FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Quick thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:

1. Cunningham at QB: The Patriots have had an undrafted free agent on their 53-player Opening Day roster for 19 straight years, which is tied with the Broncos for the longest streak in the NFL.

In a smaller-than-usual class of 2023, Louisville quarterback malik cunningham he represents the best chance for that streak to continue, and the possibilities as a dual threat option are intriguing.

“He’s going to be one of the most dynamic players when he’s on the field,” said Lance Taylor, Cunningham’s offensive coordinator at Louisville last season and currently the head coach of Western Michigan. “He can turn a bad play into a home run and a special play faster than anyone he’s ever seen, especially at quarterback. He’s so unique with his skill set.

“I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by great quarterbacks, with newton cam, and the Jets in the Rex Ryan era, and some great college quarterbacks. He is one of the most dynamic and explosive playmakers you will find.”

The 5-foot-11, 192-pound Cunningham started 47 games at Louisville, where the former Patriots catcher Deion Branch he serves as director of player development and alumni relations. Alabama had offered him a scholarship as a safety, but he chose Louisville because he wanted to play quarterback and follow in the footsteps of the Baltimore Ravenslamar jackson.

He finished his career 692-for-1,105 for 9,664 yards with 70 touchdowns and 29 interceptions, but it was as a speedy ball carrier that he dazzled the most, totaling 619 carries for 3,184 yards and 50 touchdowns.

The Patriots, who finished 32nd in the red zone last season, 28th in first downs and scored just 31 offensive touchdowns, could benefit from the kind of sizzle Cunningham provided in college.

Perhaps new offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien has a read option package in mind. Maybe it’s a gadget kit for a must-have situation. It could be game planning and helping the defense when preparing to face dynamic quarterbacks like the Eagles. jalen hurtsstarting in Week 1. Or maybe it’s as simple as feeding the quarterback portfolio, which is always a good deal given the value of the position.

Cunningham currently ranks fourth on the New England depth chart behind mac jones, bailey zape and the newly signed Trace McSorley. The Patriots have carried three quarterbacks on the opening day roster each of the past four seasons, so there’s a clear path for the Montgomery, Alabama native to pass McSorley and keep the undrafted streak alive. of the team.

“I think he’s a quarterback, first and foremost. He absolutely has the skills and tools to be able to play at that level,” Taylor said. “Whatever role he is asked to play, he will thrive in it. That’s one thing I found with him, there was nothing we could give him that he couldn’t do or figure out and be good at.”

Cunningham, who captained the team in 2022, was one of the most sought-after free agents after the draft. His contract included $200,000 in guaranteed money, which is on par with a late-round draft pick.

“Malik is a great leader, he prepares the right way, he loves soccer, he’s a great teammate,” Taylor said. “He’s a quiet leader, but when necessary, he can definitely take command and be that vocal presence.

“I think one of the things that stood out to me the most when I met him was that we were going through summer conditioning workouts and he’s winning every drill with receivers, running backs and skilled guys, the fastest guys on our team. He is a competitor”.

2. Goodbye: The Patriots aren’t playing an opponent coming off a bye in 2023, which some perceive as an advantage due to rest considerations. The Rams and 49ers, by contrast, play a league-high four opponents coming off their bye. This marks the first time since 2013 that the Patriots will not face an opponent coming off a bye, according to ESPN analytics.

3. Newbies under the radar: first round pick Christian Gonzalez and the rest of the Patriots’ rookie class arrived in town last week for the rest of the spring, and like every team except the Rams, they participated in a rookie minicamp. Coach Bill Belichick, never shy about being an outlier, was one of the few coaches to keep rookie minicamp practices closed to reporters; only the Patriots, Ravens, and Raiders closed rookie practice to reporters. Belichick will open the practice to reporters on May 25 for the first time.

4. The legacy of the patriots: How did NFL programmers view the Patriots coming off an 8-9 season? Onnie Bose, vice president of broadcasting, said of putting together New England Time: “They have a game almost everywhere, in every single primetime package, an international one, a potential NFL Network one, a CBS doubleheader, a Fox doubleheader, and I think that’s illustrative of a team that can play in a lot of places. The legacy of the team and the competitiveness of the AFC East play into that.”

5. Brady Bucks: Patriots defensive tackle Davon Godchaux joked that tom bradyThe Patriots’ return for the home opener against the Eagles, as part of an invitation from owner Robert Kraft for the fans to thank him for, meant he would be an attractive ticket. As it turns out, it’s currently the most requested ticket of the entire NFL season. According to Vivid Seats, the average ticket price for the game is $807, followed by the Cowboys with 49ers ($501). Said Godchaux: “We want to get a win every game, but that game, we definitely have to get a win.”

6. Off-Season Billing: There was a moment in the Patriots’ media briefing room last week that reflects one of the main benefits of the team’s voluntary offseason program (which begins its fifth week Monday). Came in as linebacker/captain Ja Whaun Bentley was fielding questions from reporters and the newly signed center linebacker/special team Chris Board waited to one side. Bentley was asked about Board, prompting a giggle between the two. As Bentley later said, a successful offseason program is when players begin to build the bonds that can carry them into the season.

7. Mac on the go: running backwards james robinson, who signed a two-year deal with the Patriots in free agency, took note of Jones as a quarterback in the team’s offseason program. “That man can run for a long time,” Robinson said with a smile. Robinson isn’t the only Patriot to take note of Jones’ conditioning and work ethic this offseason, but perhaps just as notable was what someone closest to Jones relayed: Jones’ day-to-day demeanor seems closer to what they witnessed. his teammates in his successful rookie season compared to last season’s struggle.

8. They said it: “At the end of draft day, [Patriots president] jonathan [Kraft] and I were chatting, and I said, ‘This was a great draft. I am very optimistic about the team. And he said, ‘You say that every year!’ But I really do. We were able to get the top seven picks that we had identified before the draft. I think it gives us a good balance of what our needs are. I think our free agent pick-ups and the addition of Bill O’Brien will make a big difference.” — owner Robert Kraft, on NFL Network

9. Belichick and Marina: Given his close ties to the US Naval Academy, the worst-case scenario for Belichick would have been the Patriots playing a road game on December 10, which would mean he would travel with the team during the Army-Navy , which will take place at Gillette Stadium on December 9. Instead, the Patriots visit the Steelers on Thursday, Dec. 7, creating a mini-bye weekend for Belichick to enjoy the tradition-rich game at his home stadium.

10. Did you know?: The last time the Patriots started a season at home against an NFC team, as they will do in 2023 with the visiting defending NFC champion Eagles, was in 2000. That was Belichick’s first year as coach; New England lost at home to Tampa Bay 21-16. Additionally, with the team hosting Miami in Week 2, this season marks the first time since 1995 that the team will open with back-to-back home games.


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