Bill Belichick: Dual Threat as GM and Coach

NEPD Staff Writer: Jason Cappell 

I’ll admit it, I was wrong. Early on in the year, it appeared as though Bill Belichick’s duties as GM had put the New England Patriots’ season at risk. However, after a few shrewd moves, Belichick has the team back on track and primed for a Super Bowl run. With risk comes reward, and while the Patriots in-season moves were not guaranteed to work out, they’ve provided the team with a lift.

At the beginning of the season the Patriots were painfully thin at linebacker, and when Jerod Mayo went down in Week 6, that need bordered on crisis. However, as the Patriots have proved time and time again, it was next man up, and Dont’a Hightower rose to the challenge and hasn’t looked back.

Even with Hightower’s increased role and greater responsibilities, the Patriots still didn’t have enough depth to their liking. Yet the injuries continued to mount, and the names didn’t get any less significant.

When Chandler Jones went down in Week 7, it appeared to be catastrophic. Other than Rob Ninkovich, the Patriots didn’t have anyone to get after the quarterback. So in typical Patriot fashion, Bill Belichick nabbed an unwanted Akeem Ayers off the Titans depth chart, and gave him an opportunity to prove his worth.

Ayers was wasting away on the bench in Tennessee. He was clashing with a new coaching staff that didn’t think he could contribute on special teams and may have believed a past knee injury was hampering his development. However, Belichick saw something in the UCLA product that the Titans missed.

Ayers was acquired in a deadline deal for a sixth-rounder, and originally stepped in as a situational pass-rusher, before seeing his role expand over the past couple weeks. In his brief tenure with the Patriots, Ayers has turned back the clock and now displays the promise he showed early in his career. The 6-foot-3, 255-pound outside linebacker has three sacks, 13 tackles and 20 quarterback hurries in six games.

Ayers is not the only midseason acquisition stepping up on defense.

Jonathan Casillas was obtained in a late October trade with the Bucs and immediately thrown into the mix as a special teamer. And when a troubling shoulder injury forced Dont’a Hightower to miss the Chargers game, Casillas moved seamlessly into the starting line-up and played admirably in 51 of a possible 57 snaps. According to the Patriots coaching staff, the 27-year-old linebacker has 15 tackles on the year, four of which were on special teams.

When Sealver Siliga went down early, the Patriots were just a Vince Wilfork injury away from having perhaps the league’s worst rushing defense. However, Belichick never allowed New England’s woes to reach that point, and opted to sign 6-foot-6, 325-pound defensive lineman Alan Branch.

Branch hasn’t seen nearly as much action as Casillas and Ayers, but he’s still made a meaningful contribution and has beefed up the Patriots defensive line. With Vince Wilfork, Chris Jones, Dominique Easley and now a healthy Sealver Siliga in the fold, Branch has found a niche in New England as part of a rotation of defensive linemen up front.

The loss of Stevan Ridley also wasn’t an easy blow for the Patriots to handle. The Patriots had Shane Vereen waiting, but lacked an inside runner. But the Patriots had a contingency plan, one that no one had ever heard of, and his name was Jonas.

After a 200 yard, four touchdown performance in prime time, Jonas Gray was on his way to becoming a household name. But in typical Belichick running back roulette, that didn’t last long either. Having only one “big back” wasn’t enough for Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots so when the Steelers cut LeGarette Blount, a Foxboro reunion was inevitable.

With the way Blount has been running over the past few games, it feels almost as though he never left New England. In three games with the Patriots he has added a new dimension to the offense, and has provided some relief for the Patriots passing attack. Since coming over from Pittsburgh, Blount has scored twice and averaged nearly five yards a carry. As the weather becomes more frigid and the playoffs approach, Blount’s arrival couldn’t have been timelier. The Patriots finally have a reliable running game to turn to, and tackling a 250-pound hulking running back in the winter spells trouble for opposing defenses.

Last year was arguably Bill Belichick’s best coaching ever, and this year his duties as GM might follow suit. The Patriots have six first-round draft picks along their front seven, and the free agent signings of cornerbacks Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and safety Patrick Chung haven’t been too shabby either.

Like it or not, the Patriots are built for a deep run, and while Belichick’s personnel decisions have been questioned in the past, this year appears to be far different.

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42 Responses to “Bill Belichick: Dual Threat as GM and Coach”

  1. Bill says:

    Trade up for Danny Shelton,would take care of nose tackle for years to come .

    • acm says:

      Yet another player who can’t shed a block or is out of breath by the 3rd quarter? Hope not. Even 3-4 Ds don’t use the prototypical NT anymore – guys playing the position fit better the 3-4 DE or 4-3 DT position – so why should the Pats? And I am talking about the best run-Ds in the NFL, fcs.
      If there was one silver lining for me in the Easley pick last draft, it was that BB finally seems to be moving in the direction of a faster, more athletic D front. Hope that was part of trend and not just an aberration, though.

  2. acm says:

    No disrespect, Jason, but why should I trust someone who was already wrong earlier? Just because they’ve changed their mind? 😉

    It’s easy to over-react going either way – bashing BB for having failed the Pats with 2-3 games into the season or elevating him to God-like status now that things are headed int he right direction. Either way you go, there is good chance you’ll end up getting it wrong.

    BB made some good moves in-season – best of all Ayers, Blount, Branch, Cassillas – but let’s not forget that he was also the one responsible for creating the need for those moves to be made in the first place. The lack of depth at LB and more athleticism at DL didn’t create itself, after all. The miscalculated release of Tommy Kelly created a weakness, and lack of depth too, that still hasn’t been fully repaired. Keeping Kelly would have also allowed the Pats to handle Easley’s situation better as opposed to risk him by throwing him in the fire possibly a bit too soon after coming back from a second ACL tear.

    The main reason why this year the Pats have a realistic shot at the title is their brand-spanking-new secondary. A secondary they had to go out and buy – or in Revis’ case, quite likely “rent” is the the word – after years and years of failing to build thru the draft. There is praise but also blame to be shared there.

    One thing I am positively excited about is that BB seems to finally be going in the direction of more athletic players at DL and LB. This team has needed a speed rusher as part of a lighter NASCAR package for a while now. Same goes for a lighter but faster and swarming defense in the front 7 altogether. The additions of Ayers, Casillas and even Branch have made a good case for this trend to continue in the future, hopefully.

    Ultimately, however, this team’s season is most likely gonna go the way its OL goes and that story’s ending is yet to be written. The Pats may look like a sure call for the SB but if there is one group that has shown weakness and could potentially derail the the team in the play-offs, that’s the OL – a group that has lacked the infusion of top-level, young talent for several years now despite having shown signs of wear and tear for a while now.
    With the issue of depth at LB seemingly resolved, the addition of another power RB, it’s the OL – more precisely how this experienced but lacking on talent group would come together in the post-season – that will make or break this year the Pats.

    • steve earle says:

      Howard Cosel would be proud, “Telling it like it is.”

    • Freemanator says:

      Not sure Branch is really an example of smaller and faster.

    • Daniel R. Martin says:

      I concur ACM. Watching the Pat’s O-Line give up FOUR sacks in two quarters to the lowly Jets today certainly reaffirms my position that the Easely and Garoppolo picks could have been better allocated elsewhere. Especially along the offensive line.

      • acm says:

        IIRC, Dan, I had to “fight” you last year for the importance of adding premier talent to the OL early in the draft, so you are not getting any “style” points from me there 😉

        • Daniel R. Martin says:

          Yes. But, I learned a lot from guys like you, Steve, and Alex last year. Which is why I was amazed at the temerity of people lambasting us for have differing opinions than that of the infallible BB last draft. Calling use, well especially me, a know-it-all or a wannabe GM, while simultaneously offering their own opinions of what should have been done differently. I would have liked your opinion of my final mock last year. I think you would have noticed a marked improvement. I’m a relatively new fan of the sport. But, over the past seven years, I’ve certainly learned that this game truly is won along the lines.

        • Daniel R. Martin says:

          ACM, I’d like to see Cameron Erving slide back to the 32nd spot, where I hope the Pats will be picking.

  3. td says:

    You guys are forgetting the guys BB credits for finding gems like Nink: Casserio and his crew. They find them and BB has final say.

    Mayo and Amendola will need to take a shave on those contracts in order to stick around next year and beyond. Vereen seems to have plateaued. Still need a big outside WR, but their read offense seems too complex for most rooks and vet’s alike.

  4. Russell says:

    Another interesting player on the Steeler P-Squad, Joe Kruger 6’6″ 269lbs runs a 4.83 40yd. Cut LB White to the P-Squad if he clears waviers.
    Send Easley to IR, and sign OT Ried Fragel from Atlanta’s P-Squad.

    • steve earle says:

      Easley sent to IR ( more fuel to the fire) but Bill signs TE Maneri ?????

      • Russell says:

        I think BB will use Maneri OT/TE , like I wanted him to use Ried Fragel, in sixth man blocking package with a pas player or two added. Maneri knows the system, ….

        • macspak says:

          Don’t “we” already have Hooman, Cannon and Fleming to fill that role? Not sure I really understand the signing.

      • Daniel R. Martin says:

        Wait a second……stop the presses. Steve I missed that one. Do you mean to tell me that Easely was sent to the IR?…..Let me guess, a knee injury?

  5. Dylan.C says:

    First priority is absolutely bringing back Revis and McCourty. Next in line are Gostkowski, Siliga, Vereen, and Ayers, but none are really worth breaking the bank over. Branch, Bolden, Chung, and Develin are also worth bringing back but are replaceable. Amendola and Mayo gotta restructure or they are gone. Ridely is worth a 1 year prove it deal but with Gaffney in the mix is certainly expendable.

    After that I’d say FA/draft priorities are…

    Starting Left Guard
    Nose Tackle
    Edge Rusher – especially if Ayers walks
    ILB depth – especially if Mayo walks
    Developmental Safety
    Swing Tackle/ Developmental Tackle

    Never can have to much CB depth either

  6. GM-in-Training says:

    Can we get a new picture on the home page besides Joe Flacco?
    😉

  7. Russell says:

    It’s important to get an idea what other team needs are, to get a possible view of the draft; so here is my first round 2015 draft NO trades.
    1st Tampa Bay- QG Marcus Mariota
    2nd-Tennessee- WR Amari Cooper
    3d-Jacksonville- Leonard Williams
    4th- N.Y. Jets- QB Connor Cook
    5th-Oakland- OT Brandon Seherff
    6th-Washington-QG Jameis Winston
    7th-N.Y.Giants- LB Benardrick McKinney
    8th- Carolina- OT Lael Collins
    9th- New Orleans- CB Tre Waynes
    10th- Chicago- S Landon Collins
    11th- Minnesota- RB Melvin Gordon
    12th-St. Louis- OT Andras Peat
    13th- Houston- DT Eddie Goldman
    14th-Cleveland- WR Jaelan Strong
    15th- Miami- OT Cedric Ogbuchi
    16th- Kansas City- OLB/DE Dante Fowler jr.
    17th- Cleveland- OLB/DE Randy Gregory
    18th-San Francisco- CB P.J.Williams
    19th-Baltimore- RB Todd Gurley
    20th-Dallas- DE Shilique Calhoun
    21st-Atlanta- OT/OC Cameron Erving
    22nd- Pittsburgh- CB Jalen Collins
    23d- San Diego – WR Kevin White
    24th-Cincinnati- DT Danny Shelton
    25th- Philadelphia- WR Ty Montgomery
    26th- Indianapolis- OG A.J.Cain
    27th-Detriot- OLB Vic Beasley
    28th-Seattle- OLB Shaq Thompson
    29th- Denver-OG Arie Kouandjio
    30th-Arizona- OG Tre Jackson
    31st Green Bay- LB Eric Kendricks
    32nd-New England- OC/G Hroniss Grasu
    The order will be changing over the last few weeks, so thoughts ???

    • steve earle says:

      Love Grasu as OC, quick, agile gets to 2nd level run blocking. Little on the light side when faced by big power rush NT. Think Tre Jackson could slip into 2nd rd, not having his best year. Still and all looks like darn fine projection Russell.

    • Dylan.C says:

      As an Oregon fan, I love Grasu and have been watching him since freshman year. However; if they drafted Grasu what would they do with Stork? they both seem a little undersized to play at either guard position.

      • Russell says:

        I would move Grasu to OG, Connolly, and Wendel are about 300lbs each, Grasu is about 290 but has better speed to pull as an OG. He is a hard nose type blocker , like Mankins, so I think he would replace Connolly who may retire after having so many concusions.

        • Dylan.C says:

          He is one of the most athletic interior lineman I have ever seen. It is not uncommon at all when watching oregon tape to see him 20+ yards down-field.

        • steve earle says:

          We have already seen o-line have most trouble against big def fronts getting pressure inside/ not able to run inside makinf outside T very difficult too. Grasu to small to play OG in nfl imo, OC yes, OG no, he can’t hold up or be consistant.

  8. Kevan says:

    It would be really nice to get a 3rd rd comp pick, heck I’d take a 4th. G/WR in the draft early.

  9. steve earle says:

    Ahhhhh the smell of fried fish in the crisp morning air. Miami had me a little worried in that first half though. But never mind the guys took care of buisness in the seckond half.
    Anyway I think I’ll give a mock draft a shot. Just for the fun of it I will assume some top junors will come out and we do get that speculated 3rd rd comp pick ( though I have reservations about that).

    1) Vadal Alexander OG LSU ( I have 4 OG’s on my short list here)
    If a second OG on my short list slides into the 2nd rd I’d try to move up to grab him.
    2) Arie Kouandjio OG Ala ( pkg wit a 4th to move up to top half of rd for him)
    3) Carl Davis DT Iowa
    3 comp) Josh Harper WR Fresno St
    4a) pkg with our 2nd
    4b) Terry Williams DT/NT E.Car.
    5) traded
    6) Matthias Farley S ND
    7) Davis Tull OLB Tenn. Chatt.

    4b)

    • Russell says:

      I read over Miguel Benzan’s report, interesting tho I did my own math, and IMO a 4th round pick is FAR more likely, But anything is good!
      So time to Mock again;
      1st- TRADED TO MINN. for 3d,4th, 2015 draft, and 3d,4th in the 2016 draft. Always nice to have picks ahead of the draft, value, and they don’t take a roster spot.( Chart Value about even for both teams)
      2nd- OG Arie Kouandijo, OR OC/G Hroniss Grasu
      3d-(Minn.)- DE/T Henry Anderson
      3d- OG John Miller
      4th-(tampa)- RB David Johnson
      4th (Minn.)- OLB Reggie Ragland
      4th-OLB Davis Tull
      4th-(Comp.)- WR Jordan Taylor
      6th- (tenn.)-WR Kevin Vereen jr.
      7th- (Tampa)-DE Dezmond Johnson

      • steve earle says:

        You already know how I feel about trading down without getting a 2nd rd’er in the deal so moving on. Watching Tull and TC at UNH fri noc have to say He had some hurries and a couple tackles but was far from dominate as his highlight films seemed to indicate so I’m more then alittle worried about taking him as high as a 4th. That said, nice draft Russell.

        • Russell says:

          I think there is more value long term in drafting for picks next year and not a 2nd rounder this year. Player contract cost are lower, and I think BB prefers to draft in the 3-4th round IMO. I didn’t like seeing Tull only at DE Friday night, thats not where he will play at the next level.

        • steve earle says:

          Russell, I understand your concern with costs and perhaps BB does like 3rd and 4th rds better, I’m just looking at where I think team needs can be best met while not going with high profile, expensive skill players. Trying to balance team needs, contract costs, resigning key vets, and get an overall strong draft isn’t easy for any of us but we try. Also you may be right that Alexander will be a top 20 which is why I have 4 OG’s on short list. Alexander, Cann, Montus and Koandjio. One should at least come down to us and one may go into 2nd. OG’s are not usually as costly as OT’s and one would improve our line greatly, two would set the interior for several years while making our run offense as dangerious as our passing all for the combine cost of one big name WR, RB or CB. To me that’s a good deal.

      • Jeff says:

        Russell, future picks are ALWAYS discounted in trades – in reality, no one values a future pick more than a present one. That’s why you see a third traded for a second the following year. While it’s true future picks don’t take a roster spot, they also don’t help your team for a season. Also, if you look at the Pats defense, it’s pretty clear that Bill prefers having 1st rounders and second rounders when it comes to who he starts and who makes the biggest impact. You have 2-3 first rounders on the D-line (Easley seems to have played okay but is still slowed by injuries this season), 2 first rounders and a second rounder for your starting LBs (until Mayo went out) and two 1sts and a 2nd in the starting secondary). There are almost no cases on this team where a high draft pick is sitting behind a lower pick in the pecking order (QB is the only position that comes to mind). I think you need a first round pick about every year in order to keep the highest impact positions on your team stocked with talent. You can’t go too far in the extreme to only having mid-level draft picks, just like you can’t trade away all of your picks to move up every year.

        • Russell says:

          You make some great points Jeff, and value is Always less in next years draft. You must determind a teams record in the up coming year to understand were your aquirred pick will be on the draft board. However, having extra picks the next year, allows for your team to consider using them in trade packages to move up in the all important 1-2 round ahead of time if you value a player. Trading a 1st round pick, which BB has a history of sometimes, is about the future, and the players available on the draft board that year, and your teams value of them. The Roster issue is very important when your teams roster is deep as it is in New England.
          1st picks like Jones, and Hightower the Patriots moved up to get. Solder was picked after a player trade, the year before. Even Easley this past draft, much the same as Wilfork ,was undervalued because of injury issues, or both would have gone much higher in the draft.
          Value is important with Cost as well, 1st round guys get bigger rookie deals than later rounds. With a deep roster of quality players, they cost more to retain, and your early draft picks have a harder time finding a place on the roster.
          Look at Nate Solder, this year is deal was 2.1 mil. the Patriots picked up his opition at 7.1 mil for next year, a costly move, however Solder would have been a free agent, now the Patriots retain him for a year. Will they trade him? I think its a high chance , they do if the deal is right, much like they did with Mankins. If its me, and I feel Cannon can do the job a LOT, with Fleming, and maybe a drafted guy as a third choice, then YES. Getting draft picks this year and next ,Yes.
          Thanks

    • Russell says:

      My thoughts on Alexander, are if he enters the draft, IMO he is a top 20 pick. Graus has fallen in some mocks I’ve seen, but not sure he or Koundijo are there in the late 2nd round.
      I like your WR I may to get Harper into my WR draft. Still early….

    • John says:

      While I like the fact that both of you guys have made the OLine a high priority in your mocks, I still think they would prefer to take a more versatile OT. There is obviously a need for an interior lineman, but given Solder’s play, his upcoming contract situation, and the Cannon extension, and draft depth at the position, I think that they will draft a tackle within one of the first two rounds. Plus, you would much rather draft have a cheaper, cost-controlled, talented OT than a OG.

      Also, I can’t see them taking a wide receiver until later in the draft. I think Brady is content with his core 4, as well as his 5th and 6th options, and would much rather prefer even bringing a cheap, older veteran.

      I still think they address the DLine/43DE/34OLB/HYB early. Chandler has had consistency issues, primarily because of health, and Ninkovich isn’t getting any younger. I still think that Chiefs loss showed how vital it is to control the line of scrimmage, both sides.

    • Freemanator says:

      That’s a terrible trade. You are seriously trading a first round pick, and getting not even one second in return?
      If we were to use the draft chart as you suggest to gauge value, and to slot us and Minnesota in where we are projected currently (using record and SOS) we’d end up with pick 1#30 (620) and trade it for 3#75 (215) and 4#~111 (72), and then a third and fourth next year. As previously said, devalue by a round to work out value, 2016-3 (80) and 2016-4 (36.5) . And PS the Vikings have some nice pieces in play and are unlikely to tank next year.

      So we’d give up 620 points, and recoup a value of 403.5. Not to mention we’d take that in the form of middle of the pack talent, as opposed to high end talent, and we’d have to wait for some of it. Compare that to the New Orleans trade, there we gave away a late one, and got a two and a next years on, a far better deal in more ways than one.

      Belichick seemingly prefers early to mid second rounders, over often comparable first rounders, and similarly tends to trade down his late third rounders in preference for fourth rounders.

      • Russell says:

        I disagree on your value of the 2016 3d and 4th. Most teams dislike giving up next years picks. De-valueing , by a whole round is way off. This year the Vikings end up 6-10 next year 8-8 the value is only two wins in the draft order. And given the fact that teams do not like to give up next years pick, the value is fair.

        • Freemanator says:

          That is the classic way future picks are valued. They are penalised due to having to wait for them. It’s like a loan. If I want to borrow money from the bank, I can’t tell them I’ll pay them back the same amount later, I have to pay more (add interest).

          The pick we used on Ras-IR Dowling was originally a 3rd round pick, which we traded to Carolina for a future 2nd rounder. And again with the Saints, we traded our #1 for their future #1 and #2.

          That is why it is good to trade for future picks, as the price tends to be worth it, because many GMs/Coaches don’t have the time to steadily build a team, because they may be getting fired next year.

          But your trade is robbery for our trading partner. No way anyone would ever agree to that.

  10. Russell says:

    Watching teams P-Squad for players that could help the Patriots IF we could open a roster spot. ( Easley to IR??)
    OG Jeff Baca
    OT/G Travis Bond
    OT Reid Fragel
    These guys have potenial at OG for the future.
    Only one WR I may consider, Cobi Hamilton, 6’2″ 212lbs 4.5 40yd.

  11. Russell says:

    Coming into this year my biggest issue was lack of depth at LB, BB made a move for Ayers, and Casillas, which looks very good.
    My issue now is depth at WR, if Lafell goes down. Its MUCH harder to bring a WR into your system than a LB, so Tymes is it for this year. I think Dobson is a bust, and BB will need to make a move at WR next year. A drafted player will be the most cost friendly move ,BUT take time to get into the system. IMO I cut Dobson, resign Tymes (350 K now) draft 1-2 WR’s get them into the system, for the long term. These guy’s need to be 6’+ and about 200lbs. with about 4.4-4.5 speed, good hands and smart enough to understand the Patriot O.
    Oline is my next area to address, and IMO youth depth is the way to go here as well. I think BB drafts 1-2 Olineman, and looks at undrafted free agent. Laurence Gibson 6’6″290 runs a 4.96 40yd (Va. Tech.) is a guy I think goes undrafted with potential. Early drafted guys depends alot on the draft board. OC/G Grasu, OC/T Erving, OG Alexander(Jr.)and OG Kouandijo are in my first group. #3 round guys; OG Tolinson, OG Miller, OC/G Finney,OT Fisher, To name a few. This picture is not as clear, with Solders bigger contract this year, and the signing of Cannon, and the strong play of Wendell and Storks. I have a hard tinking BB will draft an Olineman number 1 but maybe.

  12. Russell says:

    Wonder if the Patrios get a Compensitory pick for the loss of Blount to Pittsburg , even tho they got him back???

    • steve earle says:

      Comp for Blunt is a no, according to Miguel Benzan who has a site dedicated to trying to figure those things out. I posted his web address on the prior page if you are interested in looking him up to read his reasoning. He says we should get a 3rd but for over all losses as I recall. ( my description not a quote)

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