This New Patriots Assistant Is Most Likely Nick Caley Successor

Get to know Will Lawing, the Patriots' likely new tight ends coach


Feb 6, 2023

Three days before news broke that Nick Caley was leaving the Patriots for a job with the Los Angeles Rams, New England hired his likely replacement.

Will Lawing, a longtime Bill O’Brien assistant, reportedly joined the Patriots’ coaching staff last week. The 37-year-old’s experience coaching tight ends (Houston Texans, 2019-20) makes him an obvious candidate to succeed Caley, who’d coached the position in New England since 2017.

The Rams on Sunday reportedly hired Caley as their new tight ends coach.

Outside of O’Brien, who came aboard as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, Lawing is the only known addition the Patriots have made to their staff this offseason. He’s worked under O’Brien for the last decade, following him from Penn State to the Texans and then joining him at Alabama after Houston fired O’Brien in 2020. Both spent the last two seasons working for Nick Saban — O’Brien as the Crimson Tide’s OC/QBs coach and Lawing as an offensive analyst.

Lawing is a former North Carolina wide receiver who got his coaching start at Division-III Juanita College, where he worked as a tight ends coach (2009), pass game coordinator (2010) and offensive coordinator (2011-12) before taking a job as a Penn State grad assistant. When O’Brien left to become the Texans’ head coach, he took Lawing with him. The latter then spent three seasons as a defensive quality control coach, two as an offensive assistant and two as Houston’s tight ends coach.

Lawing’s father, Brad, was one of Saban’s assistants at Michigan State in the late 1990s. Saban is a longtime friend of Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

Before his reported departure, Caley had been the Patriots’ longest-tenured offensive assistant, having been with the team since 2015. He interviewed for New England’s OC vacancy before O’Brien was hired and also took coordinator interviews with the New York Jets and Houston Texans before ultimately joining the Rams in a lateral move.

Caley is viewed as an up-and-coming coach despite his position group’s struggles in recent years. High-priced tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith combined for a disappointing 68 catches for 754 yards and two touchdowns in 2022, with Smith finding the end zone just once in his two seasons with the Patriots thus far. Henry was much more productive in 2021 (nine touchdowns) before regressing along with most of New England’s other offensive weapons following former coordinator Josh McDaniels’ exit.

O’Brien and — if he indeed is Caley’s replacement — Lawing will be tasked with unlocking Henry and Smith, who are set to carry a combined salary cap hit of $32.7 million next season.

Thumbnail photo via Jeffrey Becker/USA TODAY Sports Images
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