Some news and notes for this morning:
How Will the Patriots Fix The Offense?
Today marks the beginning of the New England Patriots getting back to work ahead of Sunday’s game in Las Vegas, which is clearly going to be a big one for this football team.
According to most reports, it seems Mac Jones will get the starting nod again against the Raiders, with the embattled quarterback looking to bounce back after two-straight tough outings.
For Jones, it’s been a rough two weeks and, truthfully, it’s really been three weeks going back to the Patriots win at MetLife against the Jets.
Jones has gotten progressively worse since the Miami game, and it’s not pretty. Here’s a quick breakdown:
vs PHI: 35/54 (64.8%) 316 yards 3 TDs 1 INT
vs MIA: 31/42 (73.8%) 231 yards 1 TD 1 INT
@NYJ: 15/29 (51.7%) 201 yards 1 TD 0 INT
@DAL: 12/21 (57.1%) 150 yards 0 TD 2 INTs
vs NO: 12/22 (54.5%) 110 yards 0 TD 2 INTs
Looking at the snap counts, there’s nothing that necessarily stands out personnel-wise to explain the drop-off, save for the fact Cole Strange has been lost the last two weeks, with Strange having not played since midway through the Jets game.
His loss has been significant, and, as it’s repeatedly been mentioned here, the numbers reflect it. They’ve averaged 2.4 yards per carry running the football over these last two games, which has seen rookie Atonio Mafi start in his place at left guard. Reilly Reiff came in relief of Mafi at one point on Sunday against the Saints, before being forced to play right guard after Mike Onwenu came out of the game.
Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston recently reported that Strange’s issue with his knee requires surgery, but he’s been trying to play through it, which obviously hasn’t worked out to this point. So it appears that any hope of him being healthy enough to play out this season certainly feels unlikely.
But with the ground game struggling, it’s had opponents teeing off on the quarterback and both Jones and Bailey Zappe haven’t had much success.
One way the team might deal with it is potentially like they did going back to Jones’ rookie season and what we saw with Zappe last year. It could mean we’ll see them add an extra blocker in Pharoah Brown and/or Hunter Henry while potentially running more plays from under center.
The biggest question will likely be who will be available at receiver this week. Both Demario Douglas and JuJu Smith-Schuster were lost to concussion protocol Sunday, so it’s likely neither will be active this week. That would leave DeVante Parker and Kenrick Bourne as the two remaining candidates, with Kayshon Boutte as the next option, with potentially Tyquan Thornton’s return or Jalen Reagor seeing action off the practice squad.
That’s certainly a limited group to try and get back on the winning end of things, but winning Sunday may just be a bonus at this point. It’s probably safe to say this week may be more of a throwaway outing and that the #1 goal is progress and improvement. If they can at least take a step forward and show some signs of life, at least they’ll move forward with something to build on.
They’ll need to do just that with a visit from the Bills up next and then a trip to Miami to follow.
Belichick Has His Work Cut Out For Him
All of that being said, Belichick sort of alluded to the fact that the club is focusing on the short-term moving forward when he spoke to reporters on Monday.
“Our goals are short term,” said Belichick. “It’s this week, Vegas, get ready for Vegas, and go out there and play the best we can against Las Vegas.”
The big question on most people’s minds has been in relation to their roster, which the majority of people agree isn’t good enough when it comes to the offensive side of the football.
When Belichick talked about “starting all over” following Sunday’s loss, part of that likely entailed taking a serious look at their personnel and what has/hasn’t worked, along with potential changes.
He was asked on Monday on WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show whether or not, from his perspective, “on the offensive side of the football, is this roster good enough to be winning football games?”
“Well, we need to play better than we’re playing,” said Belichick. “Play and coach better.”
That was followed up by the fact that as soon as he dealt with losses on the defensive side of the football, most notably at cornerback, he addressed it by making a move to go get J.C. Jackson.
When asked if he might do something similar on offense this week, Belichick appeared more focused on just trying to get more out of who they already have.
“I mean, right now, I’m focused on getting our team to perform better than we’ve performed,” he answered.
How he’s going to do that remains to be seen, and it’s clearly the number one thing we’ll all be waiting to see unfold when we next see them on Sunday in the desert.
Edelman Believes Patriots Need Help
Julian Edelman appeared on Colin Cowherd’s The Herd this week talking about a variety of topics, including the fact the Patriots haven’t done well when it comes to addressing skill players on the offensive side of the ball.
Edelman believes that’s part of the problem, especially when you look at how they’ve addressed the defensive side of things.
“I think he needs a little help on the offensive side,” said Edelman, referring to Jones. “I mean, you look at the defensive picks, they all look pretty good. I mean, they always come out and they perform. The Christian Gonzalez kid, before he got hurt, looked like he was playing good.”
“But, I mean,we have whiffed – and I hate talking about coach like this – but we have whiffed on a lot of offensive skill position players, starting from – I don’t want to call guys out – but there were three, four receivers when I was playing, that we got in top rounds, that you look in camp, and you can always see a guy who was drafted high. You see one trait, you know they’re raw, but you can see one trait, ‘Oh, yep, yeah, that’s a first rounder.’ You’re looking and, ‘I was like, eh … what’s going on here.?'”
Obviously, one player he’s likely referring to was N’Keal Harry, who was taken in the first round of Edelman’s second to last season in New England in 2019. Harry ultimately didn’t pan out and it was a significant setback for the club, who needed an explosive player on the outside.
His pick likely influenced the decision to go with Thornton over Georgia’s George Pickens, who is a similar style of player to Harry but far more explosive. Belichick may have been afraid of making the same mistake by targeting a similar-bodied player and instead targeted speed.
Unfortunately, things haven’t yet gone as planned there, either.
As a result, Edelman knows the current group of players will make things challenging moving forward. And whether or not his old coach can salvage the 2023 season is going to be what all of us will be waiting to see heading into Sunday’s game.
Posted Under: Patriots News