American Football

What hiring Tiquan Underwood as assistant wide receivers coach means for the Patriots

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The Patriots are adding another assistant coach to their staff.

The New England Patriots’ coaching staff continues to grow, and Tiquan Underwood will be the latest addition to the group. The former NFL wideout, who spent one season with the Patriots during his active playing career, is reportedly in the process of finalizing a contract with his former club to serve as assistant wide receivers coach.

Who the 36-year-old will coach under remains to be seen, but here is a look at what the hire might mean from a big-picture perspective.

The Patriots bring another former player on board

Of New England’s now-10 external coaching hires this offseason, Underwood is the sixth who has played the game at the NFL level. The former wide receiver appeared in 47 combined games and caught 63 passes for 1,006 yards and six touchdowns between stints in Jacksonville, New England, Tampa and Carolina.

On his side of the ball, offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt as well as offensive line coaches Scott Peters and Robert Kugler have pro-level experience. The same is true for defensive assistants Dont’a Hightower and Jerry Montgomery.

Like Hightower, who himself arrived one season after Underwood was with the Patriots in 2011, the coaching addition also was on the roster at the same time as head coach and ex-linebacker Jerod Mayo.

Being a former player does not automatically make a you a good coach, but the Patriots have found an apparent liking when it comes to individuals who followed the career path from the gridiron to the sidelines. It might have something to do with Mayo having taken the same journey.

Consistency will be a big focus in the wide receiver room

Underwood’s coaching experience dates back to the 2018 season, when he started coaching wideouts at Lafayette. Since then, he spent time with the Miami Dolphins as a quality control coach, and as a wide receivers coach at his alma mater, Rutgers, and most recently at Pitt.

What did he learn along the way? During a media availability session last November, he gave insight into a key message he is teaching his players: consistency is key.

“The guys in the NFL are the most consistent,” he said. “It’s not the most talented, it’s the most consistent. I try to preach that to the guys.”

For the Patriots, wide receiver consistency has been a major issue the last few seasons. While some players — most notably Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne — were mostly able to perform at a relatively even level on a game-to-game basis, the rest of the group has had peaks and valleys throughout.

Finding a way to iron those out will be part of Underwood’s task in New England.

New England hires a coach with experience developing young wideouts

Coming from the college level, Underwood has experience turning young talent and forming it into usable pieces within a team’s offense. And while he did not work with blue-chip talent during his stints at Lafayette, Rutgers and Pittsburgh, he did help develop some players who eventually made the jump to the NFL.

Bo Melton, Sean Ryan and Taysir Mack all ended up signing pro contracts. The expectation is that Pitt wideout Bub Means will join them, either as a late-round draft selection or a priority rookie free agent.

The Patriots do have some developmental young pass catchers to work with as well. DeMario Douglas showed considerable promise as a rookie in 2023, while Tyquan Thornton and Kayshon Boutte also have some raw talent to build on.

Only a handful of coaching positions remain open

The Patriots’ recent coaching hires — they added Dont’a Hightower and Drew Wilkins to work with the linebackers over the weekend and fill out the defensive staff — left only a handful of spots open on Jerod Mayo’s staff. While Underwood will serve in an assistant role, three major TBDs remain:

  • Running backs coach
  • Wide receivers coach
  • Tight ends coach

The expectation is that all three of those positions will be filled relatively quickly, and not with the coaches who were on the team in 2023: both Troy Brown and Will Lawing, who worked with the wideouts and tight ends last season, respectively, are not expected back with the team under new offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt. Running backs coach Vinnie Sunseri, meanwhile, already has a new job as defensive backs coach at the University of Washington.

When it comes to Underwood’s position on the staff, it remains to be seen who he will work under. One name to consider — and it has been mentioned before — is Chad O’Shea: a former Patriots wideouts coach, who worked with Van Pelt in Cleveland, he was also the offensive coordinator in Miami when Underwood was on the Dolphins’ staff in 2019.

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