Pats notes: Belichick praises Schwartz; business as usual for Butler

191543.jpg

Pats notes: Belichick praises Schwartz; business as usual for Butler

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO -- Thursday's Thanksgiving Day game between the Patriots and Lions will bring about the reunion of Bill Belichick and Jim Schwartz.

Schwartz is now the head coach of the 2-8 Detroit Lions, but began his NFL coaching career by doing research for Belichick in the mid-90's while Belichick was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns.

Schwartz' official title was "personnel scout" and while it doesn't sound like the most important position in the world, Belichick's praise of the Lions' current coach certainly speaks volumes about the work he did while in Cleveland.

"I've got a lot of respect for Jim," said Belichick in Monday's press conference at Gillette Stadium. "Jim's a real smart guy. He has a good background and personnel, as well as his coaching, and certainly as a defensive coordinator and a head coach. I think he's a guy that's really progressed in the overall game, and again, not just coaching, but personnel and making adjustments, and matchups, and those kinds of things.

"Jim is one of the smartest guys I've ever worked with," added Belichick. "He's a guy that could multi-task . . . He's the kind of person that if you gave him 20 things to do, he would be on top of all 20 of them, and know exactly where he was on all of them.

"This guy can handle a lot, and thinks very quickly. He sees concepts extremely well . . . He can get to the bottom of things in a hurry."

That will be an important trait, heading into Thursday's game, with only three days in between. But Belichick wasn't done praising Schwartz.

"Jim's got a good, upbeat personality," added Belichick. "He's got a lot of energy. He's very serious. I think Jim's got a wide array of skills. Personally, professionally, and intellectually, he can do a lot of different things. I don't see a lot of limitations with him. He's really special. I mean, I've had a lot of people work for me, and he's right up there at the top of the list, in terms of things that he can do."

--Cornerback Darius Butler has seen limited playing time this season, but on Sunday against the Colts, he played the entire second half at corner, while usual cornerback Kyle Arrington was used as an outside pass rusher the rest of the game.

Butler had been saying for weeks that he'd continue to practice hard, and that he'd be ready when his name was called. Looking back on his return on Sunday, Butler said he believes he did his job in a second half that saw the Colts out-score the Pats 14-3 in the fourth quarter.

"It's always exciting to get back out there, especially when you miss it right after you're hurt and you're out for a couple of weeks, or when you're on the bench," said Butler. "Whenever you get back out on the field, especially in a big game like that, it's definitely exciting.

"I mean, I felt like I was right where I needed to be, as far as being ready to play. I always said I'd be ready to play when my number's called, and I felt like I was."

Going forward, Butler isn't sure what his role will be, but he won't change a thing, because that type of uncertainty with his playing time has been a season-long mental battle.

"It's the same thing for me," said Butler. "Business as usual. Just practicing hard and being ready to play whenever my number's called."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comdannypicard

Garoppolo: Panthers offer ‘closest thing we’ll get to Week 1’

Garoppolo: Panthers offer ‘closest thing we’ll get to Week 1’

One throw could have very well changed the overall assessment of Jimmy Garoppolo’s performance last Thursday against Chicago. 

Garoppolo had looked completely poised, on rhythm and decisive, carving up the Bears on four straight drives, including an impressive march to open the third quarter. And then, on third down in the red zone, the Pats quarterback correctly read man-under coverage, with a single high safety floating. But with his first two reads covered, Garoppolo pivoted back to his right and threw almost sight unseen to James White. One problem: Bears linebacker John Timu was sitting in the passing lane and dropped what should have an interception.

“Yeah, the linebacker made a nice jump on it,” said Garoppolo. “It’s unfortunate what happened.”

What happened was the Pats escaped with three points and Garoppolo exiting to excellent reviews. But that was a gift from the football gods, though the third-year pro shrugged it off.

“It was just one of those bang-bang plays,” said Garoppolo. “In the red zone, there are tight windows down there, so sometimes you’re going to make throws that get tipped or whatever it may be. You don’t try to make those happen, but sometimes it happens down there.”

A deeper review of the Pats approach versus the Bears showed a greater emphasis on Garoppolo getting rid of the ball the moment those feet settled on repeated three- and five-step drops. That resulted in the best performance by the Pats signal caller since before that full practice scrimmage in which the QB on the other side - a fella by the name of Tom Brady - went 25-for-25. That day, Garoppolo waded into choppy waters and took nearly two weeks to find solid footing. 

“I think part of that comes with just learning the offense overall,” said Garoppolo when asked about his decision making. “Year after year, you’re going to be more comfortable in the system, whatever it may be. I think I’m progressing the right way. There’s obviously a long way to go, you always want to be as precise and decisive as you can be, but I think I’m working in the right direction.”

No denying that, although now comes another test, the preseason tilt Friday night in Carolina against the defending NFC champion Panthers. There may be a greater strain put on Garoppolo and the starters, but as for the idea this is the closest thing to a dress rehearsal for the regular season, Bill Belichick reminds you not to get it twisted.

“I think this is a good opportunity for us to compete against arguably as good as any team in the league. [With] all that being said, we’re not talking about a regular-season game here, “ he said. “We’re not talking about game planning and all of those kind of things, which I can’t imagine would happen in this game, but they’re going to happen in a couple of weeks so it’s a whole different ballgame. I don’t think you can compare this game to a regular-season game even though I’ve heard people try to do that. I’m not sure what game they’re looking at. “

Maybe the same thing as Garoppolo is…

“It’s pretty much the closest thing we’ll get to Week 1, so we’ll see how it goes,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

Patriots trading for Browns OLB Barkevious Mingo

Patriots trading for Browns OLB Barkevious Mingo

The Patriots are in the final stages of trading for Browns outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo. 

Mingo, the former No. 6 overall pick in the 2013 draft, is in the final year of his rookie deal. It is not yet known what the Patriots will send to Cleveland in return for Mingo.

The LSU product was selected by the Browns when Michael Lombardi was the team's general manager in 2013. Lombardi was let go after one season in Cleveland and was an assistant to the Patriots coaching staff Patriots in 2014 and 2015. The Patriots have made moves in the past to acquire other former Browns who overlapped with Lombardi such as Jabaal Sheard and Dion Lewis.

Mingo, 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, has played in all but two regular-season games over the course of his three years as a pro. He has racked up 70 tackles, assisted on 38, and he's recorded seven sacks. 

More to come . . .  

Upside or experience? Belichick says, 'That's the $64,000 question'

new-england-patriots-bill-belichick-camp-081416.jpg

Upside or experience? Belichick says, 'That's the $64,000 question'

FOXBORO -- The Patriots roster doesn't have to be trimmed down to 75 players until Aug. 30., but they're already at 81 players, which includes the four on the physically unable to perform list at the moment. Five days before the first cut-down deadline, the Patriots are already close to where they need to be. 

The question is, why? Why not keep players around for a few extra days to see what they can do? If it's certain they won't make the team, why not release them and sign other long-shot free agents for what would essentially amount to a multi-day tryout? The Patriots turn over the bottom of their roster as frequently, if not more frequently, than any other team in the league. Why aren't they maximizing their roster space?

The answer is that they want to maximize the reps they can give to players who are already under team control. If the roster is crowded, that might mean less of a look at legitimate potential contributors in practice or against the Panthers in Carolina on Friday night. Having open spots on the roster early in the cut-down process also allows the Patriots to pounce on a player, or several, who may be released before the deadline.

Belichick shed some light on his thought process on roster moves at this time of year during a press conference earlier in the week.

"Well, we’re definitely going to have to trim it down," Belichick said. "We may release players before [Aug. 30], before the [Panthers] game. Again, there is a lot of personnel movement going on at this time of year. We could acquire a player, or two, or whatever if the situation was right. I really don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s not like I have five roster moves waiting back there in the office that are about to happen. That’s definitely not the case. But look, it could be in 10 minutes, I don’t know, or it could not be. 

"But the intent of doing what we’ve done with the roster is because of where we are, what we feel like is best for our team at this point in time -- although I think that some of the moves that we made are also best for some of the players as well, to be honest with you. Not that that’s the main reason that we did it, but it’s a part of the residual of doing what’s right for everybody. But yeah, we’ll just have to see how it goes.

"We could have 84 or 85 [players] by the end of the week or we could have 80 by the end of the week, 78, I don’t know. We’ll just have to see how it plays out. Obviously injuries, they’re a factor at this time of year for every team so there are some positions where you need depth, some positions where you have depth and you can’t play everybody. I think that’s definitely the case, and in some positions for us we have more players than we can really play against Carolina, so if we’re not going to play them, and then we’re going to have to release them at the 75 cut after the game, then there is an argument to just doing that now, which gives the player an opportunity that kind of clears it up for us a little bit. I think there is some of that."

The Patriots released a handful of veterans in recent days, including receiver Nate Washington, corner EJ Biggers, defensive lineman Frank Kearse and running back Donald Brown. In Brown's case, an injury forced him to lose practice time that he was not going to be able to make up. For the others, they were buried on the depth chart, and the team may have assumed that it would have been too tough for them to see meaningful snaps against Carolina given there were younger players at their positions who needed further in-game evaluation.

It's a tricky balancing act, Belichick explained, particularly when there are players of varying experience at the same spot. Do you keep the young guy who is the project, particularly if you think you might lose him to another team if he hits the waiver wire? Or do you go with the veteran to win in the here-and-now?

"That’s the $64,000 question," Belichick said. "That’s what it is. It’s been like that since the day I got into this league. From all of the personnel meetings I’ve ever been in it’s a [matter of] a player who’s more experienced [and] more ready to help the team now, versus a player that’s not as ready now but at some point you think the pendulum will swing in his favor. Will you do that? Can you do that? What are the consequences of making that move? What are the consequences of not making that move? How likely, as you said, is it that you could keep both players in some capacity?

"That’s what it’s about, trying to balance now with later. We’re going to field a team in November, we’re going to field a team next year, we’re going to field a team in 2018. Not that we’re getting too far ahead of ourselves, but we’re going to be in business in those years, so we have to sort of have an eye on those moving forward and a lot of the other factors that go into that. Those are all tough decisions. They’re all things that you really have to think about."

Every year there are examples of those kinds of choices. This year, one that comes to mind is a decision that could be coming at the tight end position.

AJ Derby, now in his second season, has been one of the team's most impressive players during the preseason, but if he makes the team he'll be buried on the depth chart behind Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett. If he doesn't make the team, it's likely another club will claim him on waivers. Clay Harbor, now in his seventh season, can play a variety of roles and might be more equipped to help the Patriots immediately. He was given $400,000 in guaranteed money this offseason to do just that. 

There is the possibility that the Patriots keep both, but the team may believe there's only room for one.

Even for Belichick and the Patriots, who have developed their program since 2000, there are no hard and fast rules. Though Belichick has the final say, the disagreements among individuals helping to make the roster decisions can be difficult to sort out. 

"Some people in the room want to have one opinion, other people have another opinion," Belichick said. "You kind of have a split camp there and both sides’ arguments are good arguments. It’s kind of your perspective. Is it today or is it tomorrow? I’m sure every team in the league is having a lot of those discussions."

Given their roster reduction over the last few days, the Patriots are apparently having some of those discussions a little early.