Patriots players are as much in the dark as fans about coaching vacancies
FOXBOROUGH – If you’re wondering who the Patriots defensive position coaches will be in 2019, you’re not alone. And some of your questioning companions are Patriots players like Stephon Gilmore.
“They haven’t told us, so we’re just kind of working out right now,” the Patriots cornerback said Thursday. “Little meetings, but nothing that we know yet.”
Linebackers coach and de facto defensive coordinator Brian Flores, defensive line coach Brendan Daly and cornerbacks coach Josh Boyer have all left the organization.
Right now, safeties coach Stephen Belichick is the only defensive assistant coach from the 2018 group still in New England. Coaching assistants DeMarcus Covington and Mike Pellegrino remain and are focused on defense, as is consultant to the head coach Bret Bielema, who often works with defensive linemen. They could take on bigger roles or outside hires could be made. Jerod Mayo is on board as the new linebackers coach.
Greg Schiano was expected to be the defensive coordinator but stepped away before the offseason program began. It seems likely the Patriots will enter the 2019 season without a defensive coordinator.
You know all that, you’re wondering what the Patriots plan to do about it. From the sound of things, players don’t know yet either. Even though the offseason program has already started, it’s still Phase One when only strength and conditioning coaches can work with players on the field anyway.
If they need it, the Patriots have a bit more time to figure it out.
Gilmore said he wasn’t fazed by the turnover and that, with Bill Belichick in charge, things still feel normal.
“It’s not strange,” Gilmore said. “We’ve got a great coach. It’s the National Football League. People go and come, so got to be able to adjust. I’m pretty sure the coaches we have will put us in the best position to make plays.”
Belichick is expected to take on a larger role in coaching the defense this year. At this point, the 67-year-old coach seems like the best bet to be the defensive play-caller for 2019. That wouldn’t feel like a huge shift either though, Gilmore said, since Belichick already plays a big part in defensive game-planning and meetings.
“He’s always involved,” Gilmore said of Belichick. “He’s always in the meetings. Nothing new. It’ll be a great opportunity for all of us to get better. Like I said, those coaches will put us in the best position to make plays.”
Locker is still available, old house isn’t
Brandon Bolden was happy to find that his locker in the Patriots locker room was still available when he came back to New England after a year with the Dolphins. His house, though, was unfortunately off the market.
It still feels like a homecoming though, Bolden said. He was surprised when he found out the Patriots wanted to re-sign him this offseason after cutting him last fall at the end of training camp, even though he’d thought about it plenty of times.
“It was actually funny,” Bolden said Thursday. “The day before, my wife asked me, she was like, ‘Would you want to go back?’ And I was like, ‘I mean, it would be easy. I know the system. I know everybody there. Even with the coaches leaving, I still know everybody there.’ And sure enough, the next day, I got a phone call.”
Bolden, who joined the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2012 and spent six seasons there before his brief stint in Miami, called New England “home” multiple times while speaking with reporters.
He said when he was in Miami, he was constantly singing the praises of former Patriots teammates around the locker room. He texted some of them before the Super Bowl, telling them they needed to win and play well to back up what he’d been saying. Bolden described feeling some culture shock learning the ins and outs of a new organization. He said he could hear Bill Belichick’s voice in his head on a regular basis, telling him what to do.
“For some strange reason, every time I did something, I could hear Bill cussing me out like, ‘No, that’s not how we do it,’ ” Bolden said. “And I was like, ‘You’re right, I’ve got to do it the right way.’ I had great coaching. I had such a great staff in my time being here, and it just carried me all through last year. Like, the entire time.”
It sounded like there were ups and downs to Bolden’s time in Miami.
“The grass always isn’t greener on the other side,” Bolden said. “You kind of step out, and you always hear stories of people coming here and [saying], ‘Yeah, we did this there and we did this.’ No, we do this all one way. And I had my mind-set going down there that I was going to keep everything the same, and it was like — we clashed on a lot of things. We talked about a lot of things. But here, stuff works for a reason. And that’s why I said — I’m going to keep saying it — this is home. I can’t help it.”
Bolden got a two year deal with $2 million guaranteed, which indicates he’s expected to make the roster. The Patriots kick and punt coverage struggled last year, and the special-teams focused Bolden’s absence was a factor.
“I certainly don’t think I’m alone when I say that he was missed last year,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said earlier this week.