Why Steve Belichick can be the next great head coach

Steve Belichick is primed to be the next legend

By: Reese Nasser

Steve Belichick has been a part of the New England Patriots coaching staff since 2012 when he was hired as a defensive assistant straight out of college. His history predates that as his father has been the head coach of the team since 2000.

While many people know him just as longtime Patriots Coach Bill Belichick’s son, Steve has proven to be much more than that. In his nine years with the team, he has quickly climbed his way through the ranks as he is now the coach of the outside linebackers. But what is the future of Steve Belichick’s career? Let’s take a look at why he can be one of the next great coaches in the NFL. 

What He Does Now

Steve is currently listed as the outside linebackers coach for the Patriots, a position that he has held since 2020. Before this. he was both the coach of the safeties and the secondary.   

But that is not all that he does. It is the NFL’s worst kept secret that Steve also calls plays for the Patriots defense, or at least does occasionally.

Former New England linebacker Jarod Mayo is the inside linebackers coach for the Patriots. It has been reported that he calls plays on defense as well. So there is no clear play caller in New England, but instead, a duo that knows all of the ins and outs of the team. 

What the Next Step Is

Bill Belichick, throughout his career, has for the most part always been opposed to officially naming who the defensive coordinator is. There have been few people throughout his tenure that have officially received the title. Even when looking at the Patriots coaching staff right now, there is no defensive coordinator listed. 

But, that could potentially change soon. As noted, Steve has spent time calling plays on the defensive side of the ball, alongside Jarod Mayo. These two are the unofficial defensive coordinator, seemingly splitting the duties.

If Bill Belichick decides to name an official defensive coordinator, it would make sense for it to be Steve. Outside of just being Bill’s son, Steve has achieved a lot during his short time in the NFL.

His coaching helped cornerback Stephen Gilmore have the best season of his career in 2019, which resulted in Gilmore winning Defensive Player of the Year and being named to his second First Team All-Pro team. This 2019 defense also led the NFL in both scoring and yards allowed per game. This success must be attributed to Steve in some way, even if not entirely.

The next step in helping Steve move forward would be to give him the official title of Defensive Coordinator. His proven knowledge on the defensive ball is clearly there but his achievements may be getting lost in the shuffle because he does not have the title of defence coordinator. After receiving this title, if Steve hasn’t already, head coaching looks should begin to roll in.

Why He Can Be Great

Belichick seemingly has all of the intangibles needed to be a great head coach in the NFL. His strong defensive mind will be heavily sought after in a league that is starting to rely so much on offense.

He also, much like his father, seems to live and breathe football. His knowledge and involvement at the highest level of the game can not go unnoticed. He has been in an NFL locker room since 2011 and has already experienced five super bowls and won three. He has been a part of every facet of the game and has become a proven leader. His defensive units have been regarded as some of the best in the NFL.  

The knowledge that his father has passed down to him will only help him become an even better coach. Bill Belichich, when all is said and done, may go down as the best coach in NFL history. His son will undoubtedly learn more about the game through the things that he has already experienced.

The expectations will be high for Steve once he reaches the pinnacle of coaching, whenever that may be. But, if anything that he has shown to this point is real, he will be up to the task. And he might just end up being great. 

Free agent RBs the Patriots should target

Which RBs should the Pats target?

By: Reese Nasser

The New England Patriots have decided to use a committee of running backs for some time now. There has not been a clear cut number one back on this roster and it seems as if they intend to keep it that way. 

The current rostered backs in New England are Sony Michel, James White, Damien Harris, and rookie back Rhamondre Steveneson. The three returners from last season, Michel, White, and Harris, have all dealt with injuries during their time in the NFL. All three missed time last season with a combined 15 missed games. The injury issues have played a role in how this backfield has performed in recent seasons. The trio combined for just seven touchdowns last season. 

Age is on the side of two of the three backs in New England. At the start of the season, Michel will be entering year four and Harris year three. White, while being the oldest, was still the one able to play the most games last season. Even with age not being a problem, being available had been. This could give the Patriots reason to look at potential backs that are still available in free agency. While many top running backs have already chosen new teams, there are still multiple talented ones still unsigned. Here are three free agent running backs still available that the Patriots should target. 

Todd Gurley

Todd Gurley may be the best target still remaining in free agency. During his time with the Atlanta Falcons last season, Gurley ran for 678 yards and scored nine touchdowns. Injuries have followed Gurley throughout his entire career but he has still never played less than 13 games in a season. 

The two-time all-pro could help this Patriots team could not only help the Patriots from a production standpoint but also from a reliability point. Gurley appeared in more games than any Patriots back and also had higher production. Gurley proved that he can still be a productive back and at just 26-years old, could be the lead back in New England.

Le’Veon Bell

Le’Veon Bell has had a career full of high and lows. Prior to his 2018 season where he opted-out due to a contract dispute with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bell was regarded as one of the best running backs in the NFL. In 2017, Bell accounted for almost 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns. 

While he has yet to return to this level, he has proven to still be a capable player. In the 2020 season, while with the Kansas City Chiefs, Bell ran for 328 yards and gathered another 138 through the air. Bell only appeared in 11 games and was also sharing a backfield with rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

Bell sharing a backfield with the other backs on the Patriots could help this offense that struggled heavily in 2020. His addition to the running game and ability to impact the passing game would be welcomed in New England. 

Bryce Love

Bryce Love may be the biggest reach here but it could make sense. Love had a storied college career at Stanford. He is one of the most accomplished backs in school history. During his four years at Stanford, he had over 4,000 yards from scrimmage and 32 touchdowns. 

The storied college career came to a tragic end as Love tore his ACL on the final play of Stanford’s 2018 season. The surefire first-round pick dropped to the fourth round of the 2019 draft and was selected by Washington.
Due to issues stemming from the torn ACL that Love suffered at Stanford, he continued to deal with knee problems during his time in Washington. He was cut in April without ever appearing in an NFL game. 

Now while his time in Washington was not met with success, that does not mean that Love can’t still find a spot in the NFL. New England could be the perfect spot for Love to earn another opportunity, even if he doesn’t make the final 53-man roster. At just 24-years old, Love could potentially still make an impact. The promise that he showed at Staford could still be there and given the right opportunity, Love could help a team win. The crowded backfield could offer a spot where Love would not have to reach a high amount of carries. He could be brought along much like rookie back Steveneson will be. 

3 Reasons Why The Patriots Will Return To Winning The AFC East

By: Robert Marcello

For the first time since 2002, the Patriots ended a season with a losing record. A 7-9 record doesn’t look bad, but when your team is consistently winning for over 20 years, it didn’t go over well with the organization or its fans. Bill Belichick last year didn’t handle the Queteback situation correctly after Tom Brady left for Tampa. When Tom Brady left last March, everyone in the NFL knew the Patriots needed to respond and have their next great QB. Well, that simply did not happen and the team was scrambling to sign Cam Newton late in the offseason. With all that being said, the Patriots this offseason quickly turned things around and have made this team into a playoff contender. 

Can the Patriots win the AFC East this year? Yes. Here are the 3 reasons why the Patriots can return back on top of the AFC East! 

  1. Free Agent Singings

Bill Belichick and his coaching staff wasted no time this offseason trying to get the team better. The Patriots signed two tight ends to solidify a much-needed boost offensively. Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry are both prominent tight ends. They also signed all-pro, Matthew Judon as an edge rusher. When Judon is 100 percent, he can cause havoc all over the field. The Wide Receiver positions also got a boost this offseason as the team signed Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne.  

2. Buffalo and Miami offseason wows 

To be honest, what have either Buffalo or Miami done this offseason? Not really much. Of course, the draft is a week from today, but both teams lost key players from their team. Buffalo lost Wide Receivers, John Brown and Andre Roberts. Miami lost Running back, Matt Breida. They also let Kyle Van Noy go back to the Patriots which could prove costly defensively. The Patriots out of all the team in the AFC East improved the most and can content with both teams. 

3. Defensive improvements 

At the start of the 2020 season, New England wanted to build their team on defense. Knowing it would take time for Newton to learn everything, the team knew it would take some time to adjust without Tom Brady. Well, this last offseason was from normal as teams weren’t allowed to have much of an offseason program. Defensively, New England was without some of their key starters with injury or opting out of the season. Coming into this year, the team has improved in a lot of ways defensively. Getting a healthy Stephon Gilmore back and adding former Eagle, Jalen Mills will make the backend of the Patriots defense stronger. The team added some depth up front to help with pass-rushing and stopping the run. In the last five games last year, it seemed like teams were running at will against the Patriots. If the Patriots’ defense is anything like 2 years ago, they will contend for a division title! 

Dynasty TE Outlook For New England Patriots

What is the dynasty outlook of the Patriots TEs?

By Jesse Moeller (Twitter: @JMoeller05)

What a week it has been for the Patriots. Spending money as if it was going out of style. As of March 18th a whopping $222 million spent in free agency, over $70 million more than anyone else this offseason. Jonnu Smith was the first domino, as he signed a four-year $50 million contract on Monday. The Patriots then double-dipped one day later signing Hunter Henry to a three-year $37 million contract. The team has spent a combined $87 million on the tight end position alone in free agency. $56 million of that was guaranteed.

The instant comparison for anyone familiar with fantasy football within the last decade is to harken back to the 2011 season. The pinnacle for tight end stands, as Gronkowski and Hernandez finished top three at the tight end position. I wanted to take a look back at that historic tight end season and see how it compares to the Patriots for 2021 and beyond.

Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez revamped how we feel about tight ends in fantasy. Gronkowski was the main attraction of the two and put up the greatest individual tight end season. To the tune of 90 receptions for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns on 124 targets. This translates to 324.7 fantasy points in full Point Per Reception (PPR) Leagues. Hernandez was no slouch himself, as he finished with 79 receptions for 910 yards and 7 touchdowns on 113 targets. That reached 212 fantasy points and would have put Hernandez as the TE3 last year right behind Kelce, and Waller.

Now there is an elephant in the room when trying to translate the 2011 season to the 2021 room. Tom Brady is no longer the quarterback of the Patriots. The Patriots were a top 10 in passing play rate during the 2011 season in 58% of plays called ending in a pass. Fast forward to the 2021 season with Cam Newton as the quarterback and the Patriots passed it 47% of the time. That percent difference is equal to the team calling 107 fewer passing plays over the year. Broken down that is 6.7 fewer passes a game to go around, the equivalent of going from Roethlisberger who was 3rd in attempts to Bridgewater who was 16th in attempts last year.

These types of numbers cannot be denied when evaluating players moving into new situations. Let us break down both Smith and Henry as players, and how they will be used by the Patriots in 2021 and beyond.

Jonnu Smith

Jonnu has been a tantalizing athlete at the tight end position. A player who had a breakout age of 18.0 (100th) paired with a speed and burst score above 84% screams one of the more talented players at the position. What has been perplexing about Jonnu is his lack of usage in the passing game in Tennessee. Jonnu was stuck behind Delanie Walker his rookie year, learning the ropes of the position. The following three years saw him struggle to make an impact while competing with the likes of Luke Stocker, and Anthony Firkser. (That’s not ideal)

What has been clear is his lack of usage in the passing game throughout his career in Tennessee. Jonnu averaged a 15% snap share in special teams his first three seasons. Last year it dropped to 3% as he became a much more important part of the offense. If a team values a player on offense they will minimize the number of snaps played on special teams. Look at any tight end snaps played. If that player is over 10% of special teams snaps, they are not viewed as an essential part of the offense.

Hunter Henry

While Hunter Henry is not the supreme athlete that Jonnu Smith is, he is no slouch. Henry has been one of the more productive tight ends in the league since his rookie year. The issue has never been talent, as Henry also broke out during his age 18 freshman year at Arkansas. Injuries are the worry, as Henry has never played a full season. Playing only 68% of his career games due largely to an ACL tear that cost him the entire 2018 season. His production has been constant In his young NFL career Henry has played he has averaged 49 receptions for 580.5 yards and 5.25 touchdowns on 71 targets. Henry had a career year in 2020, he was a top ten tight end in numerous categories this year such as targets, receptions, routes run, snap share, and slot snaps.

What to make of the Tight Ends Moving Forward?

The outlook for both players may seem murky at the moment, so let us help dispel that for fantasy players. Hunter Henry is your prototypical In-line tight end. He is set to emulate the role that Gronkowski dominated in his early years with the Patriots. He had not yet evolved into that “Big Slot” role that he dominated as later in the league. Henry has plenty of experience in the slot role, as he will spend some time off of the line, but the majority will be spent as an in-line tight end. He will be one of Newton’s primary passing options in 2021.

Jonnu Smith is a superior version of Aaron Hernandez in the Patriots’ offense. Hernandez lined up wide over 500 times during the famed 2011 season. He was the “Big Slot” before Gronkowski. Jonnu Smith has the ability to lineup everywhere on the field. As we have seen him used in the backfield, out wide, and in line with the Titans. Expect Josh McDaniels to deploy him everywhere during his tenure in New England. The Patriots will utilize both players a heavy amount this upcoming year.

Between them expect above a 40% target share. Why is this that easy to project? The lack of top-end receiving talent will make it easy for New England to highlight both players. Do the names of Harry, Meyers, Agholor, Borne, and Edelman scare you away? While everyone is worried about the ceiling for Henry and Smith, I would acquire either player with the intention of them being a backend TE1 in fantasy. Both players will have a 40 reception 500-yard floor in the Patriots offense. The change actually helps out each player. If all falls into place this year they could both finish as top 6 options at the tight end position. They are a much safer bet than the likes of Irv Smith, Adam Troutman, or Cole Kmet to make a jump to the tier 1 of dynasty tight ends.

Of the two, Henry does have the higher ceiling in my opinion. I see him being the number one option followed by Smith. Do you remember the Patriots receiving core of 2011? It was a Prime Wes Welker putting up 122 receptions. The trio of Chad Johnson, Deion Branch, and Julian Edelman combined for 1,012 on 70 receptions. Gronk and Hernandez were 2 of the best 3 options on that team. I see something similar for both Henry and Smith. They will be feature role of this offense., The receivers will be the supporting actors in this iteration of Belichick’s offense.

Buy both players in dynasty, and know your tight end position is secure for the next two to three years. Let everyone else overpay for the younger Hockenson or Fant, and while they wait for the breakout know you are getting top 12 tight end production from day one.

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