Patriots roster reset: Will Bill Belichick be spread thin?

Andy Hart
June 22, 2020 - 2:56 pm
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Over the last few weeks, WEEI.com has taken a position-by-position look at the New England roster following an eventful offseason of comings and goings. Today, we finish out the roster reset series with a look at the Patriots coaching staff.

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Coaching staff

Roster*:

Head coach: Bill Belichick (46th NFL season/21st in current role)

Offense

Offensive coordinator: Josh McDaniels (20th NFL season/12th in current role)

Running backs: Ivan Fears (30th NFL season/19th in current role)

Tight ends: Nick Caley (6th NFL season/4th in current role)

Wide receivers: Mick Lombardi (10th NFL season/1st in current role)

Offensive line: Cole Popovich (6th NFL season, 1st in current role); Carmen Bricillo (2nd NFL season, 1st in current role)

Quarterbacks: Jedd Fisch (13th NFL season, 1st in current role)

Defense

Safeties: Steve Belichick (9th NFL season, 2nd in current role)

Inside linebackers: Jerod Mayo (2nd NFL season, 2nd in current role)

Cornerbacks: Mike Pellegrino (6th NFL season, 2nd in current role)

Outside linebackers: DeMarcus Covington (4th NFL season, 2nd in current role)

Director of Skill Development: Joe Kim (28th NFL season, 2nd in current role)

Special teams: Cam Achord (3rd NFL season, 1st in current role)

Assistant special teams: Joe Houston (1st NFL season, 1st in current role)

Coaching Assistants:

Brian Belichick

Bob Fraser

Tyler Hughes

*The Patriots have yet to announce their 2020 coaching staff, so this list is based on past roles, media reports and, in some cases, educated speculation. Exact roles and titles will become clearer in training camp.

Key Additions: Jedd Fisch (offensive assistant with extensive college and NFL background)

Key Losses: SPT/WR Joe Judge (head coach Giants), OL Dante Scarnecchia (retired), DL Bret Bielema (Giants)

Biggest Question: A year after spending much of his time seemingly focused on the defensive side of the ball, will Bill Belichick be forced to inject himself more in the new-look Patriots offense now that Tom Brady has left New England?

Overview: Certainly having Bill Belichick at head coach automatically gives the Patriots one of the more formidable coaching staffs in the NFL. The future Hall of Famer shows no signs of slowing down at the age of 68 as he chases Don Shula’s all-time NFL wins record. But, there are plenty of questions surrounding Belichick on the New England sideline, including just how much the versatile legend may need to focus on the post-Tom Brady offense.

While Belichick oversees all in New England, retaining offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels should help transition the scheme in a new direction, possibly with younger, more athletic option Jarrett Stidham under center. McDaniels was thought of as a potential head coaching candidate this winter, but the right situation never materialized for. What could be a loss for those teams doing the hiring certainly will be a gain for Belichick’s Patriots.

Fortunate to retain McDaniels, Belichick did lose arguably his most important assistant in long time offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia. One of the most respected assistants in the game over his decades in New England, Scarnecchia was given the annual benefit of the doubt in terms of getting the most of the talent he was given to work with on the line. Scarnecchia’s departure leaves unproven assistants Cole Popovich and Carmen Bricillo likely to share the role as they work with a strong core of veteran talent. Still, it will be a transition very much worth keeping an eye on.

The other significant change on the offensive staff is at wide receiver. A year ago special teams coach Joe Judge took over the position as well, swiftly parlaying the dual role into the surprise hire as Giants head coach this winter. Franchise legend Troy Brown helped out at the position a year ago but his ongoing role with the team is unknown. What is known is that after spending last season as assistant quarterbacks coach, Mick Lombardi is moving over to work with the wide receivers moving forward.

Maybe the biggest thing to keep an eye on with the offensive staff is the specific role that former UCLA interim head coach and Rams assistant offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch fills. While many expect him to work with the quarterbacks, certainly with second-year would-be starter Jarrett Stidham, Fisch’s resume would seem to indicate that he’s capable of being an even more significant voice in the evolution of the offense.

Defensively, there was only one major loss with defensive line coach Bret Bielema moving on to the Giants with Judge. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t questions on that side of the ball. The entire staff was overhauled a year ago and there’s no guarantee there won’t be at least minor changes again this summer. Jerod Mayo, in his first season as a coach, and Steve Belichick took the lead on defense even though there was no coordinator in a titular sense. Both guys called plays at various points, though it seemed the younger Belichick took over the bulk of the coordinator-like duties as the season wore on. Is it possible that beyond his title as safeties coach that Steve Belichick might be named defensive coordinator? Maybe.

While Joe Kim has worked with pass rushers and edge players in recent years, it wouldn’t seem that he’s necessarily suited to fill Bielema’s role on the defensive line. That loss could lead to a shake-up overall, as someone like DeMarcus Covington might make sense as an in-house replacement up front having worked with the defensive line for a time as a college assistant. The relative inexperience of the overall defensive staff could lead to flexibility within their titles and roles, especially while working with a rather experienced, veteran roster of talent.

In the kicking game, former assistant special teams coach Cam Achord will get the bump in title after Judge’s departure, something he’s prepped for over the last few seasons in Foxborough.

Overall the Patriots have a pretty unique combination of experienced and continuity on the coaching staff balanced out with some new faces and roles that should be worth watching on the practice fields and sidelines this summer and fall. That said, Belichick obviously remains in place to oversee everything and put his personal stamp on the scheme and weekly game plans in all three phases.

Power Rating (1-5): ****

The retirement of legendary line coach Dante Scarnecchia leaves a massive hole on the coaching staff. There are also questions at a variety of other spots in terms of roles, responsibilities and experience. But, overall Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels lead a very solid New England sideline group.

Related: Patriots roster reset: Key roles up for grabs in kicking game