Earlier this week, Bill Belichick canceled the final days of organized team activities for the New England Patriots. After a tumultuous off-season, rife with negative rumors and speculation, the fact that Belichick canceled OTAs is a positive sign for an embattled Patriots squad.
Bill Belichick Cancels Final OTAs And That Could Be a Good Sign
Confidence in the personnel group has wavered over the course of this off-season. Danny Amendola departed from the team, assumedly because he was tired of taking pay cuts to remain with the group. Nate Solder walked in free agency. Malcolm Butler and Dion Lewis decided to take their talents to Tennessee and play for the Tennessee Titans. For a while, it felt like the proverbial rats were fleeing the sinking ship.
The Seth Wickersham ESPN article from earlier this year took a toll on Patriots fans, despite their outward undying loyalty to the team. After a horrid year of defense the Patriots repeatedly traded down in the 2018 NFL Draft and picked up a series of underwhelming defensive players.
But, as the saying goes, in Bill we trust. Right?
No Days Off
Belichick is the man that, after winning his fifth Super Bowl with the Patriots, celebrated by starting a “No Days Off” chant. Play that back. After being crowned champion, he doubled down and got everyone on the “No Days Off” train. When New England was hit by heavy snowfall that shut down half of Boston, Belichick made his players show up to work.
He is a taskmaster, plain and simple. But he canceled OTAs after losing a Super Bowl to a backup quarterback. Why?
New Faces, New Outlook
Despite losing a host of big-name players in the off-season, the Patriots top brass made some shrewd moves to bring in suitable replacements. Jordan Matthews has joined the Patriots receiving corps. Adrian Clayborn, the man that racked up six sacks in a single game against the Dallas Cowboys, has come aboard to bolster the Patriots pass rush. Jeremy Hill is entering some fierce competition to become a part of the running back stable.
The Patriots drafted Isaiah Wynn as the eventual replacement for Solder. Sony Michel will bring his explosive talents from Georgia to Massachusetts as a result of another Patriots first-round pick. Undrafted free agent JC Jackson is reported to be taking first-team reps in OTAs.
Old Faces, Tested Talent
Julian Edelman was sidelined for the 2017 season due to an ACL injury. Malcolm Mitchell also failed to see action during the 2017 campaign. Both receivers promise to be healthy enough for the start of the 2018 season, even if Edelman might be sidelined for the first four games due to PED suspension.
Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady were the cause of much speculation about their returns to the team. Both players spent time away from the team this off-season, turning down opportunities to participate in team activities for undisclosed or suspect reasons. Thankfully, fate tipped in the direction of Patriots fans, and both players returned for mandatory minicamp.
Last Word on Canceled OTAs
OTAs are meant to be an exercise in positional development and a familiarization with the Patriots playbook. They are a precursor to training camp so that all players, regardless of experience, can hit the ground running. Belichick has confirmed this idea several times in interviews. If Belichick has canceled OTAs, he has seen the development he needed to see over the last week or so. This is a rare glimpse into the opinions of the famously tight-lipped head coach.
The rookies and the new kids on the block must have impressed Belichick to earn these days off. Otherwise, they would still be out on the practice fields, sweating in the mid-June heat. After their lengthy absences from the team, Edelman, Mitchell, Brady, and Gronkowski must appear to be rust-free, satisfied, and healthy enough to ease the coaching staff’s minds.
After a rough defensive year and a disappointing end to the season, Patriots fans can take solace in the idea that the team must already be ahead of the game by Belichick’s harsh standards.