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How will the Patriots replace departed offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo?

Related: Raiders set to hire former Patriots assistants Mick Lombardi and Carmen Bricillo to offensive staff

NFL: JAN 02 Jaguars at Patriots Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After already losing coordinator Josh McDaniels and assistant quarterbacks coach Bo Hardegree earlier this offseason, the New England Patriots’ offensive staff will see more turnover: wide receivers coach Mick Lombardi and offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo will both leave New England to join McDaniels’ staff with the Las Vegas Raiders.

As for Bricillo, he spent the last three seasons with the Patriots. After originally serving as an offensive assistant, he was promoted to co-offensive line coach in 2020. Last offseason, he eventually became the main O-line coach.

With the 45-year-old now headed to Las Vegas, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick will have another spot on his offensive coaching staff to fill. So, how will he do it? There are a few candidates to be considered.

Billy Yates: A former backup offensive lineman with the Patriots, Yates turned to coaching in 2013. He returned to Foxborough in 2015 on coaching fellowship before stints at Bowling Green and with the Detroit Lions. He re-joined New England again in 2021, working as Bricillo’s assistant. Given the role he held last season, the 41-year-old appears to be the natural choice to take the next step and take over the main role.

Cole Popovich: As noted above, Bricillo served as co-offensive line coach in 2020. The other person holding that title that year was Popovich. However, he decided to leave the team the following offseason due to Covid-19 vaccination protocols and was recently hired as O-line coach at Troy University. If he has changed his stance and is able to follow the NFL’s protocols, he could be a candidate to be brought back.

Ryan Wendell: Going outside the organization, former Patriots offensive lineman Ryan Wendell comes to mind as a possible candidate to replace Bricillo. The 35-year-old spent the last three seasons as the Buffalo Bills’ assistant O-line coach, but he might be willing to look for other opportunities: Wendell interviewed for the team’s offensive line coach position this offseason but did not receive the promotion he was looking for.

Ben Wilkerson: Incoming coaches like to bring their own assistants along — look no further than McDaniels — which means that Ben Wilkerson might be a dark-horse candidate to come to New England and work with the offensive line: he served as assistant O-line coach under Joe Judge with the New York Giants. Judge returned to New England earlier this month, and he might convince Bill Belichick to add Wilkerson as well.

Ultimately, Billy Yates should be seen as the frontrunner to take over for Bricillo after already serving as his assistant last season. A potential Cole Popovich return might change things, but the former Patriots lineman taking the next step up the ladder would not be a surprise.