FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — A behind-the-scenes, 21-day stretch late final season might finally decide whether or not the New England Patriots made the right analysis with their linebacker place this 12 months.
Cameron McGrone’s return from damage and three-week apply stint from Nov. 23 to Dec. 14 sparked optimism, and finally the idea that linebacker wasn’t as obvious a necessity as some reporters (hand raised) believed it to be.
“It was thrilling to have him on the sphere final 12 months for these couple weeks,” mentioned Steve Belichick, the protection’s main playcaller and one of many Patriots’ linebackers coaches.
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“One factor I seen, all the opposite guys on the sphere had been enjoying soccer for months, and he had been coming off a 12 months of not enjoying soccer. However he did not look, in any type of manner, misplaced on the sphere. I assumed that was spectacular.”
The Patriots chosen McGrone within the fifth spherical of the 2021 draft out of Michigan, figuring out he most likely would not play for them as a rookie as a result of he was recovering from a torn left ACL. However he is wholesome now, and has been since he was cleared to apply Nov. 23.
McGrone reverted to IR after his three-week apply stint, partially as a result of the group did not have a roster spot for him with veterans resembling Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Ja’Whaun Bentley and Kyle Van Noy forward of him on the depth chart.
The 6-foot-1, 236-pound McGrone is among the Patriots’ intriguing-but-unproven gamers because the unit appears to get well from a lackluster end to the 2021 season that included, amongst different issues, the shortcoming to power the Buffalo Payments to punt in every of New England’s final two video games towards them.
Might he be an efficient starter within the center? Is he extra of a sub-package choice? Or presumably extra of a special-teamer who provides depth on protection?
Something appears attainable, with director of participant personnel Matt Groh calling him “type of a further draft decide” after the Patriots did not choose any linebackers within the 2022 draft. Groh added that injecting the soon-to-be-22-year-old McGrone into the combination contributes to the objective of changing into youthful and quicker.
“He performs quick, he has good velocity and he confirmed some good instincts on the market in apply,” Steve Belichick mentioned. “He seemed like he belonged on the market with everyone else.”
Added fellow linebackers coach Jerod Mayo: “What I did see on the market final 12 months was a man who might fly round, make quite a lot of performs within the run sport and the move sport. We’ll must see the way it goes, however on the finish of the day, we’re anticipating him to assist the [linebacker] room.”
A 3-year letterman at Michigan who appeared in 19 video games, with 15 begins at center linebacker, McGrone totaled 92 tackles, 4.5 sacks, one move defended and one compelled fumble throughout his faculty profession.
When the Patriots chosen him 177th general final 12 months, head coach Invoice Belichick famous how he had stepped in for linebacker Devin Bush (the No. 10 general decide in 2019 by the Steelers) at Michigan and mentioned: “There’s loads of soccer in McGrone, loads towards good competitors as effectively. He is been a productive participant on a superb protection. … He’ll be a superb participant.”
McGrone joins returning starter Bentley (a run-first defender), commerce acquisition Mack Wilson and 2021 returnees Raekwon McMillan (getting back from a torn left ACL), Jahlani Tavai and Harvey Langi at a revamped inside linebacker place.
“Cam did an important job staying engaged within the classroom when he could not go on the sphere [last year]. This 12 months, I’d say he is wholesome, again out right here operating round, he appears good and he is additionally choosing up the protection,” Mayo mentioned.
“But it surely’s one factor to look good proper now in shorts. We’ve got to hold this into coaching camp and to the season.”