FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. White’s analysis: Retired Patriots running back James White is considering going into sports media in his post-playing career, and he is already exploring his options.
“It feels natural. I’m used to talking in front of people, and I think that would be the smoothest transition for me,” he said. “Doing a job where football is still a part of it would be really cool, because the game has been a part of my life for 25 years.”
White was a guest analyst for part of the Patriots’ preseason game against the Panthers on Friday night, which he said was an “awesome” experience. As for his analysis on the current Patriots team, White shared his thoughts with ESPN.com.
On the hot-button topic of assistants Matt Patricia and Joe Judge leading the offense despite their lack of experience, White doesn’t see it holding the team back.
“I have high confidence in it because a lot of coaches, especially here, they’ve coached on the defensive side, the offensive side, they coach different positions. I think that’s the beautiful thing about coaching here — you’re going to learn the game from all different angles,” he said.
“And Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, they’ve seen a lot of football from different vantage points. I think it will all work out. They’re learning. It’s a learning curve for everyone.”
White does notice changes in the Patriots’ approach (e.g. no more fullback), although he expects the finished product to mostly look similar to fans.
“Any time you have a new offensive coordinator coming in, you’re going to have some things that are the same, some things that are different. You have to see what works,” he said.
“I still think week to week, they will have a different approach based on the teams they are playing. I think those guys do a great job designing plays and putting players in the position to succeed.”
White acknowledged the change from Josh McDaniels to Patricia and Judge is still significant and said he sees the Patriots going through a process in which players and coaches are working to gain more comfort with each other. “That’s what the preseason is for — to get those kinks out,” he said.
Of the Patriots’ offensive personnel, which he called talented across the board, White said he views the receiving corps as extremely underrated.
2. Las Vegas heat: The Patriots will spend this week in Las Vegas. They are scheduled to fly there Sunday, practice as a team Monday, and then hold joint practices with the Raiders on Tuesday and Wednesday before the preseason finale Friday. The forecast calls for highs of 103, 105 and 102 to start the week, which could help as the team looks ahead to its regular-season opener at Miami.
3. Wristbands for QBs: Patriots quarterbacks have been wearing wristbands that include playcalls during practices and preseason games, which is new and reflects the significant level of change with the offensive system. So when Patricia or Judge call in a play by its number, the quarterbacks then look at the wristband for that number and then relay the play in the huddle. That’s part of what led to a communication breakdown in the preseason opener when Brian Hoyer burned a timeout.
4. Third-down back: One thing that caught White’s attention in the Friday preseason game was how the Patriots didn’t have a specific player fill his “passing back” role. The team left Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson and Ty Montgomery on the field on third down on each of the drives they were on the field, which could be a preview of what’s to come in the regular season. “I think that’s cool, those guys getting into the flow of the game, and getting used to staying out for all three downs,” he said. “I think those guys are all extremely talented and can play on all three downs.”
5. Whites in Massachusetts: James and Diana White plan to make Massachusetts their permanent residence following James’ retirement from football. They had considered Chicago, but staying close to doctors who have helped with their son, Xzavier, with food allergies was one factor that led them to stick around. “This is a special place for us. We have a lot of memories and have been able to meet and connect with a lot of great people here,” James White said.
6. Mills’ motto: When the Patriots’ defense huddles up before a practice, safety Adrian Phillips said starting cornerback Jalen Mills usually has the same message to the unit: “Championship defense. Championship mindset.” Mills said it’s his way of relaying the mentality he believes the Patriots should have, and he’s backed up his words by putting together a strong training camp. To Phillips, it’s a reflection of Mills’ confidence and desire “to take the next step and be the guy” by filling the void left by J.C. Jackson‘s free agent departure.
7. McCourty’s insight: Patriots captain Devin McCourty‘s insight on rookie cornerbacks Jack Jones (fourth round, Arizona State) and Marcus Jones (third round, Houston) sparks promise for the team that both can become key pieces of the secondary. McCourty said Jack Jones’ “football instincts” stand out to him, while noting he has “great feet.” McCourty also relayed that Marcus Jones sits next to him in meetings, and his thirst to learn shows up in how he’s already appearing in multiple roles, such as slot cornerback and an inside safety-type role. “We have a really good rookie group,” McCourty said.
8. Schooler-Ebner connection: When former Patriots core special-teamer Nate Ebner (2012-2019) visited practice last week, players took note that rookie Brenden Schooler (Texas) made sure to personally introduce himself. Schooler’s special teams prowess has helped him emerge as a leading candidate to extend the Patriots’ 18-season streak of undrafted free agents making the initial 53-man roster, and players see a bit of Ebner in his play.
9. Thornton injury impact. Patriots rookie receiver Tyquan Thornton was knocked out of Friday night’s game with a shoulder/collarbone injury, and is expected to be sidelined through at least the first month of the regular season. So the likely scenario seems to be that he will be on the initial 53-man roster before being moved to short-term IR. That could open the door for Lil’Jordan Humphrey, the team’s leading receiver in the preseason (11-133-1), to stick on the roster.
10. Did you know? The Patriots have four players with the last name Jones, with quarterback Mac Jones, and cornerbacks Jonathan Jones, Jack Jones and Marcus Jones. It is the second time in team history that the Patriots have had four players with the same last name; in 2000 it was defenders Ted Johnson, Olrick Johnson, Garrett Johnson and punter Lee Johnson.