Joe Judge

AFC East Notes: Poyer, Becton, Jets, Patriots

Jordan Poyer continues to pursue a new contract, but that won’t keep him away from mandatory minicamp. The Bills All-Pro safety is in attendance for practice this week, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter).

The impending free agent is seeking a new deal, and the Bills have been in communication with the player’s camp. According to ESPN’s Alaina Getzenberg, Poyer’s participation may be limited in a pseudo-holdout move.

“I think Jordan is in a good place mentally,” said defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. “He’s still staying in touch with his teammates, and hopefully, we’ll see him soon.”

Poyer has been a consistent starter on the Bills defense since joining the organization in 2017, missing only a pair of games. After collecting 100+ tackles between 2018 and 2020, the safety earned his first career All-Pro nod in 2021 after finishing with 93 tackles, three sacks, and five interceptions. The veteran inked a two-year extension with the organization in 2020.

More out of the AFC East:

  • The Jets could turn to a committee approach as they look to replace Jamison Crowder‘s spot at slot receiver, writes ESPN’s Rich Cimini. Many assumed that Braxton Berrios would slide into the role, but head coach Robert Saleh admitted the team is “working through it” and prefers to slide players in and out of the spot to keep things unpredictable. Elijah Moore and rookie Garrett Wilson are among the receivers who could join Berrios in the slot rotation.
  • Jets defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd rejected a better offer to re-sign with the Jets on a one-year, $1.1MM deal, according to Cimini. Incredibly, the 2018 draft pick is the team’s longest-tenured player, and he’s earned a reputation as a hard worker and loyal player. As Cimini notes, Shepard is now the biggest player on the team with Folorunso Fatukasi gone, and that could mean the veteran will see a more significant role in run-stopping situations.
  • Jets offensive lineman Mekhi Becton made it to mandatory minicamp after having sat out previous voluntary sessions, tweets ESPN’s Rich Cimini. The lineman didn’t practice, presumably because he’s still rehabbing his surgically repaired knee. Meanwhile, SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano writes that the player’s ability to return to the field could ultimately influence the left tackle competition between Becton and George Fant. “The faster that you can stamp ‘Hey, this is what we feel like is going to be our best going into Week 1 vs. Baltimore,’ the faster we can do that the better,” offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said (via Vacchiano). “I think it will play itself out fairly quickly. When we get back (for training camp), we’re rolling, we’re running the football, and we’re going to see. It’ll all play itself out.”
  • At least one “prominent” member of the Patriots offense believed the coaching staff was unprepared at the start of the team’s offseason workout, according to Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus. Following Josh McDaniels move to Las Vegas, the Patriots haven’t replaced anyone as their offensive coordinator, with former ST coordinator Joe Judge and former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia apparently taking on larger roles on offense. However, it sounds like the coaches are settling into roles, with Kyed describing Judge as the “passing game coordinator” and Patricia as the “running game coordinator.” Naturally, head coach Bill Belichick recently swatted away any questions about the offensive play calling. “If you’re asking about game plans, we’re months away from that — months,” Belichick said. “Months away. Months. What plays are we calling? Mini-camp plays?”

Latest On Patriots’ Offensive Coordinator Duties

About a week and a half ago, we wrote the latest on this situation with some fairly surprising names like head coach Bill Belichick, former special teams coordinator Joe Judge, and former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia being considered for the open offensive play-calling duties left vacant when former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels took the head coaching position in Las Vegas. Jeff Howe of The Athletic was able to provide a bit of an update today that shows things are trending in an unlikely direction. 

To recap, since leaving New England to be head coach of the Lions, Patricia has since returned in the role of senior football advisor. All the way back in 2004 and 2005, Patricia was on the offensive side of the ball working with the Patriots’ offensive line. It’s been presumed that he will be, once again, working with the big men on offense this season.

Judge, since leaving to be head coach of the Giants, has also returned, now in the role of offensive assistant. Despite working primarily with special teams during his tenure in New England, he did add wide receivers to his docket in his final year before going to New York. Those in league circles believe that this year he will be working directly with Mac JonesBailey Zappe, and the other quarterbacks.

Now, Belichick has never officially held play-calling duties. While it’s generally accepted that he’s always had an influence on the Patriots’ offense, McDaniels was always granted free rein to call plays. To his credit, though, in Belichick’s first head coaching job in Cleveland, he was heavily credited for his role in the offensive play-calling, though he claimed it was a group effort.

Howe’s update tells that things are still a bit up in the air but that they’re starting to fall into place. While the three have still been sharing the duties during OTAs, there has been some speculation that, due to Patricia handling run-based sessions and Judge taking charge of pass-based sessions, they may end up with the roles of run-game coordinator and pass-game coordinator, respectively.

For now, though, while no decision has been made, both Patricia and Judge are preparing as if they’ll be given the assignment. Early reports are indicating that “Patricia’s workload this spring has suggested he’s the early favorite to handle” play-calling duties.

Another nugget from Howe’s update suggests that McDaniels’ departure has led to the revamping of an offensive system that’s been notoriously difficult for free agents and rookies to learn. McDaniels was the offensive coordinator for the past 10 years in New England and for three more years in an interval before that. The familiarity and memorization involved with that level of continuity can make things difficult for newcomers from the outside. So the trio of play-calling candidates have been working, not necessarily to change the system, but to simplify the terminology to help ease the learning process.

Latest On Patriots’ Offensive Coordinator Duties

With former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels departing to take the head coaching gig in Las Vegas, the Patriots will be faced with the task of finding a new play-caller on offense. Well, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN, since the role has not yet been filled, it appears that head coach Bill Belichick, offensive assistant Joe Judge, and former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia are all currently sharing the duties of the role

That list of names may be bit surprising. Patricia is currently on staff as a senior football advisor, after a rough tenure in his first head coaching job in Detroit. While Patricia is know for his time in New England as a defensive coach, he began with the Patriots as an offensive assistant and, subsequently, assistant offensive line coach. Many believe that, in his return, he will work mainly with the team’s offensive line, once again.

Judge is another branch of the Belichick-coaching tree that has returned after a less-than-stellar stint as the Giants’ head coach. Judge worked with the Patriots’ special teams unit during his first tenure with the team, adding wide receivers to his docket in his final year before going to New York. Listed on the Patriots’ website as an offensive assistant, it’s presumed that Judge will be working directly with Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe, and the other quarterbacks.

Finally, the Hoody, himself. Belichick has never officially held play-calling duties. While it’s generally accepted that he’s always had an influence on the Patriots’ offense, McDaniels was always granted free-reign to call plays. Belichick hasn’t even coached with a focus solely on offense since he was the Lions’ receivers coach back in 1977. Besides that role in Detroit, as an assistant, Belichick has always coached defense and special teams. To his credit, though, in Belichick’s first head coaching job in Cleveland, he was heavily credited for his role in the offensive play-calling, though he claimed it was a group effort.

Besides the three named in Reiss’s article, tight ends/fullbacks coach Nick Caley is expected to take on increased responsibility. Troy Brown is in place to coach the wide receivers and kick returners. Ivan Fears and Vinnie Sunseri both share the oversight of the running backs. And Billy Yates holds the position of assistant offensive line coach.

This whole article may end up being a moot point if Belichick and company bring in an offensive coordinator ready to utilize the Patriots’ existing system and call plays in it. For now, though, the role is seemingly vacant, with Belichick taking a village approach to handle the duties.

Latest On Positional Roles For Joe Judge, Matt Patricia

One of the ongoing questions surrounding the Patriots this offseason has been tied to the specific duties assigned to Joe Judge and Matt Patricia. Clarity on the subject came recently when each of them spoke publicly about the team’s new-look offensive staff. 

“In terms of who is coaching each position, you’ll see me on the field with the quarterbacks” Judge said, via ESPN’s Mike Reiss. That role is significant in any case, but especially so in New England this upcoming season, given the importance of Mac Jones‘ development to the team’s overall success. The ex-Giants head coach has plenty of experience working under Bill Belichick, but has never served as a QBs coach before.

Patricia, meanwhile, revealed that he will be working with the team’s offensive line. That is a familiar position group for him, as he was an assistant o-line coach in 2005, but just as in Judge’s case, his role will be much different than the one he spent the most time with on the Patriots’ staff. The position will include a more simplified job description than those of head coach (which Patricia held in Detroit from 2018 to 2020) or defensive coordinator (which he held in New England for the six years prior to that).

Despite the announcements, nothing new was revealed with respect to play-calling duties. Reiss reported last week that Patricia seemed to be the favorite to fill the vacancy left by Josh McDaniels, though he acknowledged that Judge was a candidate as well. The latter indicated that a final decision on the matter of the duties – if not the title – of offensive coordinator has yet to be made.

“In terms of who calls plays, to be honest with you, that’s not the main focus right now” he said. “When Coach [Belichick] wants to go ahead and declare a role like that, he’ll tell us.”

Matt Patricia Favorite To Call Patriots’ Offensive Plays?

The only team without an offensive coordinator, the Patriots are considering a radical approach to replacing Josh McDaniels. It is looking like either Matt Patricia or Joe Judge will call their offensive plays.

Despite each struggling as head coaches, Patricia and Judge are back in New England. Judge landed in Foxborough this year, with Patricia having worked in various roles upon returning in 2021. Although Patricia has gained experience on the front office side since returning to the Patriots, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com hears (via the New York Post) the veteran defensive coordinator is firmly in play to be the team’s offensive play-caller this season.

Patricia and Judge were running New England’s offense during recent offseason workouts, and Reiss slots Patricia as the favorite to be the team’s play-caller come September. Judge, who has more experience on the offensive side of the ball, should not be ruled out. The Pats going with either would represent an unusual move. Judge certainly had input in the Giants’ offense following Jason Garrett‘s ouster, though that Judge-Freddie Kitchens stretch was ignominiously highlighted by the Jake Fromm quarterback-sneak play calls against Washington. Patricia has not called offensive plays at any level.

With the Patriots from 2004-17, Patricia began his tenure as an offensive assistant but quickly transitioned to the defensive side of the ball. The 47-year-old Pats staffer was their DC from 2012-17, prior to becoming the Lions’ head coach. Judge worked with the Patriots from 2012-19, rising to the dual roles of special teams coordinator and wide receivers coach. He would also make for an interesting choice, but this unorthodox approach has been on the radar for a bit now.

Bill Belichick has said Patricia, Judge, tight ends coach Nick Caley and receivers coach Troy Brown will play significant roles in guiding second-year QB Mac Jones and the Patriots’ offense. Of course, someone must sign off on the play calls. It would be one of the more fascinating decisions in recent coaching history to bestow that responsibility on a longtime defensive staffer.

Latest On Patriots Offensive Coaching Staff

With Josh McDaniels leaving New England for Las Vegas, the Patriots have a giant hole on their offensive coaching staff. In traditional Bill Belichick fashion, it sounds like the organization may be going with an unconventional route when it comes to McDaniels’ replacement(s). While Belichick hasn’t named an official offensive coordinator, the long-time head coach specifically singled out former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and former special teams coach Joe Judge “as those whom he will be relying upon to help replace McDaniels,” per ESPN’s Mike Reiss.

“We’ve had a lot of coaches take multiple responsibilities. I’m not really worried about that,” Belichick said today when asked about the lack of offensive experience for Patricia and Judge. “I think a good coach is a good coach. Matt is a great coach. Joe is a great coach. They’ll help us no matter what position they coach.”

Patricia had a brief stint as offensive line coach with the Patriots in 2005, but he moved to linebackers in 2006 and ended up staying on defense until getting a head coaching gig in Detroit. Similarly, Judge served primarily on special teams during his first seven years with the Patriots, but he took on the role of wide receivers coach in 2019 before leaving to coach the Giants.

When it comes to a lack of offensive coordinator, the Patriots took a similar route with their defense in 2021, with both Jerod Mayo and Steve Belichick guiding that side of the ball (as Reiss notes, Belichick said today “that he doesn’t believe in titles”). The HC noted that all of Patricia, Judge, tight ends coach Nick Caley, and receivers coach Troy Brown will play significant roles in guiding second-year QB Mac Jones and the Patriots offense. However, Belichick was tight lipped when asked who will call plays.

“We won’t be calling any for a while,” Belichick said. “[McDaniels will] be hard to replace, but I feel like we have really good coaches on our staff. … Everybody will have a defined role, like they always do. The offseason is the offseason and once we get on the field coaching players, game-planning and things that, it will all work itself out.”

Update On Patriots’ Coaching, Front Office Staffs

Much of the talk around the Patriots this offseason revolves around the challenge of replacing Josh McDaniels‘ contributions to the team’s offense. Two of the assistants that will be tasked with working on the new-look staff are ex-Patriot staffers Joe Judge and Matt Patricia. As Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer writes, the specific roles for those two seem to have been identified. 

As Breer notes, Judge is expected to work with the team’s quarterbacks, something he hasn’t done at any point in his coaching career. When it was announced that he would be returning to New England, it became clear he would work on the offensive staff in some capacity. His only role as a position coach with the Patriots came in 2019, when he worked with the receivers in addition to his more familiar special teams coordinator duties. Regardless of his experience, Judge will have a hugely important role, given that much of the team’s success will likely hinge on Mac Jones‘ development in his second season.

As for Patricia, Breer states that he will work with the offensive line. That would be a slightly more familiar spot for him, since he was an assistant with that position group in 2005 with the Patriots. Still, it’s a long way from the defensive work that earned him a head coaching job. In any event, that position change would confirm the recent belief that Patricia would be transitioning away from the quasi-front office role he took when retuning to New England back to the sidelines.

In addition, Breer writes that “the Patriots haven’t so much as talked to Adam Gase about their OC opening, and things have been quiet on the Bill O’Brien front as well”. That would suggest that their staff is more or less intact as is, something which ESPN’s Mike Reiss corroborates. With regards to the front office, Breer points out that Matt Groh being promoted to director of player personnel as Dave Ziegler‘s replacement – rather than the more experienced Eliot Wolf – is striking. He posits that Bill Belichick likely found Groh to be the safer option to remain with the team long-term, as Wolf has generated outside GM interest.

Overall, there is a degree of risk with entrusting these staffers with positions they haven’t served in during their ascension up the organizational ladder in New England. If it works out, the team’s offense in particular could be in position to take a step forward; if not, though, more shuffling along the staff could prove necessary this time next year.

 

Patriots Considering Moving Matt Patricia To Offensive Staff?

The Patriots have undergone plenty of change on the sidelines and in the front office recently. In trying to reshape the coaching staff, in particular on the offensive side of the ball, there seems to be a growing chance of Matt Patricia becoming more involved. 

[Related: Raiders Hire Josh McDaniels As HC]

As ESPN’s Mike Reiss writes, “the possibility of Patricia joining the offensive staff in some capacity has come up” within NFL circles. He served under the title of senior football advisor last year, following his return to New England.

The 47-year-old only spent his first two seasons (2004 and 2005) with the Patriots as a member of the offensive staff, and in a minor capacity at that. He is, of course, best known for his six years as the team’s defensive coordinator, which ultimately landed him his first head coaching job in Detroit. That certainly didn’t go according to plan, as the Lions finished last in the NFC North in his two full seasons, and he was fired in November 2020.

Still, Patricia is a trusted lieutenant of Bill Belichick, just like Joe Judge. It was announced last week that the latter is being brought back into the fold, also on the offensive staff. As Reiss notes, however, Judge’s only experience on that side of the ball came during one year as the Patriots’ wide receivers coach in 2019 before his similarly ill-fated stint as head coach of the Giants. Not surprisingly, given their inexperience, neither he nor Patricia have called plays on offense at the NFL level.

After losing not only longtime OC Josh McDaniels to the Raiders, but also a host of valued assistants on the offensive staff, many feel Patricia and Judge could help ease the transition to a new power structure on the sidelines. While Reiss stresses it surely isn’t the primary motivation, he also notes how both of them are still being paid by their former teams after initially signing five-year deals, which reduces the cost of their services for the Patriots.

Whatever changes New England makes, it could of course have a domino effect throughout the staff. As PFF’s Doug Kyed tweets, either Patricia or Belichick himself taking on a workload on offense would likely shift more defensive responsibility to position coaches Steve Belichick or Jerod Mayo. In any event, Reiss writes, Patricia shifting from a quasi-front office role back to purely coaching is a “scenario that bears watching”.

Patriots To Bring Back Joe Judge

Joe Judge looks to have found a new home in what was once his old home. The Patriots are bringing him back, this time as an offensive assistant (Twitter link via Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer). 

Breer states that the team is “working on a deal” which is “expected to get done in the coming days”, so nothing is official as of now, but it seems as though Judge is heading back to Foxborough. The 40-year-old began his NFL coaching career with the Patriots in 2012. He always worked on special teams, coordinating the unit from 2015-2019, the year before he left to become head coach of the Giants.

His final year with New England also included the title of wide receivers coach, however. That means that this new position, whatever it ends up being, won’t in fact be his first role on the offensive side of the ball. Judge had been linked to the special teams coordinator vacancy in Vegas, in large part due to the presence of Josh McDaniels as the Raiders’ new head coach. Instead, he will now take a position on a rebuilding Patriots offensive staff.

Since the position isn’t that of offensive coordinator, New England’s search for a direct McDaniels replacement will continue. So far, the two names linked to the vacancy are Bill O’Brien and Adam Gase.

Raiders Eyeing Joe Judge For ST Coordinator?

With Rich Bisaccia off to Green Bay, the Raiders are in need of a new special teams coordinator. One candidate to help fill in Josh McDaniels‘ first staff in Vegas is ex-Giants head coach Joe Judge, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler (Twitter link). 

[Related: Packers To Hire Rich Bisaccia As ST Coordinator]

Fowler states that the Raiders “have shown interest” in Judge to fill the role. The 40-year-old made a name for himself coaching special teams, dating back to 2008 at the college level and 2012 in the NFL with New England. That Patriots connection to McDaniels and new general manager Dave Ziegler would certainly make Judge a familiar face.

Fowler adds, though, that Judge is “staying patient” less than one month after being fired by the Giants, so nothing is imminent at this point. If he were to join the Raiders’ staff, he would be the second coordinator to make the move out west from New York; Patrick Graham was hired as Vegas’ DC last week.

The tail end in particular of Judge’s lone HC tenure could cost him other opportunities to lead a staff for the foreseeable future. With a 10-23 overall record, and a late-season offensive collapse causing the front office to change course and move on from him, Judge could return to his coaching roots in special teams to re-build his future HC candidacy. If he were to do so in Vegas, it would at least be on a team led by old colleagues and with a track record of success in that phase of the game.