Sat, 02 Jul 2022

OTA blogservations: Offense still getting coordinated

New England Patriots
24 May 2022, 20:34 GMT+10

The Patriots hit the field in front of the media for the first time in 2022 but who will be calling plays remains a mystery.Paul Perillo

For the first time in more than two years there was a sense of normalcy in and around Gillette Stadium as the Patriots welcomed the media for their latest session of OTAs in Foxborough. While some of the practices were open to the media last spring, this time there were in person interviews with Bill Belichick as well as selected players on the field. The operation was as close to normal as it's been since before the pandemic back in 2020.

That was the off-the-field part. On the field, there was plenty of activity that was far from normal. Specifically, the identity of an offensive coordinator and play caller, a topic that generated the lion's share of discussion both in Belichick's pre-practice briefing and following the roughly two-hour workout with Mac Jones, Kendrick Bourne and Jonnu Smith, the three offensive players made available.

After trying and failing to get some clarity from Belichick prior to practice, reporters watched closely for any signs of how the Patriots offense will be structured in 2022. Based on one day it appeared that Joe Judge, who last week told the media he would be working with Jones and the rest of the quarterbacks, will be intimately involved. He spent a lot of time alongside Jones and seemed to be at the very least relaying plays to the quarterback at times.

Belichick also spent most of his time focused on the offense and during one period late in practice appeared to be giving instructions to Jones as well. The coach didn't seem too eager to divulge any details on how the offense will operate, instead choosing to focus on the fact that the season won't be getting underway for several months.

"Do we have titles? Yeah, look, there's a lot of jobs that we have to do, we're all working on those things now but - it's May," he said. "They'll change in June, they'll change in August, they'll change in September. So, we'll evolve it to the things timely that we need to do. If you're asking about game plans, we're months away from that - months."

What about play calling?

"Months away. Months. What plays are we calling? Mini-camp plays?

"We're gonna coach the team, coach the players, we're gonna get them ready to go. We're gonna game-plan when we have to game-plan, we'll play-call, do all the things we need to do to compete in games. Right now, we're months away from that."

Jones and his fellow offensive teammates were a bit more forthcoming but still were guarded in their responses.

"He's seen a lot of football, obviously he's been around football for a long time, whether that be as a head coach, special teams, playing the position himself," Jones said when asked about Judge. "So, he has knowledge that is very beneficial to me as a quarterback and obviously I'm going to learn with him, that's the goal, is to kind of teach each other and move along and take what he knows and then take the experiences that I have and combine them and work together as a great team. Obviously, we have him and [Brian] Hoyer and Bailey [Zappe], so we have a great group of guys that can come together and work together in that room."

Bourne was excited about some of the changes within the coaching staff, citing Judge's motivational abilities as well as Troy Brown's apparent move to wide receivers coach.

"It's been awesome," Bourne said. "There are different styles and that works in our favor to be able to learn from different people. It's early so we don't know a lot yet but it's been [great] so far."

Matt Patricia also spent his time on the offensive side working with the line but he didn't appear to be heavily involved in any of the play calling or running any of the drills. Based on the way the players spoke, it sounds like the offense will be a collaborative effort this season with perhaps Belichick himself involved in calling the plays.

Beyond the drama of the coaching duties, here are one man's observations from our first look at the 2022 Patriots.

*The OTA sessions are voluntary and there were a handful of players not spotted on Monday. Some could simply be dealing with injuries and working out in other areas, but among those not seen included Matthew Judon, N'Keal Harry, Adrian Phillips, Ronnie Perkins, Isaiah Wynn, Lawrence Guy, Byron Cowart and kickers Nick Folk and Quinn Nordin. Some players were seen working out on the lower practice field, and others who were present at the start moved there for rehab during the practice as well.

*One pleasant surprise in uniform was James White, who missed most of 2021 after dislocating his hip during a Week 3 loss to New Orleans. Earlier in the offseason White told reporters he was unable to walk for three months following the injury, and even though he took part in just drills it was noteworthy to see him on the field and moving well.

*Ron Wolf, the legendary former general manager of the Green Bay Packers, was on hand for practice alongside his son, Patriots scouting director Eliot Wolf.

*Belichick explains every year how OTAs are for teaching and not evaluating so rather than focusing on which players made the best plays I try to watch the individuals and what skill sets they might bring. This is particularly true of the newcomers and one who stood out on Monday was DeVante Parker. The former Miami wideout looked quite fluid in his route-running and showcased strong hands and good body control catching corner fades by high-pointing passes over defenders. He managed to haul in a long touchdown from Hoyer off a deep crosser behind Justin Bethel in a team drill. In a word he looked smooth.

*Another fluid athlete who stood out was Jack Jones. The rookie cornerback moves effortlessly and also showed the ability to high-point the ball effectively during drills. Toward the end of practice he worked with J.J. Taylor and Malcolm Perry returning punts and Belichick spent a couple of extended periods discussing his techniques during the drill.

*Ty Montgomery spent most of the practice working as a receiver. It's not uncommon for Belichick to switch things around from day to day, however, so it's likely that he will also have his share of plays out of the backfield.

*The Patriots helmets did not include the Elvis logos.

*Jones looked noticeably thinner - Bourne told reporters "his stomach is gone" - and he talked about improving his nutrition and sleeping/wellness patterns. It also should be noted that Jones practiced without any knee brace. He tinkered with several versions last year but seemed to be moving well without one on Monday.

*With Wynn not spotted Trent Brown moved into the left tackle spot for some drills during practice. Rookie Cole Strange was next to him at left guard at times. Justin Herron moved into Brown's normal spot at right tackle with David Andrews and James Ferentz at center and Mike Onwenu at right guard.

*Second-year wideout Tre Nixon was active during the practice, catching a few passes out of the slot. He also caught a crossing route from Hoyer for a nice gain later in the workout.

*Couple of first impressions on rookies: running back Kevin Harris has enormous quads, which makes sense given his reputation as a power runner at South Carolina. On the flip side, quarterback Bailey Zappe is significantly smaller than his two fellow QBs. He did show some nice zip at times, connecting with tight end Matt Sokol on a crosser on one impressive throw.

*The Patriots wrapped up practice with the bulk of the team running full field length gassers while the punters and returners worked on one corner. The period lasted roughly 15 minutes as conditioning work is well underway.

*The team will continue their practices in Foxborough but the media won't be on hand again until May 31. That will be followed by the mandatory three-day mini-camp that is scheduled for June 7-9.

*Jones looked noticeably thinner - Bourne told reporters "his stomach is gone" - and he talked about improving his nutrition and sleeping/wellness patterns. It also should be noted that Jones practiced without any knee brace. He tinkered with several versions last year but seemed to be moving well without one on Monday.

*With Wynn not spotted Trent Brown moved into the left tackle spot for some drills during practice. Rookie Cole Strange was next to him at left guard at times. Justin Herron moved into Brown's normal spot at right tackle with David Andrews and James Ferentz at center and Mike Onwenu at right guard.

*Second-year wideout Tre Nixon was active during the practice, catching a few passes out of the slot. He also caught a crossing route from Hoyer for a nice gain later in the workout.

*Couple of first impressions on rookies: running back Kevin Harris has enormous quads, which makes sense given his reputation as a power runner at South Carolina. On the flip side, quarterback Bailey Zappe is significantly smaller than his two fellow QBs. He did show some nice zip at times, connecting with tight end Matt Sokol on a crosser on one impressive throw.

*The Patriots wrapped up practice with the bulk of the team running full field length gassers while the punters and returners worked on one corner. The period lasted roughly 15 minutes as conditioning work is well underway.

*The team will continue their practices in Foxborough but the media won't be on hand again until May 31. That will be followed by the mandatory three-day mini-camp that is scheduled for June 7-9.

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