FOXBORO – The verdict is in: Joe Judge, the Patriots’ special teams coach since 2015, is now serving double duty as the team’s wide receivers coach as well.
“It will definitely be challenging,” Judge acknowledged. “The best thing we have right now is we have very good support.
“Cam Achord (the Patriots’ assistant special teams coach) does a tremendous job. We have great assistants on the offense. There’s great support from the top on down with Coach (Bill) Belichick and Josh (offensive coordinator-quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels). The biggest thing I can do to help the team right now is just stay organized and diligent and make sure I’m taking care of all my responsibilities and help the team. Make sure they are prepared the best they can be.”
The wide receivers job on Belichick’s coaching staff was vacated in February when Chad O’Shea, who’d held the position since 2009, was named the offensive coordinator in Miami after Patriots linebackers coach and de facto defensive coordinator Brian Flores became the head coach of the Dolphins.
Meanwhile, here in New England, the 37-year-old Judge is taking the approach players take to any expanded roles they may be asked to perform: The more you can do …
“I’ve always wanted to coach football, and that’s about it,” said Judge. “I’ll coach the jayvee wrestling team if they tell me to. But any position in football, I’m excited to coach. Anybody on our team, I’m excited to coach. So anything that Coach asks me to do, I’m going to do with a full head of steam.”
In New England, it’s full steam ahead (the Patriots hope) with a new-look wide receiver corps.
Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett and Matthew Slater (primarily a special teamer) are back with the reigning Super Bowl champions. Braxton Berrios and Damoun Patterson were here last year, but neither of them played a down, the former spending his rookie season on the injured reserve list, the latter a member of the team’s practice squad. Who knows what the future holds for Josh Gordon, who is serving an indefinite suspension, his latest punishment in a career filled with violations of the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
Chris Hogan (to Carolina) and Cordarrelle Patterson (to Chicago) left as free agents earlier in the offseason. Maurice Harris (Washington), Dontrelle Inman (Indianapolis) and Demaryius Thomas (Houston) were signed as unrestricted free agents, although the move with Inman has yet to be officially announced by the team. Ryan Davis, Jakobi Meyers and Xavier Ubosi were all signed as rookie free agents.
But the headliner amongst all the comings and goings is N’Keal Harry, the 6-foot-2, 228-pounder the Patriots selected in the first round of the draft out of Arizona State.
“I think we’re excited to have him here to become part of our team, and he’s working right now hard to learn and get on page,” said Judge. “I think one thing these rookies figure out right away is when they get here, there’s a tremendous amount they have to learn. They obviously have talent. They’ve obviously been very accomplished with what they’ve done, otherwise they wouldn’t be at this level. But for any rookie, I would say probably in any building across the league, there are tremendous strides they have to make forward to be able to contribute and add to your football team.
“The best thing he’s done so far is show a very good work ethic and attitude to come on in and embrace what we’re telling him. It’s been a very short window at this point that we’ve been able to work with him and have him here, but I’m very excited to work with him as well as every other receiver we have.”
Be it special teams coach, the job he was promoted to in 2015 after serving as Scott O’Brien’s assistant from 2012-2014, or wide receivers coach, Judge says the approach doesn’t change.
“I think a good coach is a good coach,” Judge said. “Number one, you have to be a good teacher. That’s what players need more than anything. It allows them to do their job aggressively and effectively. So to me, whatever position you’re coaching, you have to be a great teacher.”
Feeling a draft: Friday’s announced signings of second-round draft pick JoeJuan Williams (cornerback, Vanderbilt), third rounder Yodny Cajuste (offensive lineman, West Virginia), fourth rounders Hjalte Froholdt (offensive lineman, Arkansas) and Jarrett Stidham (quarterback, Auburn), fifth rounders Byron Coward (defensive lineman, Maryland) and Jake Bailey (punter, Stanford) and seventh-round choice Kendarius Webster (cornerback, Mississippi) leaves the team with three unsigned picks: Harry and third rounders Chase Winovich (edge defender, Michigan) and Damien Harris (running back, Alabama).
The Patriots also made tight end Ben Watson’s signing as an unrestricted free agent official that day.
New-look staff: So here is how the new-look coaching staff shapes up under Belichick:
• offensive coordinator-quarterbacks – Josh McDaniels
• wide receivers – Judge
• running backs – Ivan Fears
• tight ends – Nick Caley
• offensive line – Dante Scarnecchia
• defensive line – Bret Bielema
• outside linebackers – DeMarcus Covington
• inside linebackers – Jerod Mayo
• defensive backs – Mike Pellegrino
• safeties – Steve Belichick
• special teams – Judge and Achord