Raekwon McMillan, revamped linebacker group amongst keys to Patriots’ season

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Fast-hit ideas and notes across the New England Patriots and NFL:

1. McMillan in center: When the Patriots lined up of their nickel protection on the primary day reporters had been current for spring practices, Raekwon McMillan was a high linebacker.

It was a reminder of great personnel turnover. Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins Sr. and Kyle Van Noy are not with the group. And whereas some considered linebacker as a high want, the Patriots surprisingly handed on the place solely within the draft.

In order that had them lining up McMillan subsequent to thumper Ja’Whaun Bentley as an preliminary inside linebacker pairing. Josh Uche and commerce acquisition Mack Wilson took reps as properly. And 2021 fifth-round choose Cameron McGrone tasks to be within the combine (he was restricted within the spring by an undisclosed ailment), with Jahlani Tavai and Harvey Langi additionally on the depth chart.

McMillan’s standing highlights the uncertainty — and intrigue — with coach Invoice Belichick’s linebacker plans. The 6-foot-2, 242-pound Ohio State alum may land anyplace from a starter to competing for a roster spot.

Within the good Patriots world, he’ll flip again the clock to 2017, when the Miami Dolphins chosen him within the second spherical.

ESPN NFL analyst Mike Tannenbaum was Miami’s vp of soccer operations on the time, and he remembers the scouting report properly.

“A troublesome, bodily participant. Somewhat little bit of a throwback. Very instinctive. Good tackler. Very sensible and conscientious. Soccer is essential to him,” he mentioned.

However McMillan tore his proper ACL overlaying a punt within the group’s first preseason sport that 12 months and missed his rookie season. He returned to start out each sport in 2018, then performed in 13 contests (12 begins) below new head coach Brian Flores in 2019 earlier than touchdown on IR with a hamstring harm.

The Dolphins traded him to the Raiders within the offseason for fourth- and fifth-round picks, however McMillan was extra of a job participant in 2020 — taking part in in each sport however with simply 4 begins. Whereas these across the Raiders considered him as sensible, powerful and a high-end chief, his limitations in area had been a think about his minimal function.

After signing a modest one-year deal as a free agent with the Patriots in 2021, and being praised by Belichick early in coaching camp, McMillan tore his left ACL overlaying a kickoff in apply. That worn out his season solely, establishing this 12 months’s comeback try.

“It has been a protracted 12 months for me, however we’re shifting ahead,” McMillan mentioned in Might. “After sitting again and watching, I am able to go.”

Added Tannenbaum: “I might wager on his character and work ethic and love of sport. He is actually sensible. You simply hope he can keep wholesome.”

2. Uche’s match: The place Uche matches within the linebacker group seems like a shifting goal primarily based on spring practices. He labored off the road and on the road, and assistant coach Steve Belichick beforehand referred to him as “an vital piece to the puzzle.” The 2020 second-round choose from Michigan performed simply three snaps within the playoff loss to Buffalo (not together with kneel-downs) as a distinct segment pass-rusher (his major function in 2021), and his skill to tackle a bigger function with obligations in move protection may very well be vital.

3. Andrews’ accounting: The Patriots wanted to create some cap area to signal the rest of their draft class, and restructuring heart David Andrews’ contract supplied the reduction. It was a win-win state of affairs, with Andrews getting cash now that may have been paid to him later and the group creating $2.1 million in area. There was no new cash as a part of the restructure.

4. Parker’s affect: Tannenbaum is aware of new Patriots receiver DeVante Parker properly from having chosen him within the first spherical of the 2015 draft in Miami. What may Parker convey to New England?

“You are getting somebody who can win on the surface. Huge catch radius and good at high-pointing the ball. Actually efficient with in-breaking routes and within the purple zone,” he mentioned. “He is a really likeable, fun-loving one that is a superb teammate — all the time smiling, by no means had a nasty day.

“Accidents have been an issue, and also you simply hope he can put it collectively for 17 video games. I would not say his play pace is elite, however [if healthy] he is an excellent beginning NFL receiver who will be scoring eight to 12 touchdowns and making contested catches.”

5. Cargile at discussion board: Director of professional scouting Steve Cargile represented the Patriots on the second annual Ozzie Newsome Normal Supervisor Discussion board on Tuesday in Los Angeles. The aim of the discussion board is to attach present and aspiring executives whereas offering a platform to assist put together, educate and establish high quality minority candidates. Commissioner Roger Goodell opened by speaking about rising the “pipeline of executives” with a aim of hopefully not having to host such boards in 20 years. Cargile, 40, enters his twelfth season in New England, having labored his approach up from an preliminary function as a scouting assistant.

6. Lynch’s lesson: 49ers common supervisor John Lynch performed for the Buccaneers (1993-2003) and Broncos (2004-07), then had a quick offseason stint with the Patriots (2008), and it was that final cease that he cited when talking on the “Getting ready for a GM interview” panel on Tuesday.

Lynch was discussing participant growth and the significance of getting everybody on the identical web page when he mentioned: “There needs to be buy-in throughout the group. It does not simply cease at personnel and training. It is your trainers. Your energy coaches. Your engagement individuals. Your group individuals. It is an actual holistic method when you really need it to achieve success, as a result of you possibly can study from every individual.

“[Players] get pulled in lots of totally different instructions; everybody needs to provide them recommendation on their careers. However when you’re not tethered, generally that may be a detriment … and the method can change into scattered.

“That is the Patriots. Yeah, they’d Tom Brady, and that made a distinction. However there are little delicate issues, and I acquired uncovered to that. I by no means ended up taking part in for them that 12 months as a result of I retired, however I did see issues like participant growth [being] on the core of their success. Everybody was talking the identical language and giving that participant the identical message.”

7. Throwback jerseys: The Patriots are 9-3 of their throwback uniforms, that are making a comeback in 2022 after a decade-long absence. The final loss when carrying purple throwbacks was to the Dolphins — 22-21 on Dec. 6, 2009 — when Brady had lengthy TD passes to Randy Moss (58 yards) and Sam Aiken (81) however the group blew a 21-10 second-half lead in opposition to QB Chad Henne and Miami.

8. They mentioned it: “Excessive efficiency, I believe we mistake what that truly seems like within the NFL. New England is a large outlier — [playing in] 9 Tremendous Bowls in 18 years; that may by no means be achieved once more. … You consider the nice pairs. I believe New Orleans did an incredible job — Sean Payton and Drew Brees. They went to 1 Tremendous Bowl. You have a look at Aaron Rodgers and Inexperienced Bay, a well-run group. One Tremendous Bowl. Baltimore, with Ozzie and one of many best-run organizations — two Tremendous Bowls up to now 20. Making a Tremendous Bowl is difficult. A part of the battle is we maintain that as the last word aim. However constructing a successful tradition will be 12 months after 12 months — are you aggressive?” — Kevin Demoff, chief working officer of the Los Angeles Rams, on the Ozzie Newsome GM Discussion board

9. Stueber’s absence: Invoice Belichick mentioned throughout June’s necessary minicamp that rookie offensive linemen Chasen Hines (sixth spherical) and Andrew Stueber (seventh spherical) weren’t able to apply however did not disclose why. Quick-forward to this previous Wednesday on the New England Patriots Alumni Membership “Soccer for You” clinic, and your complete rookie class was there — apart from Stueber. It stays unclear what is likely to be holding him again.

10. Did You Know: Rob Gronkowski’s groups had a document of 128-37 within the 165 video games he performed (together with playoffs), which is the second-best group successful share (.776) for a participant in NFL historical past, in line with the Elias Sports activities Bureau (minimal 150 video games).

The one participant with a greater successful share was former Patriots and Broncos heart Dan Koppen (.781). Patriots left sort out Matt Mild (.771), receiver Julian Edelman (.769), Packers/Dolphins tight finish Marv Fleming (.763) and Brady (.763) with the Patriots and Bucs full the highest six.