FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. Wolf's debut: Patriots director of scouting Eliot Wolf is scheduled to answer questions from reporters Tuesday at the 2024 NFL combine, which is significant for multiple reasons.
It highlights Wolf's evolving role as a leading voice of the personnel department, with the Patriots transitioning from the Bill Belichick era in which Belichick had final personnel say for most of his 24-year tenure. It also marks Wolf's first on-the-record interview since initially joining the team as an adviser in 2020.
So, what should Patriots fans know about the 41-year-old Wolf?
Andrew Brandt, who was a vice president with the Packers from 1999 to 2008 when Wolf was in the initial years of his full-time career as a scout, starts with a story that further solidified his belief in Wolf's acumen.
"I'm a big fan of Eliot. Every now and then I'd walk by his office and ask him what he was looking at, and one time [in 2006] I remember he said, 'I want to show you someone. We're going to take this kid in the second round tomorrow -- Greg Jennings, a receiver from Western Michigan.' And I was like, 'Really? We're going to take a kid from Western Michigan in the second round?' And Eliot just kept saying he hoped he wouldn't go before then," Brandt relayed.
"Then he's showing me the tape and pointing out the body control, the hands, the strength. And he felt there was no question it would transfer to the [NFL]."
Jennings ended up being there at the 52nd pick -- in part because the Patriots had traded with Green Bay to move up to No. 36 to select underachieving Florida receiver Chad Jackson instead -- and he played seven productive seasons for the Packers and was a key part of the 2010 Super Bowl championship team.
To Brandt, the story reflects a notable part of how Wolf works to rebuild parts of the Patriots' roster.
"I believed before, during and after [my tenure] in the Packer Way, which in simplest terms is 'no quick fixes, slow and steady, trust your scouting, trust your board and almost mandate that your coaches play young players,'" Brandt said. "So it's draft and develop, and then speaking to my end [as a negotiator], once you identify those core players, get them under extensions way before free agency."
Former Green Bay head coach Mike Sherman first met Wolf when serving as Packers tight ends coach in 1997-98. He remembers Wolf being in the draft room alongside his father, general manager and Pro Football Hall of Famer Ron Wolf, and said: "Learning from Ron, who I consider the very best at that part of the business, [Eliot has] been surrounded by this his whole life and I think he's benefited from it quite handsomely."
Sherman shared two top lessons from Ron Wolf that he carried with him over his career, which he believes will now translate to New England.
"Of all the things I learned from [Ron], one of the biggest was 'don't hide your mistakes -- admit it, fix it and move on.' I'm sure Eliot will embrace a similar type of philosophy," Sherman said. "The other thing he would always talk about is the best available player, not necessarily what you might need. You may need something else, but it's not based on needs, it's based on ability. For the most part I think Ron Wolf did a good job of living by that."
Both Brandt and Sherman see similarities in the demeanor and approach between father and son.
"Eliot gets along with people well, which is a big thing, to be able to get the information you want from particular parties," Sherman said. Brandt recalled once watching film as Ron Wolf leaned back in his chair. There was an awkward silence of sorts before Wolf would chime in.
"When he spoke, people listened. It was a lot of respect," he said. "I could see Eliot having that same kind of approach of 'Hey, we don't need to fill this space with a lot of words. Here's what is important.' He has this calm, quiet, reserved way about him that exudes confidence."
2. Media vibe: First-year Patriots coach Jerod Mayo is making media relations a priority. After introducing coordinators Alex Van Pelt (offense), DeMarcus Covington (defense) and Jeremy Springer (special teams) in a news conference on Wednesday, he joined the 17 new members of his staff for an off-the-record meet-and-greet with reporters to "vibe and connect."
Mayo, who along with all staff members wore blue pins representing owner Robert Kraft's foundation to combat antisemitism, summed it up by saying: "I think there needs to be a good relationship between the two groups."
Jerod Mayo arrives and explains what today is about ... and how he hopes the coach/media dynamic evolves. pic.twitter.com/x4XPf7VkBU— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) February 21, 2024
3. AVP on OL: For those who believe offensive success starts up front -- where the Patriots finished last in the NFL in pass block win rate in 2023 -- what traits will first-year offensive coordinator Van Pelt be prioritizing in offensive linemen? He said it starts with intelligence because of the team's plans to do a variety of things at the line of scrimmage. Van Pelt also noted toughness, before adding: "We want guys that want to work for each other and care about each other. If you can work hard and love your brother, and be a good player, you're going to fit just right here."
4. Bourne again: Receiver Kendrick Bourne was back in Foxborough late last week so the team could check in on his recovery from a torn right ACL. Bourne is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, but sources said there have been no substantial contract extension talks at this time.
5. 'Niche' change: NFL Media draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said on a conference call last week that the Patriots have previously been "one of the more niche drafting teams in the league where they would catch you off guard a little bit because they were so obsessed with fit and might take a guy two or three rounds before anybody else."
Jeremiah expects that to change in 2024 with Wolf taking a leading role, adding that Wolf came up through a Green Bay system that values versatile offensive linemen and receivers with dynamic yards-after-the-catch ability and added value as kick returners.
6. Guy/Phillips follow-up: The Patriots' decision to release defensive tackle Lawrence Guy Sr. and safety Adrian Phillips early last week wasn't a surprise -- it's a nod toward youth with some economic considerations in mind -- but the timing was somewhat notable. One agent viewed it as a show of respect to the two longtime veterans, giving them a head start on free agency and allowing interested teams time to study them before a glut of players fills the market.
7. Undefeated season: The first four parts of the Patriots documentary "The Dynasty" have been released on Apple TV in recent weeks, spotlighting some key storylines of the franchise's history through the 2007 season. That sets the stage for the next two episodes to be released late this week, beginning with the 2008 season and Tom Brady's torn ACL, and then arguably the most chilling part of the series -- the drafting of Aaron Hernandez in 2010 and the ensuing murder investigation surrounding him.
In Episode 5, there was a peek behind the curtain from the team meeting room as the team embarked on the 2008 season, which revealed a never-seen-before celebration/acknowledgement of the 2007 undefeated regular season that ended in heartbreak in the Super Bowl.
Bill Belichick said to players: "I know you've heard me say, 'Last year doesn't mean anything; we don't care about last year.' But I hope you will never forget those 16 wins. I've been through 5-11. I've been through 7-9. Those are the seasons you want to forget, believe me. Not the 16-0 ones."
Then an emotional Brady stepped up to address players.
It's scenes such as that, which are sprinkled throughout the 10 episodes, that are arguably the highlight of the documentary because they put the viewers in a place they otherwise can't go.
8. They said it: "We knew he wasn't the ideal citizen, but did we ever suspect this was going to be a guy running around with guns and shooting people? No. Probably the best thing for Aaron Hernandez's pro football career and life might have been to go to the Seattle Seahawks, not be within a two-hour drive of the people he grew up with from his hometown of Bristol [Connecticut]." -- former Patriots director of football research Ernie Adams, in the upcoming sixth episode of "The Dynasty"
9. Underrated LBs?: Former Patriots linebackers coach/defensive playcaller Steve Belichick's insightful interview on Chris Long's "Green Light" podcast -- which covered topics from his father's possible plans to Jerod Mayo being hired as Patriots coach -- highlighted his belief that New England's linebackers are underappreciated.
"It's a great group. The guys haven't really been talked a lot about -- not that I listen to that stuff," Belichick said, referencing Ja'Whaun Bentley, Anfernee Jennings ("a great year") and Jahlani Tavai ("a stud"), among others.
10. Did you know: There have been just four instances in the common draft era (since 1967) when a team drafted two quarterbacks in the top 15 overall picks in a four-year span.
The Bears and Patriots potentially could join the following group in 2024 -- the Jets with Sam Darnold/Zach Wilson (2018/2021), the Cardinals with Josh Rosen/Kyler Murray (2018/2019), the Jaguars with Blaine Gabbert/Blake Bortles (2011/2014) and the Colts with Art Schlichter/John Elway (1982/1983).