Sunday 7: It’s time to give Bill Belichick the GM credit

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The Off Day, Ep. 195: Instant reactions to Patriots' win over Falcons
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1. The Patriots are 7-4 on the year and some national media pundits are calling this Bill Belichick’s best coaching job of his career. While it’s been fantastic, we’re not there yet. But, for as much praise as he’s getting when it comes to coaching, he deserves the same amount, if not more when it comes to his work as a general manager. The moves he made this offseason were outstanding. Yes, the Patriots spent a ton of money — close to $160 million — but the free agents have not only produced, but are fitting in great in the locker room. Matthew Judon is making a case to be considered for the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year, Hunter Henry has been a solid veteran presence and has produced, Jalen Mills has been an underrated solid No. 2 cornerback, Kyle Van Noy and Ted Karras have done well in their returns to New England and Davon Godchaux has been a solid addition to the defensive front. Sure, Jonnu Smith hasn’t worked out as planned, but not every player is going to hit. That happens. Not only have the free agents hit, the 2021 draft is looking to be terrific as well. Everyone knows the Mac Jones pick was a big hit, but then the Patriots may have gotten one of the steals of the draft with Christian Barmore early in the second round. He’s been right up there with Judon and J.C. Jackson in terms of best overall players on the Patriots defense. And then it seems like they will be getting great value on running back Rhamondre Stevenson in the fourth round. Three players that seem like big hits so early in their careers already makes the 2021 draft a big success for Belichick. So, for all the talk about Belichick’s job coaching this year, he deserves the same credit for the work he did in the personnel department.

2. While Jones has been terrific over the first 11 games of his NFL career, he did show some signs of frustration Thursday night against Atlanta when Dean Pees dialed up a few blitzes. It’s very likely Tennessee and Buffalo — the Patriots’ next two opponents — took notice and will do something similar. We’ll see if Jones is able to figure things out. Also, he hasn’t had his “rookie” game yet, which every rookie quarterback seems to have where multiple mistakes are made. It would be a surprise if that didn’t happen at all this season.

3. Kyle Dugger has been outstanding the last few weeks with his physicality really showing up. At 225 pounds, it’s hard to think of a pound-for-pound bigger hitter than the second-year pro. He’s also done a nice job improving on his pass coverage, as he had a really good game against Atlanta’ Kyle Pitts. “What’s crazy with Dugg is it’s so nonchalant,” Adrian Phillips said last week. “You’ll be watching film, and a freaking tackle or a guard will come up to him, and he won’t see him, and then he’ll see him at the last minute and just shock him and knock their head back. (We’re) like, ‘Bro, did you see him coming? Did you load up for that?’ And he’s like, ‘No, I just saw him at the last minute and just gave him a little shoulder.’ He’s just super explosive, and that’s what helps him go out there and make those plays.”

4. Josh McDaniels has interviewed for multiple head-coaching jobs the last several years and maybe more so than ever, the Patriots cannot afford to lose him — particularly as it relates to Jones’ development. We’ve seen over the years how working with different coordinators has a negative impact on young quarterbacks. With McDaniels being one of the best offensive minds in football, the Patriots need to make sure Jones gets that coaching for multiple years.

5. Just like Bill Belichick needs more credit when it comes to his work as a general manager, Steve Belichick needs more credit when it comes to his work as the de-facto defensive coordinator. He is the one calling the plays on game day and the Patriots defense has been terrific the last month-plus. Over the five-game win streak, the Patriots are allowing an average of 10 points per game. The play-caller needs to get some credit for it.

6. From a Patriots perspective, teams they will be pulling for Sunday include the Colts (over the Bills), Bears (over Ravens), Cowboys (over Chiefs) and Texans (over Titans). Any of those would go a long with when it comes to helping their playoff seeding.

7. There’s no doubt the biggest stretch of the Patriots’ season is the next two weeks with games against the Titans and Bills. These are two of the top teams in the conference and it’s safe to say after these two games it can be said whether or not the Patriots are true contenders in the AFC, or just a solid team at the top of the second tier.

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