The offseason cooled off for the NFL as the attention turns to Sunday’s Super Bowl. With New England’s staff no longer coaching up college prospects at the Shrine Bowl or Senior Bowl, Bill Belichick put a pause on roster building to add another piece to his coaching staff.
Earlier this week, reports surfaced that New England is adding former Oregon offensive line coach Adrian Klemm to their staff. The expectation is he’ll hold the same title. Klemm, who was Belichick’s first draft pick in New England back in 2000, was impressive in his time at Oregon (inheriting a talented unit) after a bumpy stint in Pittsburgh with less talent.
Last year with the Ducks, they surrendered the fewest sacks in the FBS allowing just five in 13 games. Oregon also had one of the most efficient play-action passing attacks in the nation. Klemm’s unit seemed to play well together throughout the year, something he hopefully can carry with him to New England.
The biggest unknown here is his ability to develop younger players. That will be put to the test immediately with Cole Strange and likely a young offensive tackle who could be relied on to start immediately.
With New England’s coaching staff likely to be almost complete, the attention turns back to roster contraction. Let’s jump into this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag to preview some of their potential moves.
@Collin_Demo Bigger need LT or a true #1 WR? How do we go about obtaining either option? FA? Through the draft? Trade?
To me it’s tackle. If the season started tomorrow New England has just Trent Brown and last year’s seventh-round pick Andrew Stueber, who spent the Reserve/Non-Football Injury, under contract. Brown himself isn't even a lock to be on the roster next season, so they need multiple players at this position.
With the bleak future here, they need their focus to be on the draft. Signing a veteran would be nice, but adding a player in the first- or second-round that can be an immediate day one guy for them for the duration of his rookie contract is needed.
Lucky for New England, this tackle class is absolutely loaded. The consensus top three consist of Georgia’s Broderick Jones, Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr., and Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski. Jones is my personal favorite, but I’d bet Skoronski would be the one to fall to No. 14 on draft day. He’d be a strong selection.
The talent doesn't stop there as Ohio State’s Dawand Jones and Tennessee’s Darnell Wright will likely go within the top-50. Both players are right tackles, but are great players to add if New England is out of range of the top three. There are others tackles currently projected to be selected slightly later who could also be day one starters, Alabama’s Tyler Steen being one on my radar.
Is Quentin Johnson a fit for the Patriots in the draft? - Brent
I would go against it and a lot of that has to do with my N’Keal Harry PTSD. At 6-foot-4, Johnson is strictly an X-receiver and is not a great route runner. Most of his wins are on verticals and going up to get the football. Sounds like the guy they failed to use in 2019 and now that skillset may be an even worse fit with Mac Jones and Bill O’Brien.
Where New England should target in this draft is receiver who fill more of the Z/slot-role. Having a jitterbug to work the intermediate is a huge part in O’Brien’s offense and attacking the middle of the field is where Mac Jones is at his best. More good news for the Patriots is that this draft is filled with those types of receivers.
USC’s Jordan Addison and Ohio State’s Jaxon-Smith Njigba are the top two options to fill that role and will likely be first-round selections. But, UNC’s Josh Downs or LSU’s Kayshon Boutte could be intriguing options in the second-round. Houston’s Tank Dell is an electric player but has size concerns (163 pounds). Purdue’s Charlie Jones could be a Day Three option here.
@ForbesSumner Should we expect NE to look at kickers in the draft?
I would be thoroughly surprise if the Patriots left the draft without a kicker and/or punter, especially with eight current selections on Day Three.
At the kicker position, Nick Folk was solid for them again last year but is now 38 years old and a release at any point would save the team $2.2 million in cap space. Quinn Nordin is also a potential factor here as the team kept him around on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury all season.
If they decide to go this route in the draft, Michigan’s Jake Moody is the best kicker available and put on a show in front of New England’s staff at the East-West Shrine Bowl. When projecting at home, keep in mind they likely won't draft a kicker who played his whole career down South or in a dome.
As for punters, Oklahoma’s Michael Turk was impressive for New England at the Shrine Bowl. Michigan State’s Bryce Baringer was one of the best punters in college football and had a strong Senior Bowl. We also could never forget Adam Korsak who won the Ray Guy award this season from Rutgers.
@theeKegsCrew How does the new offense get more out of Jonnu Smith? It’s been 2 years and he may be one of the worst FA signings in NE.
Let's not think Bill O’Brien will turn Henry and Smith into Gronk and Hernandez 2.0 here, but there definitely should be improvement. I mean he got a combined 104 catches, 1,101 yards and six touchdowns out of C.J. Fiedorowicz and Ryan Griffin in Houston in 2016.
So, how does he got more out of Smith? The hope is O’Brien allows Smith to run a more normal route tree and less of all the gimmicky stuff New England has run him on the last two years. Let him runs verticals up the seam and crossers.
Where O’Brien was at his best at Alabama was with switch releases (outside receiver runs inside, inside receiver run outside, etc.) to out-leverage and attack defenses. He did this with his tight ends as well, using two-tight end sets at times out of nub formations.
Again, I would not expect a second-coming of the 2011 duo, but the path to more productivity for Smith and Henry is there with O’Brien now at the helm.
@markrcaron Will the Pats name a DC this season? Note, prior to last year the Pats win ~1.5 more games a year when the have both an OC & DC on staff.
I’d be surprised if they have any significant title changes on the defensive staff from where we are now. Jerod Mayo may take on more responsibility with the same title. Also, while I get the lack of titles is annoying for those covering or following the team it truly does not matter unless there is confusion internally among the players.
Agree they probably win one or two more games last year with someone like O’Brien as the offensive coordinator.
@Skywal1Thaddeus Who do you predict wins Super Bowl MVP for either team? For the Eagles my bet is Jalen Hurts or Haason Reddick. For the Chiefs my bet is either Patrick Mahomes or Frank Clark
It’s hard to go against either QB’s to win here. I like the pass rusher picks but history is against it as offensive players have won Super Bowl MVP 82.1 percent of the time. Of those offensive players, quarterbacks have won it 31 times, wide receivers eight times, and running backs six times (but not since Terrell Davis in 1998).
That’s why its hard to pick against the QB’s (especially these two), but here would be my other picks:
If the Chiefs win: TE Travis Kelce (+1,200). This goes against my statistics as a tight end has never won Super Bowl MVP, but we all know Kelce is more of a receiver anyway. Picking a Chiefs receiver was tempting due to the odds but they are severely banged up and it’s tough to tell what playing time will look like. Kelce has been the straw that stirs the drink for their passing attack all season, so it’s tough to go elsewhere here as the Chiefs should be forced to air it out.
If the Eagles win: WR DeVonta Smith (+3,000). Smith has seen a heavy workload for Philly this year against defenses that play more two-high safety looks and Kansas City has relied on that coverage weekly throughout the year. If the Eagles air it out more than usual to keep pace with Mahomes, Smith could put together a solid stat line and have a case for MVP honors.
@TMurph207 whats your favorite pie ?
Boston Cream. Easy choice.
That’s all for this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag. If you have questions you’d liked to be answered next week, submit them on Twitter using #PostPulpit! Make sure to be following @iambrianhines and @PatsPulpit as well!