With the Patriots sitting at 0-2, one thing has certainly been clear through two weeks for Mac Jones.
The lack of a viable third-down target has been a significant issue so far for the New England Patriots, and the numbers certainly show that.
Having improved in their performances by quarter this season compared to 2022, it doesn’t change the fact there’s one area where they’ve taken a step backward compared to previous seasons.
Here’s a look at the totals from Jones by down in each of the last three seasons over this span:
1st: 23/28 (82.1%) 249yds
2nd: 16/21 (76.2%) 115yds 1 TD
3rd: 12/20 (60%) 103yds (9 Passing First Downs)
3rd Down Offensive Conversions through two games: 14/28 (50%)
1st: 13/24 (54.2%) 142yds 1 INT
2nd: 18/23 (78.3%) 134yds
3rd: 11/17 (64.7%) 189yds 2 TDs 1 INT (8 Passing First Downs)
3rd Down Offensive Conversions through two games: 13/26 (50%)
1st: 28/36 (77.8%) 223yds 1 TD 1 INT
2nd: 23/33 (69.7%) 205yds 3 TDs
3rd: 13/22 (59.1%) 104yds 1 INT (6 Passing First Downs)
4th: 2/5 (40%) 15yds
3rd Down Offensive Conversions through two games: 12/30 (40%)
One glaring thing that stands out is the fact Jakobi Meyers is the common thread when looking at 2021 and 2022. Meyers led the team to this point in third-down conversion receptions in both 2021 (4 receiving first downs) and 2022 (5 receiving first downs). James White joined him in 2021 with 3 receiving first downs, but after he got hurt, Meyers went on to lead everyone in that category both for that entire season, along with leading the team by what turned out to be a massive margin in 2022.
Meyers finished 2022 with 18 receiving first downs on third down for New England, far ahead of the next closest player, Kendrick Bourne, who had seven and was barely part of the offense.
Meyers may not have been their most explosive receiver, but he had a knack for getting open in that “gotta have it” moment. So far, anyone who has seen the product on the field knows that hasn’t been the case to this point in 2023 for Jones, and the numbers certainly reflect it.
There isn’t someone he can rely on yet, at least not consistently. DeVante Parker is currently the leader in this category as the only player with more than one, and he’s made two so far. Rhamondre Stevenson (1), Mike Gesicki (1), Bourne (1) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (1) round out the rest of the list of players who have caught a pass and converted for him on third down.
The other players targeted either had a catch but didn’t move the chains (Demario Douglas [he lost 4 yards in Week 1 and fumbled on what would have been a 10yd gain and a first down Sunday], and Ezekiel Elliott) or came up incomplete (Kayshon Boutte, and Ty Montgomery).
As for Myers, who left and signed with the Raiders this past offseason, he suffered a pretty significant setback after leading Las Vegas with 9 receptions for 81 yards and two touchdowns, which led the team during the Raiders’ Week 1 win over the Broncos. He missed this past Sunday’s game with a concussion, yet still sits at second on the team behind Devante Adams in receptions and receiving yards.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, who New England signed back in March, was expected to step into that role, and he’s had a fairly quiet start so far. Douglas’ turnover was a big setback for the rookie this weekend after he found himself benched for the rest of the game from playing offense, while Kayshon Boutte ended up inactive in favor of Jalen Reagor, who didn’t play at all on Sunday.
For now, the Patriots seem to lack that explosive playmaker and still need someone to emerge in key situations because no one has seized that role to this point.
It’s hard to beat good football teams without them, and for a team that needs to get back on track, someone absolutely needs to step up.
Until someone does, it remains a big void that will likely continue to plague this offense.
(Portions of the above appeared in this morning’s daily news and notes column.)
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: Jakobi Meyers Mac Jones