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1st & Goal: Bob Socci, New England Patriots Radio Broadcaster

Zach Gelb Show / Zach Gelb
The Truth Network Radio
August 21, 2023 9:08 pm

1st & Goal: Bob Socci, New England Patriots Radio Broadcaster

Zach Gelb Show / Zach Gelb

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August 21, 2023 9:08 pm

Bob Socci joined Zach to discuss how different the offense will look under Bill O'Brien and if Bill Belichick is on the hot seat entering this season. 

Zach Gelb Show
Zach Gelb

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That's slash audio. The NFL season is inching closer and closer. Who are the contenders and who are the pretenders? We have four downs to figure out your team's future. It's time now for First and Goal on the Zach Gelb Show. Please join me in thanking the voice of the New England Patriots and that is Bob Sosi. Bob, always great to have you on. How you been, my friend? Hey, it's been great to talk with you in the past. Looking forward to this one, so I'm doing well, Zach. Thanks for having me.

Thanks so much for coming on. I'll start you off with Bill O'Brien. That was the big hire this offseason. We all know last year was a disgrace with Patricia and Judge. I know we've seen a lot of Bill O'Brien in the past, but what type of offense do the Patriots get in this year with the new OC? Well, I think it's going to look a lot like Bill O'Brien's offense in the past with some of Bill O'Brien's offense from Alabama included.

We saw, in fact, a couple of plays in the preseason game on Saturday night at Green Bay involving the RPO. I think you will see the offense now run through the quarterback, Matt Jones. He'll have more tools in his toolbox pre-snap, very similar to his rookie year with Josh McDaniels, and it allows him, I think, to use his best asset.

Zach, he actually talked about this today in a local radio appearance. It's his cerebral approach to the game and his intelligence. Being able to diagnose the defense, try to get the Patriots into a good play, and maybe more importantly, away from a bad play. Last year, in all honesty, that veto system, if you will, those checks were not at his avail.

There are a lot of other differences that we'll see as well, including some different personnel, but I think that's the biggest thing. I think the quarterback is comfortable and relaxed, and this is an opportunity for Kim, provided he has protection, to pick up where he left off after a promising worthy season. So I asked for two things this offseason. I want a legit offensive coordinator. They got one. I also wanted a number one wide receiver for the Pats.

They did not do that. Do they have enough here at the wide receiver position, in your opinion, for them to be a playoff team this season? Well, I think they have enough at the wide receiver position if those pretty wide receivers that we saw primarily on Saturday night are healthy. Devontae Parker, JuJu Smith-Shuster, Kendrick Borno, I think is poised for a year very similar to what he had two seasons ago. He had 50-plus catches in the 75% catch rate. There's some big plays in Dallas, for one. The Jets as well, a couple of long touchdowns, catches and runs. Last year, really by his own admission and by observation, you could see it.

It was a year that went awry from the start. And there's a rookie, Demario Douglas, who's a really intriguing player. Kid drafted in the sixth round out of Liberty. He's been a fun player to watch in camp. He has been maybe their most consistent, productively consistent receiver, and they've had a rookie receiver as well. Same round, sixth round out of LSU, K-Shawn Booty, who's really come on of late the last couple of weeks and has had two back-to-back strong preseason games, including a catch and a run away for a touchdown, 42 yards against Green Bay on Saturday. They don't have the speed downfield.

Tyquan Thornton was drafted last year in the second round to be that guy, but he's banged up right now, made a diving catch in joint practices and did not play in the game on Saturday. I think his development is something they're really counting on. We're not seeing it because he hasn't been on the field consistently enough, but nonetheless, I think the receivers are good enough to compete, again, if healthy. The big issue is giving Matt Jones the time to find those receivers and being able to block in the running game, too.

Let's get to the next down. Play-by-play voice of the New England Patriots, Bob Socey here with us. They need another running back. I like Ramondre Stevenson a lot, and now they brought in Ezekiel Elliott. What can Ezekiel Elliott, Bob, bring to this football team this season? Well, one thing he's already brought is energy. He's acting like he's been around the team for a long time.

I was very surprised, Zach. The first day, he was eased into some walk-through reps and had a chance maybe to run some pass routes when they were working on their own before they went head-to-head to the Packers. That was on Wednesday afternoon, his first day with the team after joining the team on its flight out from Providence to Green Bay. On Thursday, he was a lot more invested physically. He's still running with that hard style. I think he can give them something in the passing game, too, especially pass protection, which is a big reason why he's here, to relieve Ramondre Stevenson some of the load that he was going to have to carry.

Really, he had to for much of last year and eventually wore down because of. But Stevenson, very energetic on the sideline during the joint practices when he wasn't out there, and as well on the sideline on Saturday night in the preseason game. By all accounts, he's blending in very well. Bill O'Brien has talked about what a smart football player he is, and O'Brien has known him since he was in high school and Bill was coaching at Penn State.

So right now, thumbs up from everybody around the organization. They like having him here. They really needed somebody here, as you alluded to, because Stevenson is a talented back, but the final three weeks of last season were a lot different than the first 14 games for him.

When he led the team in rushing, first thousand yard rusher for the Patriots since LeGarrette Blount, and also had a team high of 60 plus reception, 69 receptions. Is Malik Cunningham going to be on this team, do you think? I would think that they're going to try to find a way to keep him on this team. He's another guy, very exciting player. Obviously, they signed him for $200,000 as an undrafted free agent.

That's a record for the past. That's a signal that they really liked him. They're making him into a wide receiver, but he's showing some skills at quarterback too and had a terrific late game drive against Houston in the preseason opener.

The saving grace, frankly, for that game. He's continued to work at receiver, but also now getting more reps on special teams. You saw him a little bit at Gunner. I think they're trying to find as much value as they can in him in the present as opposed to maybe being somebody who was forecast to be a developmental player down the road. I think that there's a good chance he's on the roster as a 53rd player because of his skill set. Perhaps we may see some packages down the road for him from the QB spot.

Maybe running some wildcat. He showed he could throw the ball too. He made a beautiful throw on the run against Houston who should have been caught for a touchdown and was mishandled by the intended receiver. He's an exciting young player.

He's very bright. Again, has fit in extremely well like Douglas, like Booty, the two rookie receivers that I've mentioned. Those three guys, especially Douglas and Cunningham, reflect, embody the athleticism the Patriots have tried to infuse a bit and they desperately needed in the last couple of drafts. Really, Stevenson's another guy to go back to the draft three years ago.

Let's get to the next down. Bob Sosa here with the play-by-play voice of the Patriots. I'm strict when I use the word great. Ever since Brady's final year, I have not called the Patriots a great defense when others have. I think they're a good defense, Bob. Don't get me wrong. Big fan of Christian Gonzalez. I love Matthew Judon. Is this a good defense, a very good defense, a great defense heading into this year?

Where do you kind of fall on that scale? Well, Zach, I'm of the mind they're a good defense. Because I look at the division they're in, for example, the schedule. They play outside of the division.

They're going to really be tested. And while their front is, I think, very good, and I think, you know, Juwan Bentley has really become an underrated linebacker. One of the better linebackers that he's really improved, I think, is an all-down player now for this team.

And they're very strong at safety in terms of the numbers. Jabril Peppers has, in year two as a Patriot, really had a very good cap. He's looked a lot more comfortable and confident moving better. That certainly brings physicality to his position at safety. I think Laxley coming off a knee injury with the Giants in the previous season, we didn't necessarily see, at least right out of the gate. But the question is, and you mentioned Gonzalez, the Patriots' cornerback. Jonathan Jones has been ahead a little bit cautiously the last week or so dealing with a minor injury, reportedly. He's a good cornerback. Last year made the shift outside from inside where he was a very good slot cornerback. Marcus Jones as a kid is a very exciting athlete, all-purpose player.

Touchdown last year with a pick-six and with a touchdown reception on offense and a punt return for a touchdown to beat the Jets as well. He's making the move to that slot corner position. There's a lot of positive things about him.

But obviously, he's another kid. You've got two guys right there in Gonzalez and Marcus Jones. You have Jack Jones, another second in your player. You've got a talented quarterback, but someone who's dealing with some issues off the field. That certainly put his future in question, not only for the Patriots, but in terms of his legal situation in much more important ways. He's a kid as well, but with his youth and his ball-hawking desire, he's going to be prone to making some mistakes out there.

And then you have Miles Bryant. Jalen Mills has been playing a lot more safety for them as they try to fill the void without Devin McCoy. So I think that's really the area on the back end that leads me to think, good, but can't go to great until they show it on the field.

And let's get to the final down. Bob Sosi here with us, the play-by-play voice of the Patriots. It is the Zach Gelb show on CBS Sports Radio. Bob, I'll preface my next comment by saying I do believe Bill Belichick will be the coach of the team next year, but that's been a big national talking point about how warm is the hot seat for Bill Belichick entering this season with the Pats. Zach, I've heard that and I do think, considering a couple of things, one, the troubles they've had in the last two seasons in particular, very uncharacteristic ways compared to Bill's teams in the past. I'm not even talking about wins and losses. Some of the mistakes that have been made, special teams, breakdowns, and so forth. Four block punts allowed the last two years. Last year, three kickoff returns of the six kickoff returns for touchdowns in the league, including two in the regular season finale against Buffalo. Those are the kind of things, pre-snap penalties, substitution errors, timeouts used to avoid a 12th defender on the field and whatnot.

Those are the things that accompany the win-loss numbers. And then, of course, you referenced right off the top what took place for the Patriots offense last year in the way that a number one pick and a quarterback that the franchise has pinned its hopes on as the quarterback of its future was kind of set back. And certainly, Matt had a tough time handling that situation and he was complicit as well with some of the struggles down the stretch especially. But I think the hiring of Bill O'Brien, I believe the appointment of Joe Judge, who technically is the assistant head coach and not entitled a special teams coordinator, but really is running special teams, that's going to address a lot of the problems that they've had. And Bill will be more involved now in coaching all of the team like he's always been prior to last season for the Pats, when last year he really had his hands in that offensive huddle in meeting room as well with Joe Judge and Matt Patricia trying to straighten that offense out.

So he's 18 wins away from Don Chula. I think this team, again, who knows what's going to happen with injuries, if they can find the offensive line to be a cohesive unit and get those guys, the five guys they expect to be their starters on the field, which include Michael Loetto and Cole Strange, two guards that have not, in Strange's case, practiced only a little bit, and Loetto's not at all to this point. I think they've got a real chance to be not only a competitive team but a playoff team against a very good division. And if they are 8-9 like last year, I think there will be a much better 8-9 team against the schedule than they were last year. And then beyond that, you're looking, OK, well, Bill could tie Chula's record or pass Chula's record the following season, because I think the arrow is pointing up with some of the young kids that they've brought in in the last couple of drafts. They've really improved their drafting in the last couple of years, really the last three years, compared to maybe the previous six, seven.

And I think that's a big factor. Bob Socey, enjoy the season. We always appreciate you. Give us a few minutes. Thanks so much. Thanks, Zach.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-24 14:58:24 / 2023-08-24 15:04:32 / 6

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