Distraction? Yes. Will the benefit outweigh the distraction? We'll find out in the next few weeks. That Josh McDaniels will reportedly join the Patriots as soon as this week to serve as an offensive assistant is intriguing news with little obvious downside. Since leaving the Patriots after the 2008 season, the former Broncos head coach has only expanded his knowledge of coaching professional football despite the easy-to-target shortcomings in Denver (fired in 2009) and St. Louis (presiding over an offense that tanked in 2011).His relationship with quarterback Tom Brady was excellent, a real collaboration in which Brady had the most remarkable throwing season in NFL history in 2007. Furthermore, as offensive coordinator in St. Louis, McDaniels game-planned and called plays against the following teams this season: Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, New Orleans, San Francisco, Green Bay and the Giants. The Rams managed just 97 points in those eight games (58 in two games) so it's not like he lit the world on fire. But McDaniels does know the personnel of each of these teams the Patriots could conceivably play in the postseason. The biggest malady the Patriots' offense has dealt with this season is slow starts. Conjecture coming: it's been such an issue that a second set of eyes on the early-game script and McDaniels viewing film of those games where the Pats came out flat could help unearth something that ends that trend. When it comes to game-planning right now, Brady is intimately involved in all of it. My hunch is that there will be no power struggle between McDaniels and current (soon-to-be-former OC) Bill O'Brien because it's a collaboration with Brady at the center of it anyway. O'Brien, who's been effusive in stating his gratitude to the Patriots, is not someone who will create any kind of rancor in getting a plan ready. It will be interesting to see where McDaniels is positioned during games - on the sidelines where O'Brien is or in the booth where he can watch personnel. My guess would be he will be in the booth. Up there, he can survey defensive personnel changes and avoid having too many voices on the sidelines in the heat of the game. With O'Brien in a spot where his attention is - like it or not - going to be diverted by his new position, having McDaniels there to make up for any brainpower O'Brien will forfeit is a boon for the Patriots. My guess? This will help far more than it hurts.
FOXBORO -- The highly-anticipated first Patriots injury report of the week was released on Wednesday afternoon, and it was fairly predictable.
Both injured quarterbacks were active but limited in their practice participation, the report indicated. That comes as little surprise as both Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder) and Jacoby Brissett (thumb) were spotted throwing passes early in Wednesday's practice. Neither appeared to be experiencing any significant discomfort as they made their warm-up throws.
Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower (knee) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (hamstring) were also limited. Gronkowski admitted that the team was taking it slow with him in his first game back on the field last week -- he played just 14 snaps in New England's win over Houston -- but he said on Wednesday that he hoped to go "freakin' crazy" on the field soon.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
QB Jacoby Brissett (right thumb)
OT Marcus Cannon (calf)
G Jonathan Cooper (foot)
LB Jonathan Freeny (shoulder)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder)
TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring)
LB Dont'a Hightower (knee)
CB Eric Rowe (ankle)
DID NOT PARTICIPATE
TE Charles Clay (knee)
OL Cyrus Kouandjio (ankle)
OL Patrick Lewis (knee)
WR Sammy Watkins (foot)
DB Colt Anderson (foot)
DB Ronald Darby (hamstring)
QB Cardale Jones (right shoulder)
DB Jonathan Meeks (foot)
WR Greg Salas (groin)
DB Aaron Williams (ankle)
OL Cordy Glenn (ankle)
FOXBORO -- Jimmy Garoppolo spoke Wednesday for the first time since getting his shoulder separated by the Dolphins’ Kiko Alonso. Standing by his locker, Garoppolo was predictably vague about the status of his arm, unless you consider, “Getting better day by day,” as being insightful.
The only two responses offered that were worth a damn came when asked if he could have done anything different when he got squished by Alonso while retreating and buying time.
“Just have to be smart I guess,” said Garoppolo. “I mean, it’s football and stuff’s gonna happen like that, but have to be smart in those situations.”
Asked if he regretted holding the ball as long as he did on a third-down play with the Patriots up 21-0, Garoppolo replied, “After it’s all said and done it’s easy to say that, but it’s one of those things, you’re in the heat of the game. But bottom line I have to be smarter than that.”
Meanwhile, as he worked last week to get back for Thursday night’s game against Houston, The Boston Herald reported that the Patriots were “putting pressure” on Garoppolo to be ready for the game. Working hard to get key players ready for upcoming games is standard operating procedure for a medical staff. Trying to force a player to perform is not.
I asked Garoppolo if he felt unduly pressured. He replied, “No.”