FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. Memories of Mallett: Those who spent time with quarterback Ryan Mallett during the start of his NFL career with the Patriots expressed sadness at his death due to an apparent drowning last week, while sharing memories of their time together.
“I think of two things with Ryan. First, he always had a big grin and was always very lively. He brought a lot of energy and was super interactive with all his teammates,” said Raiders quarterback Brian Hoyer, who was a backup to Tom Brady with Mallett in 2011, and later played on the same Houston Texans team with him in 2015. “Second, it was his arm strength. He has the strongest arm I’ve ever seen to this day.”
One story stood out to Hoyer, and it happened during Mallett’s rookie season in 2011. The Patriots were practicing in their indoor facility that day.
“I’ll never forget it, he was throwing a 16-yard, 18-yard in-cut and he threw the ball so hard that it hit off the receiver’s helmet and bounced straight up. If my memory serves me correctly, it almost hit the top of the bubble, because it ricocheted so hard off the guy’s helmet,” he said.
Such arm strength was Mallett’s calling card.
“He could throw a strawberry through a battleship. That’s how strong of an arm he had,” said Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels, who served as Patriots offensive coordinator in 2012 and 2013 when Mallett was the primary backup to Brady.
“I remember a couple of times with the running backs, they’d be like 4 yards away, and he’d be looking downfield and then all of a sudden zip one to them and it would go right through their hands. It was one thing he was learning — to throw the changeup sometimes. Because his fastball was his pitch, no doubt about it.”
McDaniels had returned to the Patriots late in the 2011 season as a special assistant after a stint as Rams offensive coordinator, and that’s when he first connected with Mallett, who was at the tail end of a rookie season in which he wasn’t part of the offseason program due to the NFL lockout.
“At that point in time it was Tom and Brian as starter and backup. Ryan wasn’t getting a lot of work, so I started working with him and he was eager to try to pick up the whole system. You could tell how much he loved football,” McDaniels said.
“Good guy, everybody liked him, easy to get along with, connected with everybody. He just had a natural Southern way about him. Nothing was too stressed, but he wanted to work hard and get better. He was a great kid, and it’s just really sad.”
Texans general manager Nick Caserio was the Patriots’ director of player personnel when the team selected Mallett in the third round of the 2011 NFL draft from the University of Arkansas (No. 74 overall).
Reflecting on that time, Caserio said: “Ryan was a very talented player. He was as good of a thrower of the football in the draft that year that had a number of good quarterbacks. Ryan was smart, understood football and was somebody we thought could develop in our system.”
Caserio watched closely as Mallett grew into his role as the primary backup to Brady.
“Ryan was well-liked by his teammates and they enjoyed being around him on a daily basis. I remember he spoke to us at the combine about wanting to coach when he was done playing, and he was living out what he set out to do,” he said.
“We are all saddened by his loss and our thoughts are with his loved ones during this most difficult time. He will be missed.”
2. Parker’s deal: When the specifics of Patriots receiver DeVante Parker’s new three-year contract worth up to $33 million are ultimately revealed, the expectation from sources familiar with the general framework of the pact is that the base value of the deal is considerably lower, there isn’t a high total of guaranteed money and more than half of the total value will be tied to playing-time incentives, performance incentives, All-Pro honors and per-game roster bonuses. In league circles, that’s sometimes referred to as a “pay-as-he-produces” deal, which would be the primary motivation for the Patriots to commit to Parker after a season in which he appeared in 13 games, totaled 51% playing time and amassed 31 receptions.
3. D-Hop follow-up: Parker’s deal shouldn’t limit or enhance the Patriots’ pursuit of free agent receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who visited New England on June 15. The view from here is that the extension is unrelated to anything with Hopkins and instead is specific to crafting a deal for Parker that will reward him if he’s on the field and productive, and it protects the team more than his prior deal if he isn’t.
4. Support for Jones: Patriots cornerback Jack Jones is due back in court on weapons charges Aug. 18, and veteran cornerback Jonathan Jones plans to be there for his teammate in the interim. “Support him and let whatever happens play itself out,” he said this past week. Other than that comment, a rally-around-him tweet from outside linebacker Matthew Judon, and the team’s initial statement following the arrest on June 16, it’s been mostly quiet on the Patriots’ front as it relates to Jack Jones.
5. Bentley reax: One thing that stood out in the aftermath of Patriots linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley’s two-year contract extension was the social media reaction from some of the leaders within the locker room, including recently retired Devin McCourty and veteran safety Adrian Phillips. It reflected how Bentley, who has grown from an under-the-radar fifth-round pick in 2018 to a key cog, has earned widespread respect among his peers.
— Devin McCourty (@devinmccourty) June 29, 2023
6. Mills’ brief break: When Patriots mandatory minicamp ended June 14, veteran defensive back Jalen Mills treated himself to a five-day trip to California, and said he loosened up on his strict diet with some junk food. Mills believes breaks like that are important for players to reset, but those days are short-lived. “Now it’s time to start to get back into training and get ready for [training] camp [July 26],” he said. Mills, who played corner last season but was working more at safety this spring, could find himself back on the perimeter in the wake of Jones’ arrest.
7. They said it: “I’m really excited for this upcoming season and training camp. I think we’ve had a great offseason … I love our team.” — Patriots owner Robert Kraft, at the Fanatics Merch Madness event at Gillette Stadium, which helped donate more than 300,000 pieces of licensed apparel to approximately 100,000 underserved youth and their families.
8. Scar’s thoughts: Longtime Patriots assistant coach Dante Scarnecchia, who will be inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame alongside Mike Vrabel on Oct. 21, shared last week that he’s having a tough time reconciling that former New England offensive lineman Logan Mankins isn’t going in instead of him. In fact, Scarnecchia said he feels so strongly about Mankins that he says Mankins is Pro Football Hall of Fame worthy in his eyes.
9. Early lookahead: The NFL confirmed it will continue with its scheduling rotation in the coming years, which means the Patriots’ 2024 opponents are mostly set, breaking down this way:
Home games: Texans, Colts, Rams, Seahawks, Bills, Dolphins, Jets, AFC West team that finishes in the same spot in the ’23 standings
Road games: Cardinals, Jaguars, 49ers, Titans, Bills, Dolphins, Jets, AFC North and NFC North teams that finish in the same spot in the ’23 standings
10. Did You Know: Patriots quarterback Mac Jones finished with a 65.2 completion percentage after finishing his rookie season with a 67.6 completion percentage. Jones joins the Chargers’ Justin Herbert and the Bengals’ Joe Burrow as the only quarterbacks to have completed at least 65% of their passes in their first two seasons. Herbert and Burrow are the only quarterbacks to accomplish this feat in their first three seasons.
Former Patriots teammates, coaches, share memories of Ryan Mallet – ESPN – New England Patriots Blog