The New England Patriots will have an uphill battle this upcoming season. Unfortunately, it appears each of the Patriots’ opposing teams has gotten significantly better while the Patriots nearly look identical to last season. There have been so many key movements and losses within the organization it’s hard to see promise coming from such turmoil. However, this can potentially work in the Patriot’s favor going into the season. Their biggest issue may become their strongest asset, the uncertainty or unknown.
Patriots HC Bill Belichick has made moves this offseason many have questioned. One of the biggest moves was allowing All-Pro CB J.C. Jackson to test free agency. The Pats have had their hands tied with cap space; therefore, forcing them to let Jackson and All-Pro CB Stephon Gilmore go for consecutive years. All in all, the team continues to prove to be competitive and still will have a shot at possibly winning the AFC East. Here are some of the key factors that will help secure the AFC East for the Patriots.
Can Matt Patricia Fill the Role of Josh McDaniels?
It’s no secret that Belichick has yet to announce his coaching staff’s primary positions, which means that there’s been a dramatic shift in the coaching room this offseason. Former Patriots OC Josh McDaniels has taken an HC job for the Las Vegas Raiders. Ultimately, leaving this gaping hole with a very young developing QB. Belichick while losing McDaniels on his staff, has brought back some familiar faces. Former Giants and Lions HC Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, who have an extended role in the offense in 2022, tweeted Mike Reiss for ESPN .
Belichick has high hopes regarding Patricia’s role in the offense this upcoming season. He explained in great detail how he believes that he can contribute to the team no matter where he’s coaching, however, this isn’t anything new within the organization. Many of the Patriots’ coaching staff have coached several different roles throughout their tenure.
“He does a lot of things. Helps me in a lot of ways,” Belichick said on March 28 at the NFL’s annual meetings . “He does a lot of things. He has a lot of experience. … Matt’s had a lot of different roles for us, and he’s been a big help to the organization and me.”
“We’ve had a lot of coaches take multiple responsibilities,” Belichick told reporters in March. “Josh and Brian Daboll were on defense and then went to offense, Matt was on offense and went to defense, and so forth and so on. I’m not really worried about that. I think a good coach is a good coach, and Matt’s a great coach, and Joe’s a great coach. They’ll help us no matter what position they coach.”
Mac Jones Development for the New England Patriots
Arguably, the most important key to the Patriots’ success will be the development of Mac Jones. Jones showed tons of promise his rookie year almost breaking the completion percentage record ( 67.6 ) and not only making the playoffs but making a Pro Bowl. However, many are still skeptical and aren’t sold on the young QB, as of yet. This season, with the odds not in his favor and the Patriot’s severe lack of talent offensively compared to other opposing teams in the division, he will be forced to be exceptional this season. It’s imperative that Jones makes a leap from last season; however, one must take into account the change in coaches. McDaniels is heavily respected throughout the league for his offensive prowess. The coaching and Jones development will work hand to hand, yet, will be vital to the Patriot’s success going forward.
Jalen Mills Has to Step Up
As mentioned prior, the latest release of Jackson and previously Gilmore has hurt the Patriots’ secondary significantly. However, this offseason the Pats signed Super Bowl XLIX hero and veteran CB Malcolm Butler. While Butler hasn’t been what he’s known to be as a player these past couple of seasons. He’s shown promise last season having his best coverage year statistically in his career. In 2021, Butler recorded 100 combo tackles, 86 solo tackles, 14 assists, 4 interceptions for 111 yards, and 14 pass deflections, per Pro Football Reference . While he’s an aging DB this is still a solid season of production; however, the DB in question is his counterpart, Jalen Mills.
Throughout his career Mills has been an average coverage guy in the NFL at best. In 2021, it appeared he struggled when he was given the responsibility to cover the opposing team’s seconds best WR. According to Pro Football Focus , Mills was graded a 67.5 for his performance last season. In order for the New England Patriots to pose as a threat in an extremely offensive league, their secondary will have to come to play. Mills is an average to above-average DB. However, his level play will be forced to play at an elite level in order to win the AFC East.
New England Patriots Elevation in their Offensive Linemen
This offseason hasn’t been as lucrative for the Patriots as 2021. However, there were some key pieces they acquired that may help benefit the offense in the passing game. Unfortunately, one of the biggest disappointments was when the New England Patriots parted ways with Shaq Mason and Ted Karras. This leads many to be concerned with the future of the Patriots’ core going forward. However, this is a misconception, in fact, the Patriots’ core couldn’t be any better at the moment.
Losing the two studs on the OL will affect the run game, as well as their depth. The running game appeared to be the Pats’ identity majority of the 2021 season. According to ESPN , the Patriots were ranked 8th overall in rushing. Not to mention, their overall offense ranked 15th throughout the NFL. While the Patriots have invested heavily in the passing game over the past two seasons. This is subject to change going forward.
Trent Brown’s Impact
Patriots stars OT Trent Brown, G Michael Onwenu, and C David Andrews’s expectations will increase after the latest Pro Football Focus grades. Brown’s been underappreciated for some time now; however, over the past two seasons he’s been sensational.
According to Pro Football Focus, relating Brown, “Over the past two seasons across 458 pass-blocking snaps, Brown has allowed just 1 sack.”
Belichick spoke highly of his impact and development with the Patriots. He believes that he can help lead the younger guys and show them how to be elite going forward.
“I think Trent’s experience has given him a much higher level of leadership, and communication,” Belichick told reporters during a press conference in 2021 . “He’s just able to do more both on and off the field. Has a lot more experience. Has more experience in our system, which is a big factor.”
If the Patriots find a way to maximize their talent, they must utilize their resources so they have a shot with the greatest coach of all time to win the AFC East.