The Patriots have made a few key signings so far this offseason, but one of the more interesting ones was that of wide receiver Donte' Stallworth.
Stallworth was a key player on the Patriots' historic 2007 team, catching 46 balls for 697 receiving yards and three touchdowns. He was Tom Brady's third receiving option behind Wes Welker and Randy Moss before parting ways with the team after the season.
Now he's back, and a big reason for that could be due to the return of Josh McDaniels as the Pats offensive coordinator.
With Welker still with the team, Brandon Lloyd signed, and Stallworth back, the Patriots have three wide receivers that McDaniels is very familiar in working with. He's got an obvious grasp of the system from years past -- and from working with the team towards the end of last season -- and has an entire offseason of preparation ahead as well.
The offense really shouldn't skip a beat with McDaniels on board, and bringing on Lloyd and Stallworth make it extra smooth. Not to say that Bill Belichick would have worried much about McDaniels if LloydStallworth didn't happen, but it's just another reason that he doesn't have to now.
I'm reading a book called "Don't Take Your Eye Off the Ball" by Pat Kirwan (a long-time, well-respected NFL analyst, former Jets defensive assistant coach and director of player administration) and one paragraph stuck out to me that I think could relate to this a little.
Kirwan writes: "Usually a head coach came up through the ranks on one side of the ball or the other. Tom Coughlin is an offensive guy. Pete Carroll is a defensive guy. Many times, coaches will build the game plan for the side of the ball they're most passionate about (and most experienced with), and then let their coordinators on the other side build their own game plan. Of course, those coordinators are going to present everything to the head coach before it's installed."
It's no secret that Belichick came up on the defensive side of the ball. It's also no secret that he has a lot of faith in McDaniels (offensive side of the ball), who the Patriots literally couldn't wait to bring on board once he got out of his contract with the Rams. That said, Belichick's certainly had his hand in the Patriots offense over the years, and will continue to. The point is that maybe he's more comfortable handing the offensive reigns over to McDaniels, giving him a longer leash to design and run his own stuff with. Don't forget, Belichick didn't officially give the "offensive coordinator" title to Bill O'Brien until 2011, two years after McDaniels left the position. But he wasted no time handing it back to McDaniels upon his return.
It wouldn't surprise anyone to hear that Belichick is spending more time focusing on the defense, seeing as that was the weaker side of the ball and has been for the past few seasons. Is he more "passionate" about defense? Well, he's passionate about winning. And being able to concentrate more on areas of need -- while still working close enough with McDaniels -- could prove to be the difference.