The New England Patriots continue filling out their coaching staff, and their latest hire addresses one of the team’s major concerns in 2023: the offensive line.
Former Cleveland Browns assistant O-line coach Scott Peters has been hired to work with the same group in New England. He will have some talent to work with, but is inheriting a group that had its fair share of issues last season — primarily due to a lack of continuity stemming from health and performance issues.
Will Peters be able to turn the ship around? That remains to be seen. For now, let’s focus on what his hire means for New England from a big-picture point of view.
The Patriots bring a promising young coach aboard
The 2024 season will only be Peters’ fifth on an NFL sideline, but make no mistake: he is a coach on the rise.
Spending his college days at Arizona State, he entered the league as a fourth-round draft choice in 2022. His active career in the NFL was not necessarily filled with success, and he started only four of his seven total in-game appearances over a seven-year span. Nonetheless, his days as an interior O-lineman allowed him to lay the groundwork for his coaching career.
After some time away from the game during which he was actively and passively involved with combat sports, Peters joined the Browns in 2020 to serve and study under one of the league’s most experienced offensive line coaches. For four seasons, he learned the art of coaching O-line from Bill Callahan and helped Cleveland field one of the league’s best units year in and year out.
Now, the 45-year-old will get an opportunity to run his own room.
More outside zone could be on the menu
So, what can be expected from Peters? That will depend on the offense new coordinator Alex Van Pelt will install in New England. Based on prior tendencies, however, the Patriots’ O-line should expect to run a variety of different blocking schemes.
The Browns of the last few years were an outside zone-based team, and they ran it on almost a quarter of their offensive snaps — which would be a change compared to the Patriots’ traditionally power-focused concepts. However, they also mixed in a considerable amount of man blocking to a point where they eventually became one of the league leaders in gap blocking, too.
Seeing New England adopt a similar approach would make sense, and play into the strength of the personnel available. Cole Strange appears well suited for zone and pull blocking, with pending free agent Michael Onwenu and sophomore Sidy Sow fits as gap blockers.
The Adrian Klemm/Billy Yates era is all but over
New England had high expectations for Adrian Klemm when he was hired last offseason. A former Patriots draft pick who had plenty of experience, he was paid like one of the top O-line coaches in the game.
However, the results did not match up with those expectations. As noted above, Klemm’s unit struggled for much of the year. Some of the issues he had no impact over, but as a whole he was unable to get the group to perform at the level it needed to perform at; communication and stunt pickup, for example, remained a problem throughout the season.
To make matters worse, Klemm was forced to leave the club in early November due to a medical situation. He did return to Gillette Stadium at one point, but never returned to his position at O-line coach.
In his place, assistant Billy Yates took on an increased role; working together with head coach Bill Belichick, he attempted to keep the unit afloat down the stretch. With the same woes continuing to plague the unit, however, things did not get much better.
Now, with Alex Van Pelt bringing in his own guys — including Peters — it appears both Klemm and Yates will be gone.
Familiarity remains the name of the game in the coaching search
The Patriots filling out their staff with coaches who have ties to the current personnel makes sense. It also is the exact approach the team has so far taken on offense.
Both quarterbacks coach T.C. McCartney and Scott Peters have worked under OC Alex Van Pelt in Cleveland the last few years. Meanwhile, Van Pelt and senior assistant Ben McAdoo go back to their Green Bay days — back when Patriots director of scouting and quasi-general manager Eliot Wolf was also working for the Packers.
Coaches and executives using preexisting networks to build a staff is a tale as old as the sport itself. Whether it will lead to a quick turnaround at One Patriot Place is a different story that has yet to be written.