|With coaching vacancies in Foxboro, these names could be in mix for Patriots||01.23.14 at 1:44 pm ET|
With the recent exodus of coaches from the Patriots staff — linebackers coach Pepper Johnson, offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia and tight ends coach George Godsey have departed — here are seven individuals could be the mix in Foxboro for either a new job with the Patriots or a promotion within the franchise.
Jim Schwartz — The former Lions head coach has been tight with Bill Belichick for several years. He worked with Belichick in Cleveland — the turkey sandwich story has been told and retold a million times (scroll down for the full tale) — before moving on to become a defensive coach for the Ravens and Titans. He was the head coach in Detroit from 2009 through 2013. Based on his work as a linebackers coach, he could be a candidate to take over for Johnson.
Greg Schiano — One of a handful of former college coaches Belichick cultivated a relationship with — Schiano was at Rutgers before moving to the Buccaneers, who fired him this month — Schiano reportedly is in the mix for the Browns head coaching job. If he doesn’t land with Cleveland, he could make his way to Foxboro to work on the defensive side of the ball. (One thing to remember when considering Schwartz and Schiano — Belichick has been very kind in the past to former head coaches who need a one-year, transitional job as assistants before they jump back into working as a coordinator or head coach. See Dom Capers.)
Brian Daboll — Daboll is already in the system, having returned last year to work as a vaguely defined “offensive assistant.” We know he had his fingerprints on several aspects of the offense in 2013 — for what it’s worth, during training camp, he was working extensively with the offensive line as well as Tim Tebow. (Remember him?) He wasn’t named to replace Scarnecchia as the offensive line coach but could move into Godsey’s role with the tight ends, or continue to serve as an unofficial offensive adviser.
Jerry Schlupinski — The Patriots have a track record of promoting from within, and if they go that route, Schlupisnki — a coaching assistant who joined the franchise in 2013 — could be their guy who has an expanded route in 2014. His pedigree is similar to personnel chief Nick Caserio and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in that he made his bones at John Carroll University in Ohio — in fact, he played alongside them as a collegian. (He also worked at JCU as a coach.)
Joe Judge — Currently the assistant special teams coach, he could be another candidate to be promoted from within to take over one of the available positional vacancies. Judge has worked under special teams coach Scott O’Brien the last two seasons and has an impressive resume, having spent time as an assistant under Nick Saban at Alabama.
Patrick Graham — After spending a season as the defensive line coach, Graham could be shuffled back to the linebacker spot to take over for Johnson. (He was linebackers coach in 2011.) Then they would hire someone else to take over at defensive line. The Yale product joined the organization as a coaching assistant in 2009 and has worked as a defensive assistant as well as a linebackers and defensive line coach.
Matt Patricia — Graham’s coaching flexibility could also open up an expanded role for Patricia. It’s conceivable the Patriots could have Patricia handle a position grouping in addition to his current work as a coordinator. (They’ve done it for several seasons on the offensive side of the ball, where both Bill O’Brien and McDaniels have served the dual role of quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.) Patricia also has experience coaching the linebackers, as he was there from 2006-10.
|Matt Patricia knows his D can’t run from past: ‘We obviously have to play better than we did the first time’||01.14.14 at 9:23 pm ET|
Matt Patricia knows the ugly numbers from Nov. 24. Thirty-seven carries, 224 yards for Knowshon Moreno. Forty-eight carries for 280 yards and a 5.8 yards per carry for the Broncos as a team.
It was the single game that symbolized New England’s inability to stop the run all season. They finished last in the AFC in run defense, allowing 134 yards per game. Only Atlanta and Chicago allowed more this season.
The Broncos knew they could exploit the Patriots, who were without Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly and Jerod Mayo. On Sunday, the Patriots will be without another starter, run-stopping linebacker Brandon Spikes. That’s four key cogs out of the mix in the Patriots run defense.
The Patriots didn’t want Peyton Manning beating them so the Broncos nearly used the running game to do the job. Doesn’t it figure the Broncos might use the same strategy Sunday in Denver? And if that unfolds, what would have to change?
“We obviously have to play better than we did the first time around against these guys,” Patricia said. “I don’t know if we want to challenge Denver to anything. I think we are trying to stop them the best we can in both the pass and the run. Certainly they did a great job against us in the run game and blocked us very well. It is certainly something we need to go out and perform better in than we did last time.
“We want to get back to using our techniques and being strong up front and try to control the line of scrimmage, which is really the goal in the game of football every week. That battle in the trenches is a huge one and something that they obviously had success with last time we played them, Like I said, [in] the run game and they have done a great job here since our game and recently moving through the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs of really having a good run game with all the backs.
“Like I said earlier with Moreno and Ball both being very productive carrying the ball. That is certainly a huge challenge for us and something we need to improve on from the last game. On top of it the record setting passing game that they have behind it. We have a huge challenge in front of us.”
|Wes Welker appears to be still playing ‘at a very high level’||11.19.13 at 12:43 pm ET|
Upon landing back in New England early Tuesday morning, the Patriots coaching staff immediately turned their focus to the Denver Broncos. And for defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, that means finding ways to deal with a player they know a lot about.
Welker hasn’t disappointed. He leads the Broncos with 61 receptions through 10 games. He is averaging 10.6 yards per catch and his nine touchdowns tie him with Demaryius Thomas for second on the team behind the 10 of Julius Thomas.
“Certainly when you see the film, Wes obviously is very productive in their offense and the system, where obviously Peyton Manning does a great job of running the offense, running the system, and getting the ball around to all the receivers,” Patricia said during a conference call Tuesday. “But [you] certainly see Wes do the things that he does well: be able to use his quickness and get open on the shorter and intermediate routes, and [we've] also seen him push the vertical also, and get downfield and see some balls that have been thrown downfield to him also.”
Whether Welker actually plays against his former team Sunday night at Gillette is in doubt. Welker went to one knee after taking a big hit in Sunday’s 27-17 win over the Chiefs in Denver. He sustained a concussion after a 20-yard run-and catch in the fourth quarter, a trademark of the receiver during his days in New England.
He is undergoing concussion tests and protocol this week and won’t practice until Friday at the earliest.
“All the good things that he does he appears to still be doing, and doing them at a very high level, so certainly [he] is a huge challenge for us, good player like that when they get him in the slot and be able to try to take advantage of whatever coverages you’re playing against him and allow him to really use some of his quickness to work off leverage and just try to get open,” Patricia said.
Added Bill Belichick, “I think Wes looks like Wes, like the player we’ve seen. Most of the time he lines [up] in the slot and he plays like we’ve all seen him play around here for the time he was here.”
|Matt Patricia on loss of Vince Wilfork: ‘The next guy has to step up and perform’||10.01.13 at 4:02 pm ET|
Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said Tuesday that when it comes to replacing veteran defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, the team will rely on the “next man up” approach to pick up the slack.
“Certainly, he’s someone that we rely on heavily,” Patricia said on a conference call with the media Tuesday afternoon. “But like in all situations and cases, the situation is what it is and the next guy has got to step up and perform to the best of his ability and go out there and obviously execute whatever it is we’re asking him to execute.
“Certainly injuries are an unfortunate part of the game of football, but that is what it is, and we’re obviously going to expect whoever’s out on the field to perform to the highest level of their ability. But certainly Vince Wilfork is a phenomenal player for us and certainly someone who we rely on week in week out to really attack each opponent at a truly very professional level.”
The loss of Wilfork will be felt on and off the field. The Miami product, in his 10th season in the league, is one of the most well-respected players in the New England locker room. The 31-year-old All-Pro brings a certain level of work ethic, leadership and gravitas that few can match.
“Obviously, first and foremost, Vince is just a phenomenal player both on and off the field for us,” Patricia said. “Defensively — from his leadership to his ability to his work ethic, which is such an incredible example, all of which all of our guys look at and try to model themselves after. Certainly from that standpoint, he’s phenomenal as a professional and someone that takes his craft very seriously and works extremely hard to improve himself every day. It’s a great work ethic for everyone to see, whether you’re a younger player or an older player that’s maybe just gotten to our program to really take a look at and obviously see someone like Vince prepare himself week in week out.”
Here are some of the highlights from the rest of Patricia’s Q&A with the media:
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|Matt Patricia on Matt Ryan: ‘This guy is really cerebral’||09.24.13 at 4:17 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots aren’t facing Peyton Manning this week, but ask defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and he’ll tell you they’re up against another quarterback who can beat you with his brain alone if you’re not prepared.
The Patriots take on Matt Ryan and the 1-2 Falcons this Sunday night in Atlanta. The Falcons have lost to the Saints and Dolphins on the road, a pair of 3-0 teams to start the season. Ryan is completing 68.1 percent of his passes, has thrown seven touchdowns, been intercepted twice and has a quarterback rating of 100.4 in three games.
“Obviously you are talking about a tremendous quarterback here, who is showing great poise and leadership out there running the offense,” Patricia said. “This guy is really cerebral, very smart quarterback and player who is able to go out, diagnose the defense and get the ball to the proper people. [He can] handle the offensive scheme and the check system down there where he can change the play at the line of scrimmage based on the defensive look.”
The Patriots are 3-0 themselves but the combined win-loss record of their opponents is 3-6. Patricia’s defense is second in the NFL this season behind Seattle in points allowed, giving up just over 11 points per game. They will be up against their stiffest challenge in containing Ryan and his receiving corps of Julio Jones, Roddy White and Harry Douglas.
“[They] get the ball to the running backs, get the ball to the tight ends, out to the wide receivers,” Patricia said of Ryan. “He really uses the audible system if he has to along with just the whole tempo of the offense in general. The guy is just a really good, phenomenal quarterback. [He is] really accurate, has good arm strength, like I said, recognizes defensive coverages very well, and I think just a really tough guy. A competitive, tough player who can stand in the pocket and make those hard throws if pressure is in on him. If he gets hit, he can still stand in, get the read, get the proper route progression and get the ball where it has to go. So, he’s just a very, very talented quarterback.”
As for the stats that show the Patriots as the second stingiest defense in the league in the all-important points allowed category, Patricia says that won’t mean a thing when they step on the field against a Falcons offense that is heads and shoulders above the Bills, Jets and Buccaneers.
“Well I think for us, we approach every week just trying to get better and improve,” he said. “It’s the very beginning of the season, and we don’t pay attention to a lot of those things except for trying to win the ball game and putting our team in the best position to win every time we go out on the field. That’s all we’re really trying to do. We’re trying to get better than we [were] last game, play better than we did last week, and obviously this week is a huge challenge for us with Atlanta and the different problems that they present. They’re a very well coached offense, great quarterback, excellent running backs, good players both at the wide receiver and tight end positions, along with a big offensive line up front, which does a great job of protecting the quarterback and running the ball. They’re just a very well coached team with head coach Mike Smith, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. It’s just a very big challenge and we’re just trying to improve every week to get better.”
|Geno Smith is no dummy||09.09.13 at 10:21 pm ET|
FOXBORO — When it comes to the Patriots, Geno Smith has done his homework.
A week after Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson displayed an alarming lack of knowledge about the New England secondary — saying Patrick Chung still played for the Patriots when he was with the Eagles — the Jets rookie quarterback proved Monday he knew the type of opponent he was up against this week.
Asked on a conference call by the New England media what stands out for him about the New England defense, the rookie out of West Virginia proceeded to rattle off 10 of the Patriots 11 starting defensive players, including minor tidbits along the way, like how linebacker Dont’a Hightower came out of Alabama and safety Steve Gregory was with the Chargers before signing with New England before the start of the 2012 season. (The only starter he didn’t mention was new defensive tackle Tommy Kelly.)
It seems like a relatively minor point, but when rookie quarterbacks routinely forget who was in which division (hello, Ryan Tannehill) and players like Johnson forget who suits up for that week’s opponent, it was a sign — no matter how small — that the youngster has an appreciate for the challenge that lies ahead.
Smith — who was taken 39th overall this past spring by the Jets — said the New England defense is more than just a collection of individuals.
‘They’re a very well coached defense,’ Smith said. ‘They obviously present mismatches for anybody, so it’s going to be tough for us. We just have to continue to stay smart.’
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|Patriots defense winning spring skirmishes in Foxboro||06.05.13 at 1:24 pm ET|
In spring training, the pitchers are ahead of the hitters. This spring in Foxboro, the defense is ahead of the offense. Granted, the media has only been granted a small peek this spring — one OTA session a week — and will get more next week when mandatory minicamps commence. But it’s clear at this point that the defense appears to be running the show.
There are a lot of reasons as to why this could be the case: One, the defense knows just about everything the offense is going to run, and has no problem jumping a route or breaking up a play (even if its just to make quarterback Tom Brady upset). Two, with so many familiar faces, the offense is still a work in progress. Throughout the OTA sessions, Brady has none of the same wide receivers he had last season — Danny Amendola, Michael Jenkins, Donald Jones and Aaron Dobson — and has been without some familiar faces in Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman.
And three, the defense could simply be better than it has been the last few seasons. The numbers were certainly trending in the right direction toward the end of the season — at least until the Patriots were beaten at home in the AFC title game by the eventual Super Bowl champion Ravens. And it’s entirely possibly that could carry over into 2013, particularly when you consider that New England not only didn’t lose anyone of consequence on the defensive side of the ball in free agency, they added a potential impact player in safety Adrian Wilson.
When asked if he was encouraged about the number of plays the New England defense was making throughout the spring OTA sessions, Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia wouldn’t take the bait.
‘We’re just trying to look at it from a standpoint of getting better,’ he said Tuesday. ‘From what may be visible to one person, we’re going to look at it from a different angle and make sure everything was correct on the play and everything was perfect. We’re really just focused on trying to make sure everything is in the right place.’
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