New England Patriots rookie Christian Barmore earns Bill Belichick's respect

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts/notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:

1. Barmore trade: "I gotta give that kid a lot of credit." When coach Bill Belichick spoke those words about Christian Barmore after the defensive tackle's impressive performance last week, it made some longtime observers of Belichick's program take note.

Rookies generally don't earn that level of praise and respect from Belichick this early in their career.

Barmore has played 56% of the defensive snaps in the Patriots' 5-4 start, totaling 21 tackles, a half sack, five quarterback hits and two passes defended. But his impact extends far beyond those stats; for example, Belichick credited Barmore's diagnosis of a bootleg, and his pressure, for helping to force the throw that cornerback J.C. Jackson intercepted and returned 88 yards for a touchdown last Sunday.

The Patriots will be leaning heavily on Barmore once again in Sunday's home game against the Cleveland Browns (1 p.m. ET, CBS) after making an aggressive move to draft him in late April -- trading their second-round pick (46th overall) and two fourth-rounders (122, 139) to the Cincinnati Bengals to move up to the No. 38 spot in the second round.

That was a significant price to pay, according to some analytics models, with ESPN giving the Bengals credit for making the third-best trade of the draft by increasing the value of their original 38th pick by roughly 60%.

The points-value chart made popular by Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Johnson rated the deal closer, giving the Bengals a slight edge -- 526.5 to 520.

The Patriots have a notable history of trading up in the high-to-middle part of the second round under Belichick, and the 6-foot-5, 310-pound Barmore, who played at Alabama, looks like an early hit that puts him in rare company.

Here is my ranking of the team's second-round trade-ups, from best to worst.

  • 2010: TE Rob Gronkowski

  • 2001: OT Matt Light

  • 2021: DT Christian Barmore

  • 2003: DB Eugene Wilson

  • 2003: WR/KR Bethel Johnson

  • 2006: WR Chad Jackson

  • 2019: CB Joejuan Williams

  • 2018: CB Duke Dawson

2. Mac grinding through: Rookie quarterback Mac Jones has said something similar after each of the past two games -- that he can play better and the defense has led the way -- with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels acknowledging Jones' "little dry spell" in the Oct. 31 win against the Los Angeles Chargers. McDaniels added that it's important for everyone to maintain perspective, as Jones has played just nine games. So this is a standard-for-rookies time for Jones to power through, and one theme that has resonated is how he is extremely hard on himself. Veteran receiver Nelson Agholor said he considers it his job to remind Jones how talented he is, and how hard he works, so he can't allow himself to get held back by the little things.

3. OBJ and Patriots: My sense of the Patriots' involvement in the pursuit of receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who was released by the Browns on Monday, is that they made their pitch -- which was limited financially due to their salary-cap standing -- and ultimately Beckham chose to go to the Los Angeles Rams because of a more proven quarterback (Matthew Stafford) and an offense that can put points on the board in a hurry. There was a lot of buzz in the building about possibly bringing Beckham aboard, with receiver Kendrick Bourne saying last week: "For sure, everyone is talking about Odell." But I do wonder if this might be the best outcome for the Patriots, regardless.

4. Cam's return: The reaction from some Patriots players on Cam Newton signing with the Panthers was telling, and reflects how Newton was well-liked in the locker room. Panthers coach Matt Rhule said there were conversations with Patriots coaches who relayed their view that Newton has "a lot of football left." That Newton is returning to the Panthers is a fascinating you-can-go-home-again story -- great for the NFL, Newton, and also for the Patriots, because they will receive a $1.5 million credit on their 2022 salary cap (hat tip to @patscap for always being on top of the details).

5. Fun with Folk: There was a light moment with veteran kicker Nick Folk last week at practice, as the thought was that it would be different to sit close to where his warm-up kick might land, and film the trajectory of the ball for an on-the-scene type of feel. The first kick was a direct hit -- boom! The second -- a catch (the hope is that video evidence emerges of this feat). He then walked over and said with a touch of humor, "Looks like you were sitting in the right spot."

6. Hunter's appreciation: Tight end Hunter Henry has been one of the Patriots' best free-agent signings (three years, $37.5 million), developing a quick rapport with Jones while providing a level of consistency at a hard-to-fill position. Now in his sixth NFL season, but his first with the Patriots, Henry (27 receptions, 316 yards, five TDs) shared his appreciation for how he believes he has grown as a player this year. He credited the team's practice approach and detail-oriented focus. He called the experience "a blast" before adding: "I feel like I've improved my game in a big way."

7. Browns in town: The last time Cleveland won in Foxborough, Belichick was their coach. You've been a longtime New England fan if you remember that game -- a 19-17 decision on Oct. 25, 1992 that dropped Dick MacPherson's Patriots squad to 0-7. An announced crowd of 32,219 (yes, it was a different era) watched the Patriots squander a 17-9 lead in the fourth quarter, with Scott Galbraith catching a 6-yard pass from Mike Tomczak with 36 seconds remaining -- a fourth-down score set up by a lost fumble from Patriots quarterback Hugh Millen at the team’s own 40-yard line. The Browns are 0-6 in Foxborough during the regular season since. As for the Patriots ... well, it's been a helluva ride.

8. No judgment: Outside linebackers coach and playcaller Steve Belichick was asked last week what he knew about outside linebacker Matthew Judon before the Patriots signed him in the offseason, and there were multiple layers to digest in his answer. He didn't know much, unfortunately, as a result of the recently instituted legal tampering period. Then, peeling back a bit of the personal curtain on what it's been like growing up with a famous last name, he added: "I had heard some things through the grapevine, but I never judge a book by its cover. I like to make my own opinions. A lot of people judge me based on what they've heard. I don't operate like that."

9. Georgia-Alabama connection: One of the points that longtime Patriots center and captain David Andrews has made is that there isn't a more intimate connection in football than a center and quarterback ... for obvious reasons. So how does a passionate Georgia alum (Andrews) mix with an Alabama alum (Jones) who bleeds crimson? They've been having a good time with it.

10. Did you know? Sunday's game will mark the 1,000th game in the history of the Patriots franchise (942 regular season, 58 postseason). That is the highest total among any of the original AFL teams that began play in 1960. The Patriots' all-time record is 561-429-9.