FOXBOROUGH -- Had a rare offseason session with the Patriots' assistant coaches Friday afternoon. We couldn't make our way around the entire room, but here are a few quick takeaways from the session, which ran for roughly 15 minutes.
1. We have a pretty good idea of what the coaching staff will look like in 2019.
After playing things pretty close to the vest at the start of the offseason, based on conversations Friday, here’s what things are going to look like:
Offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach: Josh McDaniels
Wide receivers: Joe Judge
Running backs: Ivan Fears
Offensive line: Dante Scarnecchia
Tight ends: Nick Caley
Defensive backs: Mike Pellegrino
Safeties: Steve Belichick
Inside linebackers: Jerod Mayo
Outside linebackers: DeMarcus Covington
Defensive linemen: Bret Bielema.
A few quick thoughts: Given the fact Steve Belichick has been entrenched with the safeties the last few years, our guess is Pellegrino spends more time with the cornerbacks than anyone else. (The 25-year-old Pellegrino is a former lacrosse player for Johns Hopkins and the Boston Cannons. He joined the Patriots organization as a football operations intern in 2015 and spent the last three years as a coaching assistant.) It’s also interesting the Patriots are splitting the outside and inside linebackers when it comes to position coaches — perhaps it’s because both Mayo and Covington are in their first seasons as full-timers on the staff? Covington did make a point of saying he’s working more with the “front seven,” so we’ll see what happens.
2. Judge will have more on his plate in 2019, but he sounds ready for the challenge.
The special teams coach will also be coaching the wide receivers, he confirmed to reporters on Friday. The 37-year-old Judge, who has coached New England’s special teams the last three years, will take over for Chad O’Shea, who left to become the offensive coordinator in Miami.
“It will definitely be challenging," Judge said. "The best thing we have now is we have very good support. Cam Achord does a tremendous job. We have great assistants on the offense. There’s great support from the top on down with Coach Belichick, with Josh. The biggest thing I can do to help the team right now is to stay organized and diligent to make sure I am taking care of all my responsibilities to help the team — make sure they are prepared the best they can be.”
An assignment like this is not only a great way for New England to fill an open position, but could be a sign Bill Belichick is grooming Judge for something bigger down the road, either in New England or elsewhere. Not saying he’s on the fast track to becoming the next head coach of the Patriots, but it’s the sort of promotion that could bode well for future opportunities.
3. Bret Bielema is excited to be taking over the defensive line.
The former Arkansas head coach, who was in a semi-advisory role with New England last year, takes over for Brendan Daly, who moved on to Kansas City.
“I’m very excited with the group,” Bielema said. “They’re tremendous workers. The group last year, they kind of had the pulse (of the team). They’ve continued to build. I think Lawrence Guy can continue to be a guy that everyone can look to. But it’s been fun, especially with the new additions.
“It was probably awesome last year to kind of come in and observe at the beginning and then kind of get more involved,” he added. “Obviously, with the transition in the spring to jump to where we were in the fall, I spent a lot of time in different rooms. But now, to just have that year as a work in progress/transition to jump into where we are now, it’s been a lot of fun. And I know a lot of those guys already — even if they didn’t play for me (at Arkansas), they were guys that I’ve recruited or competed against. So there’s a lot of familiarity. So that part made it easier.”
Bielema also talked candidly about the challenge of making the move from the college to the pros here. After speaking with him and considering his background, from this viewpoint, his continued presence here means one of two things: He’s either burnishing his resume with one eye on his next head coaching gig, likely at the college level. Or, if things go well for him this season, he could get the DC job. We’ll see how it all shakes out.
4. Josh McDaniels is unsure if Tom Brady is going to be at OTAs this year, but he sounds cool no matter what happens.
New England’s offensive coordinator was asked if he expects the quarterback to be at organized team activities when they kick off later this month.
"I have no idea," McDaniels said.
That doesn’t seem to bother McDaniels, however.
"When he's here, I'll be happy to see him," McDaniels said of the quarterback. "I trust completely what he's doing. I'm sure he's in good shape, good condition, and preparing for the year."
For McDaniels, he says this weekend -- when the rookies get on the field -- is one of his favorite times of the year.
“Most of the year we’re coaching guys that kind of know the foundation or at least most of them know the foundation, so you’re talking at a more advanced level,” he said. “But this weekend really gives you an opportunity to go back to your roots and just teach them everything from the ground up. There’s no small detail and so they’re all sponges and you’ve got to assume that they don’t really know much of anything that we’re talking to them about.
“They’ve all played football, they’ve all been good football players, but they don’t really know our system. We’re trying to give them the foundation. A lot of teaching, we’re trying to do it at a fast pace but again, that’s really determined by the guys in each coach’s room. They’re the ones that are going to dictate how quickly you can go through the information and how quickly you can’t. A lot of eager faces, cramming a lot into each day, makes the days go by fast.”
5. For the first time in many years, there’s a noticeable infusion of youth on the coaching staff.
Covington and Pellegrino are under 31, while Stephen Belichick is 32 years old and Mayo is just 33. (That doesn’t even take into account Judge, Caley and Achord, all of whom are under 40 years old.) The majority of the coaching staff is younger than the quarterback.