FOXBORO — Now the fun really begins for the Patriots’ coaching staff.
Ever since the day the Patriots lost to the Broncos in the AFC championship in Denver, Bill Belichick, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and the entire staff has been working on putting together a new roster to hit the ground running with in the spring so they get get started with on-field prep for the 2016 season.
This week, in the days immediately following the draft, the Patriots’ staff can finally move on from the first offseason phase, which has included free agency, trades, veteran workouts and the draft.
“For us, the focus is really, right now, is [this week],” Patricia said during an offseason media availability at Gillette Stadium. “[This week] is Phase 2 of the offseason program where now we’ve got the guys out on the field. We can actually go out and see the new guys that we have in, see the guys coming back from being away. That’s really kind of our focus.”
The “guys” Patricia is referencing are veterans already on the roster or newcomers like defensive ends Chris Long and Frank Kearse, nose tackle Terrance Knighton and linebackers Shea McClellin and Ramon Humber and defensive back E.J. Biggers.
“Every year is a new year for us,” Patricia said. “We have to start over every year. You take the guys that come in as veteran players, guys that have gone from first-year rookies to now second-year players, the progression that they have to make, along with free agents you’ve signed that have to now kind of incorporate along with the eventual rookies and draft picks and free agents, when we finally get those guys in. So, for us it’s just a process. Basically, just starting from scratch, starting over, getting everybody back in, starting to work the offeseason program, the running and the conditioning, the [weight] lifting, all that stuff right now.
“We’ll get into the information part of it here where we’ll start learning a little bit about the defense and what we do and things like that. It’s exciting for me, it’s exciting for us as a staff to kind of have everybody back. [Coaches] sit in rooms for a couple of months and stare at each other. When the players finally get back, that’s really what’s exciting, is when we get those guys back and now we get the opportunity to get back to football.”
There are four draft picks who will also be new to the system but haven’t arrived on campus yet, led by second-round corner Cyrus Jones out of Alabama.
“I think for us, we’ll see what we see in Cyrus when he gets here,” Patricia said. “He’s a young man who put himself in a good position to be brought into the NFL. He’s going to step into a game where there’s guys that obviously have been working, competing and getting ready to play football at the NFL level. Again, for us, it’s really about the guys that are here right now, working hard, trying to see how they’ll come together and how it fits. For us, it’ll be a long process for everybody. I don’t care if it’s a guy that’s been here one day or guy that’s been here five or seven years, it’s always a new process every year to figure out how that whole group fits together.”
Vincent Valentine, the third-round defensive tackle out of Nebraska, will have to compete with the likes of second-year tackle Malcom Brown, Terrance Knighton, Alan Branch and free agent Markus Kuhn.
“We’ll just have to see when those guys get here,” Patricia said. “Those guys are a little ways off from coming in. So, right now, it’s the first time we’re able to be out on the field and see our new guys we signed in the front and back end [of the roster]. Knighton, Chris Long, along with Malcom Brown coming back from Year 1 to Year 2. Just glad to be out there with our guys right now.
“Obviously, the veterans, for them, coming into a new organization but they’ve been around professional football. Guys like that have played a lot of football in the NFL. When you come in as a rookie, it’s just a completely different world for you to make that transition from college to the NFL. Those veteran free agents come in at it from a whole different perspective of understanding the professional side of it and just really trying to indoctrinate themselves into your program.”
One new coach who doesn’t figure to need a lot of orientation is Steve Belichick, the safeties coach who takes over for Brian Flores, who moved to take over the linebackers.
“Steve’s been with us for a while. Steve’s obviously been around the program forever,” Patricia said. “I’ve know him for a long time. He does a great job of really learning the craft, learned the coaching, learned what we do, how we do it. He obviously has great insight from his dad and being around everything. It’s like how we do everything around here. He’s just a good young coach that has worked his way into position to take that next step, like we all have here. So, we’re ready to go. For me, nothing really changes for me. He’s been here, he’s been working. He’s been doing all the things we ask him to do. He’s going to be doing all that, still.”