Patriots are sorting out their coaching staff
FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots’ coaching staff picture became a little clearer Friday when some new and old members of the crew met the media at Gillette Stadium.
Among the biggest changes is that longtime special teams coordinator Joe Judge will add receivers to his plate. Judge takes over for Chad O’Shea, who is now in Miami.
Cole Popovich, a coaching assistant last season, will have a bigger role, working with Judge and the receivers.
Mick Lombardi will work as the assistant quarterbacks coach, replacing Jerry Schuplinski, who also took a post with the Dolphins.
“[Lombardi] is doing a great job,’’ said offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels. “He’s got some significant experience, he’s been other places, learned from other coaches, he has ideas of his own that are unfamiliar to me, so that’s been really cool.’’
The biggest overhaul comes on the defensive side of the ball, where safeties coach Steve Belichick is the lone holdover from last year’s club.
Although it’s still unknown who will succeed defensive coordinator Brian Flores — Greg Schiano was in line briefly — several other positions have been settled.
Bret Bielema will be the defensive line coach and Jerod Mayo will be in charge of the inside linebackers. Bielema worked with the defensive line extensively last season in his role as a consultant. This will be the first foray into coaching for Mayo, the team’s former standout linebacker.
Also, a pair of staffers who served as coaching assistants last season will have increased roles. DeMarcus Covington will work with the front seven, concentrating on the outside linebackers, and Mike Pellegrino will coach in the secondary, concentrating on the cornerbacks.
“I think we have a great staff now,’’ said McDaniels. “Joe is certainly going to do a good job with us offensively, we’ve increased Cole’s responsibility. You’ll see [Judge] working with the receivers.
“We have plenty of hands. Chad was a great receivers coach — the best I’ve ever been around — and he’s deserving of the opportunity that he has now in Miami.’’
Mayo said he was eager to get back to working with Bill Belichick and out of the daily grind of Boston traffic, “which stinks.”
“I always had the itch to get back into it, get back into coaching, get back into teaching,” said Mayo, “and any time you get an opportunity to learn from the greatest head coach of all time, you’ve got to kind of jump on that opportunity.’’
While the large turnover might seem daunting, McDaniels said the organization is embracing it.
“That’s always kind of a fun thing for us,’’ he said. “When you have change, you have two choices — you can sit and complain about what it’s not like or you could sit there and say, ‘Man this is kind of cool and fresh and new.’ It gives you another opportunity to share the foundation of our system.’’
Inman in the fold
The revamping of the receiving corps continued as the Patriots signed free agent Dontrelle Inman, a league source said.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 198-pound Inman collected 28 passes for 304 yards and three touchdowns for the Colts last season. He also has spent time with the Bears and Chargers and was a Grey Cup champion with Toronto.
Inman joins a group that includes Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, Demaryius Thomas, Braxton Berrios, Maurice Harris, Damon Patterson, and rookies N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers, Xavier Ubosi, and Ryan Davis. Josh Gordon still is serving an indefinite suspension.
The Patriots made the signing of veteran tight Ben Watson official and also announced they signed seven of their 10 draft picks: cornerback JoeJuan Williams (second round), tackle Yodny Cajuste (third), guard Hjalte Froholdt (fourth), quarterback Jarrett Stidham (fourth), defensive tackle Byron Cowart (fifth), punter Jake Bailey (fifth), and cornerback Ken Webster (seventh).
More the better
Some eyebrows were raised when the Patriots used a third-round pick on running back Damien Harris a year after spending a first-rounder on Sony Michel.
Count running backs coach Ivan Fears in that group — but his was not a look of concern. It was a look of elation.
“Remember back in Chicago, we were playing with just James White and Kenjon Barner,’’ said Fears, recalling how injuries took a toll on his group last season. “It takes nothing to get down to nothing.
“I’ll take everyone I can get. I’ll build that stockpile as big as I can get it with all those good players. Plus, a guy like him sitting there? He’s a pretty good player, man. We have to take a shot on that.’’
Harris will be competing with Michel, White, Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden, and fellow rookie Nick Brossette for snaps this summer.
The 33-year-old Mayo laughed when he was asked if it felt strange to be coaching some guys that are older than he is. “It is a little bit, but Tom [Brady’s] older than a lot of you [reporters],’’ he said . . . Mayo also scoffed at Kyle Van Noy’s suggestion that he probably could still suit up. “No way,” said Mayo. “C’mon, man, I’ve lost 25 pounds.” . . . Edelman will receive his degree from Kent State Saturday. In an Instagram post, the Super Bowl MVP wrote, “I believe it is important to finish what you start. I also want to set a great example for my daughter.’’