Friday, September 10, 2021

Patriots Preview 2021: Special Teams & Coaching

And we are on to the special teams and coaching. Here are my thoughts on those areas.

1. Kicking Themselves?

Will the Patriots regret going with rookie Quinn Nordin as their placekicker? He was inconsistent in the preseason, hitting some long field goals and missing some short ones.

I think the team sees a pretty easy schedule early on and they are using the first three games as an audition for Nordin. They have Nick Folk on the practice squad in case Nordin can't handle the pressure. But if he can, he'd be a big improvement over Folk, who lacks the leg to hit anything very long at all.

Additionally, it could take the pressure off punter Jake Bailey, who has to kickoff because of Folk's age and lack of depth on his kicks.

2. Returners

Gunner Olszewski was the Pro Bowl kick returner last year, and it was well deserved. He improved a lot during the year, and could be better this year with more experience and knowledge of his teammates.

Matthew Slater and Justin Bethel are back, both playing key roles in kick coverage. Bethel has been better than Slater the last few seasons, which is impressive because Slater has made the Pro Bowl himself about 3,000 times.

Bailey is invaluable, both punting (a Pro Bowler, too) and with his directional kickoffs.

3. Coaching 'Em Up

My blogging was truncated last year, so I didn't get to mention one of the bigger stories of 2020: the replacement of long-time offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia. In fact, the Patriots offensive line played very well. But apparently it took two men to replace Scar: Col Popovich and Carmen Bricillo were here last year. And Billy Yates was added this year as an Assistant O-line coach, I guess Scar had extremely big shoes to fill.

I wish the team would decide on a defensive play-caller. In the preseason it still appeared that Steve Belichick and Jerod Mayo were splitting time at it. By now I'd expect they would know who did a better job.

And I will say that the tight ends didn't show much of anything under Nick Caley last year. I hope he does better with better players. Because if this talented group doesn't do well, it'll be a mark against his coaching acumen. 

4. Back To Basics

I think Bill Belichick relishes the chance to take his team back to basics. Ball security, controlled passing game, stop the run, good situationally (third downs, 2:00 drills, etc.), defensive flexibility, solid kicking game, and players who will run the scheme as he envisions it.

That is how the Patriots won their first three Super Bowls. But since 2007 it had become high-flying offense with defense that tried to hold on and special teams that tried not to make mistakes. They won three Lombardi trophies during that time, but there is no way he liked the game against Seattle (really bad in the last 2:00 of each half) or the Falcons (turnovers).

The last Super Bowl over the Rams was more to his taste. Stifling defense and an offense that made no mistakes and took advantage of the one real opportunity it had.

I suspect BB will like getting back to BB-football. Year 1 of that starts on Sunday

Next up: The Schedule!

Keep the faith,

- Scott

PS 0-0!

No comments:

Post a Comment