Curran: Do Patriots have enough talent to win? McCourty believes so originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
PHOENIX -- So it sounds like you can scratch Jerry Jeudy. And the prayer candles lit for DeAndre Hopkins have seemingly smoldered. I don’t think Larry Fitzgerald’s coming either.
In short, what you see on the Patriots' offensive depth chart will likely be what you get come September. They’re basically gonna run it back with an array of pretty OK offensive players.
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I don’t hate the plan.
It would be nice to have a defensive coordinator fill his shoes at the thought of dealing with an All Pro-level talent somewhere on the Patriots offense. And with Mac Jones still on his rookie contract, now’s the time to spend like crazy on the talent around him.
Apparently, they ain’t doing it. They will stand pat for now. Maybe they draft a guy -- there are several who’d make a difference at No. 14 -- maybe not.
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Hopkins would make a sudden impact. Despite my being told by several league sources that he really, really, really doesn’t like practice, he’d make the Patriots offense better. He’d make defensive coordinators feel a little urgent. And he’d be the expensive offensive hood ornament that would shut everyone up for just a little bit about how Bill and Bob never BUYYYYYY THEM ANYTHING -- blissfully ignoring that the fellas spent $172 million in guaranteed money just two seasons ago.
Maybe that return on investment from Jonnu Smith, Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne and Hunter Henry caused them to tap the brakes a bit?
Or maybe (maybe) the collection of talent the Patriots have at the skill positions -- tight ends Henry and Mike Gesicki; wide receivers Bourne, JuJu Smith-Schuster, DeVante Parker and Tyquan Thornton; and running back Rhamondre Stevenson -- is better than you give them credit for. And most of them (and Mac Jones) need only to play in a coordinated offense rather than an uncoordinated one.
Maybe the issue isn’t hood ornaments or spending as much as it is being better-coached and smarter than the other team? You go from Mr. Magoo driving the car to (fill in somebody who drives really well), and you've got a better shot at getting where you’re going.
Recently retired Patriots safety Devin McCourty had thoughts on the Patriots' assemblage of talent when we spoke last week.
Patriots Talk: 1-on-1 with Devin McCourty; How much better have the Patriots become this offseason? | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube
"I’ll sometimes be in a text chat and someone will say, 'They need another receiver,'" said McCourty. "I’m like, 'What do you want, the team to have three All-Pro receivers? Like, you want the whole team to get voted into the Pro Bowl because they’re top two at their position?' To me, that’s not realistic. You would love to draft guys and draft three potential Pro Bowlers that year. But that’s not always going to happen.
"There’s more than enough talent to go out and win football games," McCourty continued. "Are there gonna be other teams that have more talent? Yes. But there will also be teams that don’t have as much talent.
"How do you figure out how to win? That’s ultimately what it’s about. Not the talent. We beat plenty of teams in Super Bowl runs that had more talent than us. That’s what we were known as, 'This team’s not that talented.' A team is built on what you have and then figuring out how to win football games."
That, interestingly, proved very elusive for the 2022 team. They were often their own worst enemy with penalties and situational dopiness.
McCourty didn’t disagree.
"I can be defensive and try to explain everything," he said. "But if I watched it in a game I would say, 'That’s just dumb football.' If someone says that, yes. Between penalties and bad-looking plays that don’t look like they’re supposed to look, there were enough plays where you could say, 'Yes, this is uncharacteristic of a Bill Belichick-coached team.' No doubt about it.
"Why do I think that’s fixable? Because even though you carry guys from year-to-year, each team is different. You can take one team and bring damn near the same team and the season doesn’t necessarily go the same. The things you face will be different than the things you faced before. So yeah, that’s fixable."
The repair work -- already underway -- starts next week, according to McCourty.
"That starts when this team comes back in April," he said. "That starts with, 'How do you pay attention to detail?' When you get into training camp, how hard are you willing to work when you get tired? Because that’s when all those dumb penalties happen. The bad plays don’t normally happen in the first quarter. They happen at the end of the game. So how do we have the discipline when we’re in those situations in practice.
"Trust me, Bill will be putting this team in those situations in practice. Tired, running hills, doing all those things and then having to perform. They’ll be in those situations. Will you say, 'Man, this sucks.' Or are you gonna go and execute? Because if you do, the payoff comes at the end of the season. And I think there's enough leaders in that locker room who will push and encourage guys to do those things. And it’s probably where we fell short as leaders last year, pushing the team hard enough so that doesn’t happen."
"Hopefully the guys leading this team learned from that and will make this team more disciplined and play better in situational football," he concluded. "When you absolutely need your best, every player has to understand, 'They need my best.' Not, 'I need my best to be great,' but, 'The guy next to me needs my best so we can execute and be a better team.'"