Patriots built growing pains in Mac Jones 2nd season


The Patriots’ priority should be maximizing Jones’ ability and ensuring he continues on an uptrend.

Will short-term pain lead to long-term gain for Mac Jones?

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Bill Belichick’s approach to handling the Patriots offense in preseason was so confusing and seemingly counterproductive that I began to wonder if there was any information we were missing.

Perhaps the plan, once the season begins, would reveal that Belichick, and not longtime defensive coach Matt Patricia or Joe Judge, is the primary point guard. defensively, he’s a much more attractive option as Mac Jones’ play advisor than Patricia or Judge.

Perhaps backup quarterback Brian Hoyer, whose first stint at Foxborough began so long ago (in 2009) that he was a teammate that year of Joey Galloway and Fred Taylor, has more of a say in it. say we don’t think so. After Tom Brady, Josh McDaniels and Belichick, Hoyer knows the Patriots offensive playbook as well as anyone.

Or maybe this information is something we haven’t yet been able to recognize or delve into. No coach in NFL history has gotten a greater benefit of the doubt than Belichick. There must be a method to the madness, even if his method on the surface – increasing the degree of difficulty in several ways for his talented but limited second-year quarterback – somehow seems like sheer madness.

If there’s nothing to reveal about Belichick’s plan yet, then the best explanation I can find for some of his confusing decisions is that he thinks short-term pain will lead to long-term gain term for Jones, who happens to be by far the Patriots’ most valuable asset as a capable quarterback on a rookie contract.

I’m also skeptical that, oh, a Lions or Giants fan who had to go through those two as head coaches, that choosing Patricia and/or Judge as the de facto offensive coordinator was the right decision. Maybe that will work. Patricia, for all her faults, is a brilliant guy. But in terms of institutional knowledge and connection to Jones, any successor will be lacking compared to longtime offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, now Las Vegas coach.

Patricia also has the added duty of coaching the offensive line, Billy Yates will be her assistant, and this is a unit that needs all the coaching they can get given the camp’s struggles to acclimate to the patterns. zone blocking of the new patriots. . It seems an odd choice to scatter Patricia so thinly, especially on the side of the line that hasn’t been her area of ​​expertise. Again, that’s why I wonder if there’s something missing about the importance of someone else’s role.

The Patriots’ priority should be maximizing Jones’ ability and ensuring he continues on an uptrend. The end of his rookie year wasn’t ideal, with the Bills completely outscoring the Patriots in an uneventful playoff game, but much of Jones’ rookie season felt like an optimal scenario.

He won the starting job from Cam Newton in training camp. He led the Patriots to seven straight wins heading into their bye week. He quickly conquered the locker room. It proved to be balanced, precise and hyper-competitive in the same way as Tom Brady. He finished the season with 3,801 yards, 22 touchdowns, and a 67.6 completion percentage.

If not for Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase’s dazzling first season, Jones would have been the Offensive Rookie of the Year.

That’s why it was so frustrating during training camp that he felt like he was almost ready to fail at times, especially when the Patriots were running their new style zone block run plays. Kyle Shanahan against a fully prepared defense for whatever was coming.

Of course, it would be absurd to suggest that Belichick, who is 26 wins away from tying Don Shula for the most in NFL history, playoffs included, is setting up his young quarterback for failure.

That, I believe, is Belichick’s position: he totally believes in Patricia as a coach, and we’re all going to find out if that belief is justified.

And he thinks some growing pains will ultimately prove a significant advantage for Jones.

The Patriots will spend these first weeks of the season figuring out what works and what doesn’t with their offensive philosophy. It wouldn’t shock me if they ended up rejecting the zonal blocking system altogether, although Jones did indicate that the Patriots had worked out some of the issues in practice.

It’s wise to streamline offense in general, after nearly 20 years of Brady and McDaniels turning the playbook into their own private class of advanced calculus, especially if it helps young players and veteran free agents alike. acclimate quickly. Simplifying it gives hope that Jonnu Smith and Nelson Agholor will contribute more in their second season as Patriots, and that Tyquan Thornton can fit in immediately upon his return from his collarbone injury.

The offense looked at its best in the preseason when the Patriots’ tactics were familiar — tough runs down the middle and spread formations with receivers that played on Jones’ ability to make quick decisions. I can’t imagine that once the regular season starts in Miami on Sunday, Belichick will put Jones in floundering situations like he did in preseason.

I don’t know, maybe there’s a piece missing, something that we don’t know, when it comes to Belichick’s approach to this offense.

Or maybe, now that the real games are about to begin, he’ll go back to doing something he’s done better than any coach in NFL history: coaching his players’ strengths. , rather than trying to impose a particular philosophy or style on its players. .


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