The New England Patriots’ offseason training program is over, which means the slowest period on the NFL calendar is upon us. From now until the start of training camp in late July, the league and its teams will be pretty quiet.
However, this does not mean that the media cycle ever truly stops. And so, to clean up the notebook from the past few days, please enjoy this week’s edition of ours Sunday Patriots Notes.
His arrest calls into question the future of Jack Jones. Patriots second-year cornerback Jack Jones was arrested at Boston’s Logan Airport on Friday after trying to board a plane with two firearms in his carry-on.
He faces two counts of possession of a concealed weapon in a secure area of an airport, possession of ammunition without a firearm identification card, unlawful possession of a firearm, carrying a loaded firearm and possession of a large capacity feeding device . He was booked into the State Police-Logan Airport Barracks on $50,000 bail.
His legal situation aside, the incident also puts his Patriots future in serious doubt. While the team has not taken any action yet and is “in the process of gathering more information,” according to a statement, his arrest isn’t the first time Jones has dealt with some off-field issues.
Jones fell all the way to the fourth round of the 2022 draft due to multiple issues during his college career. In 2018, he missed spring practice due to academic reasons and was later arrested for allegedly breaking into a Panda Express. Jones was eventually ruled academically ineligible for the upcoming season, left USC and served 45 days of house arrest for commercial burglary.
After transferring to Arizona State via a one-year stint at Moorpark College, he settled down a bit. That said, he was also suspended for one game in 2020 after being involved in a practice game.
His NFL career started in a similar fashion. Towards the end of his rookie season, he was suspended by the team due to apparently delayed rehabilitation due to a knee injury. The suspension put an early end to what was otherwise a promising first year in New England — one that could have set the stage for a bigger role in the team’s defensive backfield.
Now a big question mark hangs over Jones. He could be subject to league and team discipline, and might even see his Patriots career come to an early end.
Dante Scarnecchia shares his thoughts on Trent Brown. Besides Jones’ future, the Patriots’ offensive tackle position is one of the biggest uncertainties on the current roster. New England made several moves in an attempt to bolster the group, but it’s clearly still a work in progress.
Part of the reason is the status of veteran left tackle Trent Brown. The 29-year-old participated in organized team activities early on, but later left the team and didn’t return until Day 2 of mandatory minicamp; he had missed day 1 because his flight to the city was allegedly canceled due to a hailstorm. Upon his return to practice, Brown was a limited participant and did not participate in any full team work.
Given the overall position, Brown will be watched closely as to how he fares entering training camp. If, on top of his play, he’s proven to be a reliable presence on either end of the offensive line after all — something former Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia also recently pointed out.
“I like the kid. I think he’s a tremendous talent and I’d love to see him be there and all in and be able to do the things he can do to help the team,” Scarnecchia said during a recent appearance on WEEI (as transcribed by NESN’s Zack Cox).
“Because if he’s the player he can be, then you don’t have to worry as much about that side of the line, especially against pass rushers, and you can maybe give the attention that needs to be given to the other side. if they need to. So that’s where they’re at with him. They’ve got to get him on board or do something with him to get him to play the way they need him to play.”
Scarnecchia coached Brown back in 2018 after the team acquired him via trade from San Francisco 49ers. The big offensive tackle left free agency after one season, but returned in 2021.
His former O-line coach was already retiring at the time. Despite only spending a year with him, he still knows it well.
“I think the biggest thing for him was getting him to adapt to the culture and the space and the standards that the players in the space had set for themselves over a long period of time,” he said. “When he realized that it was either fall in line or fall on his sword – it would be one of the two – I think he found the alternative to fall in line with everyone else. I think that the guys in the room also had a lot to do with it, from a standpoint of when he wasn’t all in.
“And you could tell. There were days when you’d come out to practice and say, ‘Oh, man, he’s not all in today.’ You have two choices as a coach: you let him know and you say, ‘You’re not practicing this way today. I can tell you right now.’ And then the players take over and say, ‘Hey, look, this is how it is. This is what you have to do.’ And I think once he realized that – and there were times when, frankly, you had to remind him periodically – but once he did, he was fine. And I think, that’s what it’s all about with him.”
Scarnecchia mentioned center David Andrews and right guard Michael Onwenu as two players who could serve as tone-setters in New England’s offensive line space.
There seems to be optimism in New England surrounding DeAndre Hopkins’ visit. The Patriots had star receiver DeAndre Hopkins for a free agency visit Wednesday and Thursday. While he left without a contract and will likely take time to weigh his options after traveling to Tennessee and New England over the past week, there appears to be some optimism surrounding the gathering in Foxborough.
Just ask former Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty, who is now a co-host on NFL Networks Good morning football. McCourty remains well-connected when it comes to New England, so his reporting on the matter is at least worth a look.
“I think there’s a mutual respect from DeAndre Hopkins and from Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots,” McCourty said on the air Friday. “I spoke to some guys around that area, guys on the team, and they feel really good about that visit.
“Obviously, nothing is set in stone. I’m not saying he’s going to the New England Patriots. But once he’s on that visit, once he’s there, once he’s in the building, guys feel really good, not just with that they want him there, but also DeAndre Hopkins has interest in wanting to play for the New England Patriots and wants to play for Bill Belichick.”
At this point, the belief is that Hopkins will wait until closer to training camp — and perhaps well into camp — to make a decision on his next team.
Nick Folk believes the NFL could see more squib kicks under the new rules. The league introduced some controversial rule changes earlier this offseason that will automatically bring any fair catch on a kickoff inside the receiving team’s 25-yard line out to the 25. While the NFL claims this will reduce the number of concussions, players and coaches. do not believe this to be the case.
However, NFL ownership decided to approve the proposal nonetheless — meaning teams will now have to adjust, at least on a one-year trial basis. What this means is that the kickoff game has been devalued quite a bit, or as Patriots kicker Nick Folk put it:
“There are six phases and there are now maybe five and a half,” he said last week.
However, people believe that the new rules will create different opportunities for teams.
“I’d venture to say No. 1 on the charts, there will be more squib kicks,” he projects. “When you kick this ball – an oblong shape – you just don’t know it. It’s a tough kick to perfect if you will because you’re at the mercy of the football when it bounces. I’d venture to say it’s something guys have been working on.
“In training camp, I think we’ll come up with a plan and then lay some things out and see what we can do. But I haven’t talked to Joe [Judge] about it too much. Let’s just do normal kickoff stuff and go from there.”
New England was prepared for James Robinson’s release… The Patriots parted ways with running back James Robinson last week, just three months into the two-year, $4 million free agency contract he signed to join the club. The exact reason for his release is unknown, but it may be related to his injury situation; 18 months removed from a torn Achilles tendon, Robinson has yet to appear back to his pre-injury form.
In fact, New England made sure to cover its bases when Robinson was signed. Not only did the team give him minimal guarantees, the team also took a rather unusual step: according to a report by Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, the Patriots had three injury waivers on Robinson’s contract — one for each knee and another for his left Achilles.
Needless to say, the team recognized the possibility that the 24-year-old could not make it through his deal without any of those three areas becoming an issue.
…and it didn’t create as big a dead money hit as first thought. When Robinson was released, his dead cap hit was believed to be $310,000. He had a $150,000 bonus and $160,000 workout bonus in his pact, and the belief was that both would remain on the team’s books even with the running back gone. However, this is not the case.
As pointed out by salary cap expert Miguel Benzan, the workout bonus was not actually counted as dead cap. Robinson therefore leaves a salary cap of just $150,000.
Of course, the difference is minimal compared to the team’s full dead cap charge at this point. Led by Jonnu Smith’s $12.8 million, the Patriots currently have $21.8 million in dead money — the 16th-highest number in the league.
Josh Uche will represent the Patriots in Germany this week. The NFL is doing its best to develop the game of football internationally. As part of this effort, the league’s players’ association has recently introduced the so-called Player Passport Tour. Eight professional footballers are going to Great Britain and Germany on the 19th-25th. June to embark on what the NFLPA calls a “curated business and cultural tour.”
Among the participants is Patriots linebacker Josh Uche. The fourth-year man, who again figures to play a prominent role in the team’s pass rush packages this season, will visit London and Frankfurt as part of the trip.
He is joined by Michael Gallup (Dallas Cowboys), Gabe Davis (Buffalo Bills), Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Kansas City Chiefs), Kevin Byard (Tennessee Titans), Jamel Dean (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Marcel Dabo (Indianapolis Colts) and Efe Obada (Washington’s commanders). They and Uche will participate in business panels, meet-and-greet sessions, city tour stops, autograph signings and flag football sessions.
The Patriots will make their Germany debut this season, taking on the Indianapolis Colts at Frankfurt’s Deutsche Bank Park in Week 10.
Setting up the coming week. With mandatory minicamp and therefore the offseason training program in the books, the Patriots are headed for their summer break. There are no football events scheduled for the end of July, but that doesn’t mean nothing related to the team will happen.
The Jack Jones situation and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins’ free agency are two stories to keep an eye on this coming week. As mentioned above, Josh Uche will also be heading to Germany as part of the NFLPA Player Passport Tour.