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Sunday Patriots Notes: New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels deserves plenty of praise

Related: Mac Jones made rookie quarterback history against the Falcons

Dallas Cowboys v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The 11th Sunday of the NFL’s 2021 season has arrived, and there is a lot going on around the New England Patriots and the rest of the league. Let’s use this forum right here to go through some of the stories that have emerged over the last few days: time for our Sunday Patriots Notes.

1. Josh McDaniels deserves plenty of praise. The Patriots offense has played some productive football during its five-game winning streak. While still not among the most explosive in the game, it has found its groove behind first-year quarterback Mac Jones.

The fact that this has happened, and that Jones is a realistic candidate to be named Offensive Rookie of the Year, is in large part due to the work of offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels. While not every call has been perfect, McDaniels has his troops and rookie QB prepared well on a week-to-week basis.

Head coach Bill Belichick recently spoke highly about his long-term assistant as well.

“I think Josh does a great job in really every area. I don’t think he really has any weaknesses as a coach,” Belichick said. “He understands what every player is doing on the field on offense and defense. He has a great vision for how to utilize the skills of the players on his side of the ball and how to try to attack the weaknesses, whether it be personnel weaknesses or schematic weaknesses, or how to try to force the opponent into a situation that he’s able to take advantage of.

“He’s an excellent play-caller. Timing, setting up sequences of plays. Not necessarily one after the other, but maybe it’s by a situation or building it off something earlier in the game that he knows the opponent is going to be over there talking about. That’s kind of what he wants to do is talk about that because the next play is going to complement that or the next time that situation comes up.

“Josh is creative. He’s a very forward thinker. He’s got great poise during the game, never gets rattled, never loses the situation, loses track of the situation. He’s always a play or two ahead, and then, if it changes and it doesn’t follow that sequence, he can adapt to it pretty quickly. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve gone to Josh and said, ‘Hey, Josh. What do you think about this?’ Or, ‘I think we should think about that,’ and he said, ‘Yeah. We just talked about that. That’s what we’re going to do.’”

One of the longest-tenured coordinators in the NFL, McDaniels is in his tenth straight season leading the Patriots offense. Given this experience it is no surprise that he has been trusted with helping groom the team’s quarterback of the future.

“I’d say I have tremendous confidence in all the things that he does,” said Belichick. “It’s really been amazing to me how many times, well, again, it’s happened in reverse a few times where he’s like, ‘Hey, Coach. We’re going to change this. We’re going to do this,’ and it was maybe a minute or two before I was about to go over to him and say, ‘Hey, Josh. What do you think about this or that’ He’s already a step ahead of me on that. It’s kind of like [Nick] Saban when we were in Cleveland. Nick knew what every player on the field was doing. He knew what the guard keys were. He knew what the running back was keying. He knew what the nose guard was doing. He knew what everybody on the field was doing, and Josh is kind of the same way.

“He knows what all 11 guys are doing on offense, what their keys are, what their adjustments are and all that, and he knows, defensively, how the guys are taught to play certain blocks or routes or reads and how to attack them. I’ve learned a lot from Josh. I really have. He really excels in every area. I don’t think it’s any one thing; play calling, fundamentals, strategy. It’s really all of them.”

Needless to say that Belichick has a ton of respect for McDaniels. Rightfully so: he deserves plenty of praise for the work he has done with the 2021 New England offense and Mac Jones in particular.

2. The Patriots’ team chemistry is developing well. The Patriots brought in plenty of new faces over the course of the offseason, creating an aura of uncertainty not just from an individual performance standpoint but also from a team chemistry perspective. It looks as if those questions have been answered quite definitively, with Jakobi Meyers’ first career touchdown reception against the Cleveland Browns last Sunday the perfect but not the only example.

Take NFL Films’ mic’d up clip featuring David Andrews...

...or this press conference clip recorded following the Thursday Night game in Atlanta:

“The relationship with the players is always a very special one. It’s not something, as a coach, that you can orchestrate,” said Bill Belichick earlier this week. “I think it just has to happen. Hopefully, you put players together that will be able to form those kinds of relationships, trust, camaraderie, and all those things, but it’s not anything you can legislate. It just kind of has to happen. I’m glad it’s happening.”

3. Assessing New England’s success after a mini bye. The Patriots have played on Thursday Night Football in nine straight seasons, meaning they enjoyed a mini bye every year since 2012. Coming off those extended breaks, New England is 7-2 — the lone losses coming in 2016 against Buffalo (led by third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett) and in 2020 on the road versus Miami.

The Patriots will play the top-seeded Tennessee Titans next Sunday.

4. Checking in with the second-year jumps after 11 games. Bill Belichick never grows tired of pointing out that players usually make the biggest jumps between their first and second seasons in the league. Now that the 2021 campaign is 11 games old, and with Belichick’s team on a mini bye, we have a good opportunity to check in with the team’ second-year players and find out how they have developed so far.

First, a look at the remaining members of New England’s 2020 draft class.

  • S Kyle Dugger: The Patriots’ highest pick of the 2021 draft has taken a massive leap in Year 2 and has been playing on a very high level recently. A starter-level member of the team’s secondary, Dugger has played 81 percent of defensive snaps and intercepted three passes.
  • LB Josh Uche: After registering three sacks in the first two games, Uche has been a bit more quiet as of late. Primarily used as a rotational pass rusher, the former second-rounder was sent to injured reserve earlier this week.
  • LB Anfernee Jennings: Jennings was placed on injured reserve before the season and will not be back until 2022.
  • TE Devin Asiasi: With the Patriots adding Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith in free agency, Asiasi is now little more than an emergency option. So far, he has played just 12 snaps this year.
  • TE Dalton Keene: Keene was placed on injured reserve before the season. He also will not be back until 2022.
  • OL Michael Onwenu: The sixth-rounder opened the season as New England’s starting left guard but he was later moved to the right tackle spot to help replace an injured Trent Brown — performing well in both spots. With Brown back and Ted Karras playing high-quality football at left guard, however, Onwenu was relegated to backup duty the last two games.
  • OT Justin Herron: While Michael Onwenu can be considered New England’s OT3, Herron is the fourth option and possible next man up at left tackle. Either way, he has appeared in 10 games so far with four starts.

Four members of the undrafted rookie class are also still with the team at this point.

  • CB Myles Bryant: After starting the year on the practice squad, Bryant was added to New England’s active roster in the light of Jonathan Jones’ season-ending shoulder injury. He has seen regular action ever since and has performed well.
  • RB J.J. Taylor: Taylor has seen irregular action in his second season, but he has scored the first two touchdowns of his career. He is New England’s RB4 behind Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson and Brandon Bolden.
  • WR Kristian Wilkerson: Wilkerson has appeared in one game so far as a standard elevation. He remains on the practice squad.
  • DT Bill Murray: Following a solid preseason, Murray was signed to New England’s practice squad. He still awaits his regular season debut.

New England also added a second-year player via draft earlier this year.

  • OL Yasir Durant: The Patriots acquired Durant via trade from the Kansas City Chiefs, so he is in a slightly different situation than the other players listed above. He did start one game at right tackle, but has been relegates to emergency status since then.

5. Lawrence Guy is this week’s NFLPA Community MVP. Lawrence Guy is a standout performer on the field, but his work off the gridiron does not go unnoticed either. Just earlier this week, the veteran defensive lineman was named the NFLPA’s Community MVP after hosting a baby shower and lunch, distributing more than $40,000 in gifts and supplies to 20 local mothers in need.

The NFLPA will make a $10,000 donation to a foundation or charity of Guy’s choice for him being named Community MVP.

6. Matthew Judon and Carl Davis are doing good in the community. Fellow Patriots defenders Matthew Judon and Carl Davis are also making a difference off the field. The two have recently donated Thanksgiving melas to 500 Boston families in need.

“On Sundays they support us. This is our way of returning it to them,” Davis told CBS Boston.