Doug Kyed's Mailbag: New England Patriots' offense, Davante Adams, the Atlanta Falcons' offseason and more

Davante Adams celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Vikings. Nfl Minnesota Vikings At Green Bay Packers

NFL fans have questions about the New England Patriots’ coaching staff, Atlanta Falcons’ offseason and a potential NFC East power shift. Dive into this week’s mailbag for answers.

@awlsabermetrics: Why did Bill do nothing to address the OC position?  Giving second year Mac, Judge and Patricia as his offensive leaders is legitimately offensive.

Patriots fans are not the only ones questioning Bill Belichick’s decision-making with regard to his offensive coaching staff this offseason.

For those who don’t know and don’t follow the Patriots closely, New England did not directly replace outgoing offensive coordinator and current Las Vegas Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels.

“I think its dumb,” one AFC executive said. “And arrogant. And will hurt the development of Mac Jones.”

The Patriots instead hired former New York Giants head coach Joe Judge (a long-time New England special teams coordinator who served one year as a wide receivers coach) and added Matt Patricia, who spent 2021 as a senior football advisor to the offensive coaching staff after his three-year stint as Detroit Lions head coach, to the coaching staff. Judge said this week that he’ll work with quarterbacks. Patricia, who began his NFL coaching career as an offensive assistant and assistant offensive line coach before coaching defense from 2006 to 2017, will work with offensive lineman. 

Judge said this week that “nothing has been declared or decided or voiced to me” about who will call offensive plays this season.

It is fascinating that in a league enamored with rockstar offensive play-callers, the Patriots — at least publicly — haven’t even decided who will have the play sheet when the season begins on Sept. 11 in Miami. Judge and Patricia are possibilities. So is tight ends coach Nick Caley. Someone pointed out to me that head coach Bill Belichick also called offensive plays during part of his tenure with the Cleveland Browns when he didn’t have an offensive coordinator from 1991 to 1993. It’s tough to glean much from seasons 30 years ago, but the Browns’ offense was pretty middle-of-the-pack in those years.

What has some people around the NFL questioning Belichick’s approach is that New England has a young, still-developing quarterback in Jones and just one assistant — Tyler Hughes — has “quarterbacks coach” on his resume (at NJCAA Snow College). Judge was a quarterback at Mississippi State but rose through the college and NFL ranks on special teams.

The Patriots had in-house options to replace McDaniels in wide receivers coach Mick Lombardi and assistant quarterbacks coach Bo Hardegree, both of whom jettisoned to the Raiders this offseason — Lombardi as offensive coordinator and Hardegree as quarterbacks coach (it’s worth noting that Belichick would have been criticized for nepotism if Lombardi — son of Belichick's friend Michael Lombardi — had been promoted in New England). Belichick chose not to pry Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien away from his buddy Nick Saban, though O’Brien was present for Patriots offseason workouts earlier this month, per ESPN’s Mike Reiss.

One person I spoke to didn’t think O’Brien would have been a great fit since he’s likely looking to be a head coach again soon anyway. He only would have served as a short-term fix, though one with knowledge of the Patriots’ system and brief overlap with Jones between the conclusion of the QB’s senior season and rookie year.

There wasn’t an obvious candidate to directly replace McDaniels, and Judge and Patricia’s experience at head coach certainly came with some involvement on the offensive side of things.

This seems like a good time to mention that New England also doesn’t have a defensive coordinator with Stephen Belichick and Jerod Mayo serving in top roles under the elder Belichick.

It’s been a strange offseason for the Patriots, and if anyone can silence critics, it’s Belichick. But New England’s draft and approach to the offensive coaching staff have certainly raised eyebrows around the league, and rarely in a positive manner. The rest of the AFC got significantly better this offseason while New England is banking on interal improvement. We’ll see if they have the coaches to implement it.

@AngelPrillwitz: Is Davante Adams the best WR in the league

I’m not sure if this is exactly what you’re looking for, but Adams (92.7) was the second-highest graded wide receiver in the NFL last season — .3 points behind Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (93.0).

Over the last two years, however, Adams (93.8) does hold the distinction of being the highest-graded wide receiver in the NFL. He’s also the highest-graded receiver over the last three, four and five years.

So, yeah, it’s pretty safe to say he’s currently the best wide receiver in the league based on his track record. We’ll see if Kupp or someone else can overtake him again in 2022, however.

@OliverxFletcher: Due to cap space issues at the Patriots, is there a chance some high profile draft picks might not be signed?

No, that’s not a possibility. The Patriots will sign all of their draft picks despite currently being low on cap space. The cap is very real, but it’s also fairly easy to open up small amounts of space for minor transactions.

@JGrantTuttle: @AtlantaFalcons, just why?

I can understand doubting the Falcons’ offseason up until the draft, but I think they came away with a pretty intriguing haul in wide receiver Drake London, defensive end Arnold Ebiketie, linebacker Troy Andersen and quarterback Desmond Ridder. The Falcons were not expecting Ridder to still be there midway through the third round and were excited to get him.

That being said, the team is still a major work in progress, especially after trading away Matt Ryan following a bungled pursuit of Deshaun Watson. The Falcons had to put their spending on hold while they courted Watson. Their highest-paid free-agent additions are quarterback Marcus Mariota, cornerback Casey Hayward and edge defender Lorenzo Carter.

I did like their move to trade a fifth-round pick for wide receiver Bryan Edwards and a seventh-round pick. Former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden dubbing Edwards the next Terrell Owens was premature and reckless, but Edwards does still have potential as a big outside target.

@powertimmy: How will the Cowboys end up choking the season away this year?

I might eat these words, but they might have done that this offseason. They had a pretty bizarre free agency period when they lost Amari Cooper, Cedrick Wilson, La’El Collins, Connor Williams, Randy Gregory and Keanu Neal and replaced them with James Washington and Dante Fowler. I think their draft could wind up looking strong a few years down the line with offensive lineman Tyler Smith, edge rusher Sam Williams and wide receiver Jalen Tolbert, but Dallas lost a lot of talent since March.

And the Philadelphia Eagles are coming for them after adding Haason Reddick, Zach Pascal, Kyzir White, James Bradberry, A.J. Brown, Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean, among others, this offseason.

There could be a power shift in the NFC East. And if the Cowboys falter in 2022, could we possibly see a change at head coach? Sean Payton is out there.


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