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Sunday Patriots Notes: Projecting Joe Judge’s role on the New England coaching staff

Related: Bill Belichick’s words, actions send a clear message how he feels about Joe Judge

New England Patriots vs Pittsburgh Steelers, 2017 AFC Championship Set Number: SI701 TK1

Today marks the final day of the 2021 season with the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams set to square off in Super Bowl LVI. The New England Patriots, meanwhile, are already in offseason mode after leaving the playoffs a month ago.

Nonetheless, there is a lot going on for them. They brought home former New York Giants head coach Joe Judge as an offensive assistant, lost two more offensive coaches to the Josh McDaniels-led Las Vegas Raiders, and retained longtime Patriot and defensive assistant Jerod Mayo.

The Patriots will have their hands full over the next few months both filling vacant coaching roles on the offensive side of the ball and re-loading its roster with younger and more explosive talent. With that said, let’s jump into the Sunday notes.

1. What does Joe Judge’s title mean? On Tuesday, the Patriots officially brought back former special teams coordinator and Giants head coach Joe Judge to serve as an offensive assistant. With the Patriots offensive coordinator role remaining vacant, the hire brought a lot of questions mostly about what Judge’s role could be inside the building will eventually look like.

Judge began his career in New England back in 2012 working on special teams, but he later. also served as the team’s wide receivers coach in his final year in 2019.

“Joe’s a really good coach,” head coach Bill Belichick said back in 2019. “He’s smart. He played quarterback, he played offense, so he has a good offensive background. He does an excellent job of teaching players.”

With this statement being brought back to light this week, a lot of fans and media members were left wondering if Judge will be the teams' de-facto offensive coordinator without the title. The Patriots have operated without a coordinator on this side of the ball before,

It is still early in the offseason and the Patriots typically work on the slower side when filling coaching vacancies, but with Judge’s title being an “offensive assistant” it is a given that he will be hands-on with the offense and have a role in terms of game-planning each week. He might neither have the title nor the full responsibility of a coordinator, but he will play a sizable role for New England this year.

2. Patriots’ offensive staff getting real thin. After Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler left to take jobs in Las Vegas, McDaniels didn’t look too far to help fill out his staff. A week ago he poached former Patriots assistant quarterbacks coach Bo Hardegree away from New England to become his quarterbacks coach.

On Saturday, news came out that both wide receivers Mick Lombardi and offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo would be leaving New England for new roles with the Raiders: Lombardi will serve as offensive coordinator, while Bricillo will coach the O-line. Within the last two weeks, the Patriots have lost McDaniels, Lombardi, Bricillo and Hardegree, while running backs coach Ivan Fears is expected to retire.

It is unknown if the Patriots will look externally for the open roles within the organization or promote internally. A few names to keep an eye on is Troy Brown for wide receivers coach, Tyler Hughes for quarterback coach and potentially the return of Cole Popovich — who stayed in the area last year — for the offensive line.

3. Jerod Mayo’s return is good news for New England. With the Patriots losing McDaniels and several other assistant coaches to the Raiders, and with Ivan Fears set to retire, the Patriots did finally get some good news on the coaching front this week: inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo confirmed he will be returning for the 2022 season

Mayo, who interviewed for three head coaching jobs across the league the last two years, wasn’t able to land a gig this time around said his experiences interviewing this off-season will help him going forward. However, he’s been happy with the opportunity to both play and coach for Bill Belichick.

“Just a guy that I can lean on for understanding,” Mayo said on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football this week. “A guy who I can bounce different ideas off of, he just lets me do my thing. He lets the defensive staff do our thing as far as game-planning and things like that.”

Mayo has spent his entire career with the Patriots and called himself a “New England guy” in an interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub this week. With a ton of turnover on the Patriots staff this offseason, keeping Mayo is good news to ensure stability at least on one side of the ball.

4. Cincinnati provides hope for the Patriots. You would be lying if you said you were shocked that the Cincinnati Bengals have found themselves on Super Bowl Sunday. Led by sophomore quarterback Joe Burrow and rookie sensation Ja’Marr Chase, the Bengals have completely turned their franchise around after just six total wins in the last two seasons.

Despite taking a lot of heat for building from the skill positions and not the offensive line, their offense has skyrocketed. Burrow’s development within the unit has played a major role in sending the Bengals in the Super Bowl.

With Patriots QB Mac Jones heading into his second year, you have to wonder if the team will start to catch on with the rest of the league and add more skill and speed to its offensive weaponry. It’s proven that better support cast at the receiving positions can help your young quarterback blossom into a superstar at a much quicker rate. Just look at Burrow or the Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen.

5. An uncertain future for both tackle spots. A story that is flying under the radar for the Patriots this offseason is their plan at both offensive tackle spots going forward. Isaiah Wynn is entering the fifth and final year of his rookie contract while Trent Brown is set to hit unrestricted free agency for the second time in his career.

All signs point towards Brown returning, but Wynn has had trouble staying on the field during his NFL career. With a deep tackle class coming out of college this year, the Patriots could look early to reset the clock at the position and move on from Wynn following the 2022 season.

Wynn has proven he can be a competent starter, particularly in the run game due to his athleticism and strong technique. However, the position is getting more expensive as the years pile up. Finding a left tackle for the future may be near the top of the Patriots’ needs heading into this year’s draft.

6. Hall of Famer Richard Seymour was “fortunate to have great people around” him. After three unsuccessful bids, long-time Patriots defensive lineman Richard Seymour was finally voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this week. Seymour is obviously deserving of the honor, but he made sure to mention the support system he enjoyed while in New England.

“I was very fortunate because I was a young guy — super talented, but I was coming to a veteran-led team and was able to learn and soak up so much from so many,” Seymour said during an appearance on NFL Network. He specifically mentioned players such as Willie McGinest, Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison as helping guide him through the ups and the downs of his career in New England.

“I was just very fortunate to have so many great people around me to let my ability shine.”

7. Wes Welker returns to the AFC East. Legendary Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker is back in the AFC East, returning to one of his former teams: the 40-year-old joined the Miami Dolphins as their wide receivers coach. Welker coached the wideouts in San Francisco the past three years but will move to Miami alongside new Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel.


Mailbag

I don’t necessarily think an X-receiver is a need —more speed and skill from that position is most important. Certainly, the other two are a glaring hole on New England’s defense. The Patriots need help at cornerback, but assuming they can retain J.C. Jackson they can make it work another year in that secondary in this situation.

More speed and an incision of youth is important for the Patriots through both the draft and free agency. However, they have had success finding defensive talent on Day’s 2 and 3 of the draft, and with the rest of the league rolling out these high-powered offenses’ each week, the team desperately needs another playmaker at the skill position to continue to develop Mac Jones’ in Year 2.

There is a good chance that Williams falls to pick No. 21, especially since he won’t be able to test at his pro day and the combine. Williams tore his ACL in the National Championship Game and although players are recovering faster from these injuries, the Patriots would likely take it slow with the wide receiver and probably wouldn’t have him until late in the season.

I’d still take Williams out of the three because he would fill a big need for New England at the top of the draft. The linebacker class, meanwhile, is a deep one and the position can likely be addressed on Day 2 without much of a drop-off in quality. Chad Muma, Christian Harris, Darrian Beavers, Brandon Smith are a few names to watch.

With the quarterback in place, trading out of Round 1 is a possibility for the Patriots. They likely have a handful of first-round grades on their board, if those players are gone when their pick comes they will probably look to trade out and accumulate more capital over the final two days of the draft.

We saw this two years ago when New England traded with the Chargers at No. 23, picked up a second- and a third-rounder and were still able to get quality talent in the form of safety Kyle Dugger.