Robert Kugler

Patriots Finalize Coaching Staff

With new head coach Jerod Mayo taking over after over two decades of Bill Belichick at the helm, the Patriots have solidified the entirety of their new coaching staff.

We already knew about the hires of offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt, quarterbacks coach T.C. McCartney, running backs coach Taylor Embree, offensive line coach Scott Peters, and senior offensive assistant Ben McAdoo on the offensive side of the ball and defensive coordinator DeMarcus Covington, defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery, outside linebackers coach Drew Wilkins, and inside linebackers coach Dont’a Hightower, as well as the retention of cornerbacks coach Mike Pellegrino and safeties coach Brian Belichick., on the defensive side, but below is the update on the rest of next season’s staff.

We were aware that former Rams assistant special teams coach Jeremy Springer had been going through an interview process, interviewing twice for the special teams coordinator position, but now we know that he will be heading special teams going forward in New England, replacing Cameron Achord in that role. He will be backed up by new special teams assistant coach Tom Quinn and special teams assistant and quality control coach Coby Tippett, after former assistant Joe Houston departed for the University of Florida. Quinn, a former long-time coordinator for the Giants, more recently spent last year on the Titans’ staff. Tippett was a coaching assistant in New England’s 2023 training camp and spent last season coaching cornerbacks at Tufts University.

On the defensive side of the ball, a few familiar faces stuck around and a few more were hired or promoted. The only new names here were defensive coaching assistants and quality control coaches Vinny DePalma and Jamael Lett. DePalma just finished his sixth year of playing linebacker for the Eagles at Boston College. He makes an extremely quick jump from playing in college to his first coaching position in the NFL. Lett most recently spent 2023 as a special teams analyst at the University of North Carolina. He has a litany of experience at other schools like South Alabama, Akron, Samford, Ohio, and Tennessee-Martin, but this will be his first NFL opportunity, as well. Last year, V’Angelo Bentley and Keith Jones held similar roles on the defense as fellows, but neither seems to have been retained.

Most of the new faces here are on the offensive staff. First, with former tight ends coach Will Lawing taking the offensive coordinator job at Boston College, former Saints senior offensive assistant Bob Bicknell will take his place. Bicknell’s extensive experience coaching the wide receiver, offensive line, and tight end positions sets him up well for his new role, though he hasn’t coached tight ends since 2011. Joining Bicknell in coaching receiving targets will be new wide receivers coach Tyler Hughes and assistant wide receivers coach Tiquan Underwood.

Hughes returns to the Patriots after a year as an offensive quality control coach at the University of Washington. Before that he had spent three years as an offensive assistant with New England. Underwood’s first NFL job came as an offensive quality control coach for the Dolphins back in 2019. Since then, he’s been coaching receivers at Rutgers and Pitt. The two replace the last two coaches for the position, Ross Douglas, who will coach the same position at Syracuse, and Troy Brown, who was not retained on the new staff.

Now, we did know that Robert Kugler would be joining the staff in some capacity about ten days ago, but now we have confirmation that he will come into the assistant offensive line coach position, the same one he held with the Panthers last year. This seems to indicate that last year’s assistant offensive line coach, Billy Yates, has not been retained after essentially taking over the position last year. Lastly on offense, the team will add Michael McCarthy to the staff as an offensive coaching assistant and quality control coach. McCarthy used to be an NFL assistant coach with the Browns and Lions but has spent the last five years as offensive line coach at Brown.

Finally, with Mayo’s younger brother, Deron Mayo, being promoted to the head of strength and conditioning, meaning that the former head, Moses Cabrera, will not be returning, the Patriots have hired Brian McDonough to fill his place as assistant strength and conditioning coach. McDonough has been a consultant for the team for over 20 years, but he’ll now accept his first full-time role with New England.

There you have it: the Patriots 2024 coaching staff. The last few years of regression following Tom Brady‘s departure are now the last chapters of a previous book. It will be up to Mayo and company to write the first chapter of a new one in the 2024 NFL season.

Patriots Hire Dont’a Hightower As LBs Coach

The trend of former players turning to coaching after their playing careers end continued today with former Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower getting hired to coach his former team’s linebackers group, according to his agents at SportsTrust Advisors. ESPN’s Mike Reiss posted that the hiring seemed to complete the main coaching hires on the defensive side of the ball, indicating that cornerbacks coach Mike Pellegrino would be returning to coach the position in 2024.

Hightower was a 2012 first-round addition out of Alabama for the Patriots back in 2012. An immediate starter, Hightower performed at a high level for the entirety of his ten-year career, all of which saw him play in red, white, and blue. The two-time Pro Bowler’s only big issue throughout his career was durability. Throughout his time in New England, he only appeared in every game of a season once and missed 11 games in 2017 due to a torn pectoral muscle. He also was one of the few NFL players who opted out of the 2020 season as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hightower would return for the 2021 season and, after going unsigned in 2022, would retire in 2023. Hightower finished his career with 569 total tackles, 43 tackles for loss, 27 sacks, two forced fumbles, and five fumble recoveries. He hit the quarterback 67 times, intercepted them once, and deflected 18 passes over his career.

Hightower will return to the NFL as a coach for the only team he ever played for, joining his former teammate, and new head coach, Jerod Mayo. With former defensive line coach DeMarcus Covington taking over as defensive coordinator, Hightower is joining new defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery, returning safeties coach Brian Belichick, and Pellegrino as the position coaches on the defensive staff. This should conclude the major hires on this side of the ball, though minor roles may still be filled.

Speaking of a minor coaching role, New England is reportedly finalizing a deal to bring in former Panthers assistant offensive line coach Robert Kugler, per Mike Giardi of the Boston Sports Journal. Kugler is a hot name in coaching circles who is viewed as a possible candidate for offensive coordinator jobs in the not-too-distant future.

Panthers Add DeAngelo Hall, Todd Wash, Others To Staff

Many have praised the recent makeover of the Panthers’ coaching staff including the main additions of head coach Frank Reich, defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, and offensive coordinator Thomas Brown. Having those three major positions filled, Carolina has been able to explore filling other, less major position coaching roles.

Firstly, following the suggestions of general manager Scott Fitterer and owner David Tepper, Reich made the decision to retain offensive line coach James Campen, assistant offensive line coach Robert Kugler, and special teams coach Chris Tabor from last year’s staff, according to Panthers staff writer Darin Gantt. The Panthers made massive strides in offensive line play last season thanks not only to the additions of rookie tackle Ikem Ekwonu, guard Austin Corbett, and center Bradley Bozeman but to the influence of Campen and Kugler, as well. Similarly, Carolina’s special teams unit excelled during Tabor’s first year in the position.

The team also made a key addition to the offensive staff, bringing in former Cardinals associate head coach and wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson to fill their new wide receivers coach role, according to Gantt. Jefferson adds to the growing group of Panthers coaches with past experience playing in the NFL, having spent 13 seasons as a wide receiver in the league. After bouncing around five other franchises as an assistant coach, Jefferson has become well-respected in coaching circles. Along with other teams, the Jets reportedly had interest in bringing him back to their staff after his stint in New York from 2019-2020, according to Josina Anderson of CBS Sports.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Panthers have brought in an exciting trio of position coaches. Gantt reports that the assistant coach leading Carolina’s defensive line next season will be former Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash. Wash was leading the Jacksonville defense back when they last advanced to the AFC championship game on the backs of a defense that earned the nickname “Sacksonville.” He’s a distinguished veteran who has been coaching in Detroit the past two seasons.

Joining Wash in rushing the quarterback will be new outside linebackers coach Tem Lukabu, according to Gantt. Lukabu has previously coached linebackers at the NFL-level in Cincinnati but has spent the past three years as the defensive coordinator at Boston College.

If Lukabu needs any tips on coaching his position, he will have the benefit of assistance from the team’s new safeties coach, Bert Watts, who did an admirable job coaching an injured outside linebackers group in Denver last year. Watts is a valuable addition from Ejiro’s staff last season as many in coaching circles view him as a future defensive coordinator, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

Additionally, Gantt reports that the Panthers have agreed to terms with former NFL cornerback DeAngelo Hall to become their new assistant defensive backs coach and former Cardinals assistant special teams coach Devin Fitzsimmons to serve in the same position in Carolina. ESPN’s Adam Schefter adds that, despite his insistence on remaining at ESPN, the Panthers joined the Colts in pursuing former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky for “prominent offensive coaching roles.”

Despite missing out on Orlovsky, the Panthers are building a strong, experienced staff. Not only are they rich in years of coaching experience, but most of their new staff holds experience playing in the NFL, as well.

NFC Coaching Notes: Giants, Seahawks, Bears

Brian Daboll is naturally making some changes to the Giants coaching staff. Per Aaron Wilson on Twitter (detailed in four tweets), the Giants have hired Drew Wilkins as linebackers coach, Christian Jones as an offensive assistant, Laura Young as director of coaching operations, Bobby Johnson as offensive line coach, Shea Tierney as quarterbacks coach, DeAndre Smith as running backs coach, Mike Groh as wide receivers coach, Andy Bischoff as tight ends coach, Tony Sparano Jr. as assistant offensive line coach, and Andre Patterson as defensive line coach.

Daboll also retained a handful of holdovers from Joe Judge’s staff. That grouping includes Jerome Henderson (defensive backs coach), Mike Treier (assistant defensive backs coach), Anthony Blevins (special teams assistant), and Nick Williams (special teams quality control coach).

Finally, the Giants shifted Ryan Hollern to college scouting coordinator and named Mark Loecher as assistant strength and conditioning coach.

Some more coaching notes out of the NFC…

  • The Seahawks will promote Andy Dickerson to their offensive line coach, per ESPN’s Brady Henderson (via Twitter). Offensive coordinator Shane Waldron recruited Dickerson from the Rams last offseason, with Dickerson earning the role of run-game coordinator. Now, he’ll earn the (apparent) promotion to OL coach. The Seahawks fired former offensive line coach Mike Solari last week, reports NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero (via Twitter). This was the 67-year-old’s second stint with the organization, and he had served as the team’s OL coach since 2018.
  • The Bears announced last week that they hired Carlos Polk as their assistant special teams coach. The 44-year-old coach has served in the same role with a handful of teams, including the Chargers, Buccaneers, Cowboys, and Jaguars. He spent the 2021 campaign in Jacksonville.
  • The Cardinals have hired Matt Burke as their defensive line coach, reports Pelissero (on Twitter). The 45-year-old was the Dolphins defensive coordinator between 2017 and 2018, and he most recently worked for the Jets as a “game management coach.” Burke has also had coaching stints with the Eagles, Bengals, Lions, and Titans.
  • The Vikings have hired Brian Angelichio as their pass game coordinator/tight ends coach, reports ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler (via Twitter). Angelichio spent the past two years as the Panthers tight ends coach, so he’s getting a slight promotion in Minnesota. Meanwhile, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweets that the Vikings are hiring Jerrod Johnson as an offensive assistant. Johnson is expected to work with the QBs. The coach was a two-time participant in the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship, and he spent last season as the Colts quality control coach.
  • Matt Rhule has made some changes to his staff. The Panthers announced that they’ve hired Joe Dailey as wide receivers coach. Dailey has spent the past two seasons as Boston College’s offensive coordinator. Meanwhile, Robert Kugler was hired as assistant offensive line coach while defensive analyst Kevin Gilbride Jr. was promoted to TE coach (replacing Angelichio).

AFC Coaching Notes: Bengals, Dolphins, Jets

The Bengals have already interviewed eight candidates (and attempted to meet with a ninth) for their head coaching position, but their search could expand in the coming days, according to Mike Garafolo of (Twitter link). Cincinnati has interest in assistants who were coaching during Wild Card weekend, but preferred not to disturb those coaches in advance of such critical games. While no new names have yet surfaced, potential candidates who coached this weekend Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, Cowboys defensive backs coach Kris Richard, Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale, Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, and Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.

Here’s more from the AFC coaching carousel:

  • As had been expected, Richard will interview with the Dolphins and Jets today, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones confirmed to Todd Archer of (Twitter link). “It doesn’t surprise me at all that clubs have the interest that they have in him,” said Jones. “There are no secrets in the NFL when it comes to people that can help you win football games. And he’s a winner.” Assistants preparing for a Wild Card playoff matchup aren’t allowed to interview in the week preceding said game, so Richard had to wait until Dallas completed its victory over Seattle on Saturday night. Richard is also meeting with the Buccaneers on Sunday.
  • In a bit of record-keeping, the Dolphins announced that they completed their head coaching interview with Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen on Saturday, while the Browns did the same with Patriots defensive coordinator Brian Flores. Allen, 46, flopped as the Raiders’ head coach earlier this decade, but has transformed New Orleans’ defense from a laughingstock to a respectable unit over the past four seasons. Flores, meanwhile, interviewed for only one head coaching job in 2018 (Cardinals), but has lined up four sit-downs in the 2019 cycle (Broncos, Packers, and Dolphins in addition to Browns).
  • Broncos offensive line coach Sean Kugler and linebackers coach Reggie Herring are drawing interest from around the league, tweets Mike Klis of 9News. However, both assistants are still under contract with Denver, and the Broncos presumably won’t let either leave until their new head coach decides if he wants to retain them. Kugler, previously the head coach at UTEP, joined Denver in 2018 and guided a Broncos front five which ranked as a top-12 unit in both adjusted line yards and adjusted sack rate. Herring came to Denver in 2015 after having coached with Houston, Dallas, and Chicago.

Patriots Audition Marcel Reece, Four Others

The Patriots brought in former Raiders fullback Marcel Reece for a workout today, according to Mike Reiss of Oakland released Reece earlier this week.Marcel Reece (vertical)

[RELATED: Latest On Patriots’ QBs]

Reece, 31, had been with Oakland since since 2009. He violated the league’s policy on performance enhancing drugs last December, and the ensuing multi-game ban cost him a trip to the Pro Bowl and, apparently, led the Raiders to finding his full-time replacement. Reece was scheduled to play out the 2016 season at a cap number of $3.53MM, but Oakland has opted against taking on that cap hit.

In 2015, Reece caught 30 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns and also added 36 rushing yards. A versatile back who can play a variety of roles, Reece averaged 34 receptions per season from 2010-15, and he’d likely assume the role of pass-catching back in New England if signed. With Dion Lewis sidelined through at least Week 6, James White has been absorbing most of the running back looks in the Patriots’ passing game.

As Reiss notes, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has been extremely complementary of Reece in the past. “You put a big guy on him, he’s probably going to have a hard time matching up with Reece’s speed and quickness,” Belichick said in 2014. “Put a smaller guy on him, he might match up with his speed and quickness, but it would be hard to match up with his size. I’d say that’s a dilemma. Who do you have that has the same skill set as Reece?”

In addition to Reece, the Patriots also worked out guards Jake Bernstein and Chase Farris, center Robert Kugler, and tight end Greg Scruggs.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bills Cut 9, Down To 75

The Bills released nine players on their way to the 75-man limit. Here’s the full rundown.





  • WR Kolby Listenbee


  • LB Reggie Ragland

Bills Cut Jarius Wynn, Add 14 UDFAs

The Bills have fortified their rookie class, adding to their seven-man draft class by agreeing to terms with another 14 undrafted free agents, the team announced today. Here are the 14 undrafted rookies who have agreed to sign with Buffalo:

In addition to adding over a dozen rookies to their roster, the Bills also cut ties with some veteran players, per a press release. The most notable name in the trio of players released is edge defender Jarius Wynn, who perhaps became more expandable after Buffalo used its first-round pick on outside rusher Shaq Lawson. Wynn last played in 2014, recording 17 tackles and two sacks for the Bills.

The club also cut cornerback Merrill Noel and offensive lineman Ronald Patrick.