-old former Minor League Baseball player (running back Tyler Gaffney)
ESPN’s Mike Reiss had an interesting explanation for why they signed Gaffney.
It seems like the Patriots are looking for bodies to replace absent players during voluntary workouts. That could help explain a second long snapper and third kicker, as well.
Will Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones be the next player acquired by New England? Watch this week’s mailbag video above for that answer. Read on for the print edition.
Why are national outlets so low on New England?s offense? Is it hesitancy about Cam? I feel like even with his poor play last year, this team is going to be significantly better.
I would assume Cam Newton’s play is a big part of it. I actually think another factor is the fact that New England signed big-name tight ends rather than wide receivers.
Wide receivers are shiny objects that catch attention. Tight ends are less flashy.
Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry just kind of blend in to the Patriots’ total offensive depth chart, and the wide receiver corps of Nelson Agholor, Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne stand out more as a potential weakness.
But throw in James White/Damien Harris/Sony Michel, and that’s a pretty decent set of weapons. Plus, the Patriots have one of the best offensive lines in football.
So, ultimately, it really does come down to whoever is playing quarterback, and that will probably be Cam Newton.
But Newton should be a lot better because of his improved weapons. In 2020, the Patriots’ offense was on the field for 1,011 snaps. Tight ends Ryan Izzo, Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene and fullback Jakob Johnson played 1,352 snaps. Those snaps, plus more, will be taken up by Henry and Smith now. That’s a massive, massive, massive upgrade.
Last year we rolled out a lot of dime/nickel looks out of necessity (Phillips/dugger at lb), but do you see that continue now that we have better personnel and league tendencies or have a higher % of heavy sets now that we have the depth at lb/dl?
This is a slight cop-out, but that depends on a number of factors. First, what offensive personnel are the Patriots facing? If teams are using 11 or even 10 or 01 personnel against the Patriots, then they’ll be deploying a lot of dime and quarters again to combat it. If opposing teams are using two tight ends or a fullback, then New England can go heavier.
It also depends on how some of the young players progress this offseason. We still don’t really know who would be the second stand-up linebacker next to Dont?a Hightower. If it’s Kyle Van Noy, then someone else (Josh Uche? Chase Winovich? Ronnie Perkins?) will need to step up on the edge. If Van Noy is on the edge, then someone (Uche? Cameron McGrone? Anfernee Jennings? Raekwon McMillan? Ja’Whaun Bentley? Terez Hall?) needs to step up at inside linebacker.
The Patriots definitely have better personnel and depth at linebacker than they did last season, however. So, they shouldn’t be forced to play safeties at the position.
Sir Doug, what kind of roles do you think Jalen Mills and Kyle Dugger will have this year?
I think people are kind of sleeping on Jalen Mills. My best guess is that he’ll play the same role Jason McCourty manned last year as some sort of hybrid cornerback, slot and free safety. And he can fill in as depth in any of those roles in case of injuries.
In an ideal world, Dugger wins the Patriots’ starting strong safety role in training camp and the preseason. Don’t be surprised if Adrian Phillips is still in that spot early in the spring and summer, though.
Who sticks on roster Stidham or Hoyer?
That’s a really tough question. It all depends on how Jarrett Stidham performs in training camp and the preseason.
I think this is what it comes down to:
If Stidham can stave off Mac Jones for the backup role behind Cam Newton, then he’ll stick around.
If Jones beats out Stidham for the backup job, then it makes more sense to keep Brian Hoyer.
If Jones beats out Newton for the starting role, then it also makes sense to keep Hoyer.
And, obviously, if Hoyer beats out Stidham and Jones for the backup role, then he’ll stick around.
That’s how I view the situation.
Rank most-to-least likely to happen by opening game:
-Mac Jones declared starter
-Julio Jones or OBJ join the Pats
-Gilmore or Jackson traded
-Michel is cut or traded
1. Michel is cut or traded
2. Mac Jones declared starter
3. Julio Jones or Odell Beckham Jr. join the Patriots
4. Gilmore or Jackson traded
But those are all pretty close.
Given your piece on Nixon, what are the odds he makes the roster? Or, what do you think he’ll have to accomplish this summer to secure a spot?
The odds are pretty good for a late seventh-round wide receiver.
All it takes is an injury, trade or surprise cut to Agholor, Meyers, Bourne, N’Keal Harry or Gunner Olszewski for Tre Nixon, Kristian Wilkerson, Isaiah Zuber or Devin Smith to make the Patriots’ roster at this point.
Nixon will be a fun player to watch in training camp and the preseason. There’s also a possibility he could outperform a player like Harry or Olszewski. I know that sounds a little crazy in Harry’s case given their respective draft positions. But Harry really hasn’t been very good for two years now.
Bringing in Brian hoyer. We still don?t have a QB coach, do you think he potentially could fill that role?
The Patriots almost never had a quarterbacks coach until Jedd Fisch joined the staff last season. It was always Josh McDaniels. I believe the Patriots’ quarterbacks coach will be McDaniels, and offensive assistants Bo Hardegree and Tyler Hughes will help out in that role.
Hardegree was the Miami Dolphins’ quarterbacks coach from 2016 to 2018.
Bill Belichick has said before that coaches coach and players play. It would be unfair to sign Hoyer as a player and expect him to also coach.
Let’s go rapid fire.
Is it Offence or Defense who will carry the team this year?
If all goes as planned and everyone stays on the team and remains healthy, the defense.
If you could have any throwing coach/mentor in the NFL for Mac Jones, who would get the most out of him?
Given his track record of helping to develop quarterbacks plus his unselfishness, then probably Alex Smith.
Of last year’s practice squad players, which do you think have the strongest chances to make the roster in 2021? #MailDoug #ThatWasAFantasticArticleOnTheNixonPickThanksForWritingIt
Thanks for the kind hashtag on the Nixon piece I wrote.
I’d say one of the wide receivers: either Wilkerson, Zuber or Smith simply because of the overall talent level at that position. Roster spots will be scarcer to come by at other positions.
Who has more TD?s this season Gronk or Tebow?
Are we including passing touchdowns? Because I’m pretty sure Tim Tebow will wind up being the Jacksonville Jaguars’ starting quarterback this year. (I’m joking. I think.)
Is a Hawaiian pizza bacon and pineapple or ham and pineapple? There is only one correct answer and it doesn’t contain “ham”
I believe a Hawaiian pizza is technically Canadian bacon and pineapple.
If I’m ordering a pineapple pizza, it’s coming with bacon, though.
Are you watching the #nhlbruins playoff series? #maildoug
Do you own a pair of crocs?
I actually want to own a pair of Crocs, but I can’t justify spending $50 on them. Didn’t they used to be way cheaper?
You know, just answering questions about the price of Crocs for my job. Living the life.
What question are you hoping will be asked??
“Hey Doug, did you get anything cool recently?”
Why, thanks for asking! I actually just bought a new guitar. I got a 1985 Gibson Invader, which was kind of a mid-’80s budget-model Les Paul. It sounds incredible and actually blows my other vintage Gibson, a 1980 “The SG” out of the water.