FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Quick thoughts and notes all around the New England Patriots and the NFL:
1. McMillan in the middle: When the Patriots lined up on their nickel defense on the first day reporters were in attendance for spring training, Raekwon McMillan was a top linebacker.
It was a reminder of a significant staff turnover. Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins Sr. and Kyle Van Noy are no longer on the team. And while some saw linebackers as a top need, the Patriots surprisingly relinquished the position entirely in the draft.
That led them to field McMillan alongside Thumper Ja’Whaun Bentley as the first inside linebacker pairing. Josh Uche and Trade Acquisition Mack Wilson also took over reps. And 2021 fifth-round pick Cameron McGrone plans to be in the mix (he was restricted by an unknown illness in the spring), with Jahlani Tavai and Harvey Langi also on the depth chart.
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McMillan’s standing underscores the uncertainty — and intrigue — with coach Bill Belichick’s linebacker plans. The 6-foot-2, 242-pound Ohio State alum could land anywhere from a starter to competing for a roster spot.
In the perfect Patriots world, he will turn the clock back to 2017 when the Miami Dolphins selected him in the second round.
ESPN NFL analyst Mike Tannenbaum was Miami’s vice president of football operations at the time, and he remembers the scouting report well.
“A tough, physical player. A bit of a relapse. Very instinctive. Good tackler. Very smart and conscientious. Football is very important to him,” he said.
But McMillan tore his right ACL while covering a punt in the team’s first preseason game that year and missed his rookie season. He returned to start in every game in 2018, then played in 13 competitions (12 starts) under new head coach Brian Flores in 2019 before ending up at IR with a hamstring injury.
The Dolphins traded him to the Raiders in the offseason for fourth- and fifth-round picks, but McMillan was more of a role player in 2020 — he played in every game but with just four starts. While those around the Raiders viewed him as smart, tough, and high-profile, his spatial limitations were a factor in his minimal role.
After signing a modest one-year contract as a free agent with the Patriots in 2021 and receiving praise from Belichick early in training camp, McMillan tore his left ACL to cover a kickoff in practice. That completely wiped out his season and set the stage for this year’s comeback attempt.
“It’s been a long year for me but we’re making progress,” McMillan said in May. “After sitting back and watching, I’m ready to go.”
Tannenbaum added: “I would bet on his character, his work ethic and his enthusiasm for the game. He’s really smart. One just hopes he stays healthy.”
2. Uche’s fit: Where Uche fits into the linebacker group looks like a moving target based on spring drills. He worked on both the line and the line, and assistant coach Steve Belichick previously called him “an important piece of the puzzle”. The 2020 Michigan second-round pick played just three snaps in the playoff loss to Buffalo (excluding knee downs) as a niche pass rusher (his starring role in 2021) and his ability to take on a bigger role with responsibility In -Passport coverage could be critical.
3. Andrews Accounting: The Patriots needed to make some room to sign the rest of their draft class, and restructuring center David Andrews’ contract provided some relief. With Andrews it was a win-win scenario get money now that would have been paid to him later and the team would have created $2.1 million in space. There was no new money as part of the restructuring.
4. Parker’s Influence: Tannenbaum knows new Patriots wide receiver DeVante Parker well, having picked him in the first round of the 2015 draft in Miami. What could Parker bring to New England?
“You get someone who can win on the outside. Large catch radius and good at hitting the ball high. Really effective on intrusion routes and in the red zone,” he said. “He’s a very personable, fun-loving person who is a great teammate – always smiling, never had a bad day.
“Injuries have been an issue and you just hope he can put it together for 17 games. I wouldn’t say its game speed is elite, though [if healthy] He’s a very good starting NFL receiver who can hit eight to 12 touchdowns and make contested catches.”
5. Cargile on the forums: Director of Pro Scouting Steve Cargile represented the Patriots at the second annual Ozzie Newsome General Manager Forum Tuesday in Los Angeles. The goal of the forum is to bring together current and emerging leaders while providing a platform to assist in the preparation, training and identification of high-quality minority candidates. Commissioner Roger Goodell began by talking about expanding the “leadership pipeline” with the goal of hopefully eliminating the need to host such forums in 20 years. Cargile, 40, is entering his 12th season in New England, having worked his way up from an initial role as an assistant scout.
6. Lynch’s lesson: 49ers general manager John Lynch played for the Buccaneers (1993–2003) and Broncos (2004–07), then had a brief offseason hiatus with the Patriots (2008), and it was that last stint that in his speech at the “Preparing for a GM Interview” panel on Tuesday.
Lynch spoke about player development and the importance of having everyone on the same page when he said, “There has to be a buy-in throughout the organization. It doesn’t just stop with staff and coaching. It’s your trainers. your strength coach. Your dedicated people Your community people It’s a really holistic approach if you really want it to be successful because you can learn from each person.
“[Players] be pulled in many different directions; Everyone wants to give you advice for your career. But when you’re not tethered, that can sometimes be a disadvantage… and the approach can get scattered.
“These are the Patriots. Yes, they had Tom Brady and that made a difference. But there are little subtle things, and I’ve been exposed to them. I never played for them that year because I retired, but I saw things like player development [being] at the heart of their success. Everyone spoke the same language and conveyed the same message to the player.”
7. Throwback Jerseys: The Patriots are 9-3 in their throwback uniforms, making a comeback in 2022 after a decade-long absence. The most recent loss while carrying red discards was to the Dolphins – 22-21 on December 6, 2009 – when Brady had long TD passes to Randy Moss (58 yards) and Sam Aiken (81), but the team blew a 21-10 Second-half lead against QB Chad Henne and Miami.
8. They said it: “High performance, I think we’re mixing up what that actually looks like in the NFL. New England is a massive outlier – [playing in] nine Super Bowls in 18 years; that will never be done again. … you think of the big couples. I think New Orleans did a great job – Sean Payton and Drew Brees. They went to a Super Bowl. You look at Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay, a well run organization. A Super Bowl. Baltimore, with Ozzie and one of the best run organizations — two Super Bowls in the last 20. It’s hard to get to a Super Bowl. Part of the struggle is that we see this as the ultimate goal. But building a culture of success can be year after year – are you competitive?” – Los Angeles Rams Chief Operating Officer Kevin Demoff at the Ozzie Newsome GM Forum
9. Stüber’s Absence: Bill Belichick said during mandatory minicamp in June that rookie offensive linemen Chasen Hines (round six) and Andrew Stüber (round seven) weren’t ready to practice, but didn’t reveal why. Fast forward to last Wednesday at the New England Patriots Alumni Club’s “Football for You” clinic, and the entire rookie class was there — with the exception of Stüber. It remains unclear what could be holding him back.
10. Did you know: Rob Gronkowski’s teams had a record of 128-37 in the 165 games he played (including playoffs), which according to the Elias Sports Bureau is the second best team winning ratio (0.776) for a player in NFL history (150 games minimum) .
The only player with a better win percentage was former Patriots and Broncos center Dan Koppen (.781). Patriots left tackle Matt Light (.771), receiver Julian Edelman (.769), Packers/Dolphins tight end Marv Fleming (.763), and Brady (.763) with the Patriots and Bucs complete the top six.
https://www.espn.com/blog/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4825566/raekwon-mcmillan-revamped-linebacker-group-among-keys-to-patriots-season Raekwon McMillan, revamped linebacker group among keys to Patriots’ season – New England Patriots Blog