Bill Belichick: Rookies Are in 'Turbulent Water'

Devon Clements

Because of lots of turnover during the offseason paired with a league-high eight opt-outs, the New England Patriots will be relying on a bunch of their young talent in 2020. 

But that doesn't mean we should expect a heckuva lot from those rookies. 

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick reminded us all Friday during his video conference with the media of the uphill battle rookies in the league are facing during the first few phases of training camp. 

"I think all of our rookie have worked extremely hard. They're in deep water and turbulent water, and it's going to get rougher, "Belichick said. "Just in terms of the volume and the level of competition and becoming a professional athlete and the full day and consecutive days that get strung together with very high demands both physically, mentally and rest and recovery and all that. I think all the guys are adjusting to it. They're all working hard at it, really hard working group. They haven't been any problem, they're just trying to the best that they can, but they're swimming, they're in deep water, and their eyes get opened every day as we move up in the process, and we're still a long way from anything close to real football, but we're doing now than we did before, so each day is an acclimation day and an adjustment day for them. 

"I think they're just trying to keep their head above water and try to swim or paddle in the right direction knowing that they're not really able to keep up but doing the best they can, and they are way, way ahead of where they were a week ago, two weeks ago, a month ago, two months ago. A lot of progress there but a long, long way to go. But they are really all on the same boat. It's a hard-working, conscientious, diligent group. They have a lot that they're are gonna have to absorb. We will get a much better evaluation of where they are in the next week to 10 days when things start happening on the football field."

With no Dont'a Hightower, Matt LaCosse, Marcus Cannon, or Patrick Chung due to them opting out of the 2020 season, there's a strong chance that rookies could take over a large amount of snaps at those positions. Unfortunately for those rookies, they will only have a little under a month of full pads and full-speed play on a practice field to prepare themselves for their first NFL game, which will take place at Gillette Stadium on Sept. 13 against the Miami Dolphins. 

This is an immense hurdle for the rookies to overcome. Take Patriots 2020 second-round pick Kyle Dugger for example; Dugger played his college ball at Div. 2 Lenoir-Rhyne, so the one big concern pertaining to him was if he can handle the jump in play from Div. 2 to the NFL. The preseason would have been the perfect opportunity for someone in Dugger's shoes to acclimate to the NFL speed of play. But instead, he has to adjust via practice and during the regular season because the preseason was cancelled. That means it may be a couple months before we can fairly evaluate Dugger. That's just one of the many examples of the challenges rookies and other players face over the next several months due to COVID-19. 

For the Patriots, it's less than ideal to be in this situation with their rookies when considering the obstacles they've already had to face this year between losing Tom Brady and several key defensive pieces. 

While Bill Belichick's mantra has always been "next man up," this year the mantra should be temporarily changed to "next man up, but don't expect much right away."

Get the latest Patriots news by joining the community. Click "Follow" at the top right of the page. Mobile users click the notification bell. Follow Devon on Twitter @DevClemNFL

Register today for free or log in to access this premium article.
Comments (3)
No. 1-1
Sam Connon
Sam Connon

It's a double-edged sword – eight opt-outs means more roster security and a higher likelihood of playing time, but COVID has also robbed these rookies of the preseason games where they usually prove themselves on a competitive stage.