The Patriots 2022 Season
The New England Patriots finished the year at 8-9, just missing the playoffs. Throughout the year, the defense was great; players in the secondary were always making splash plays. They were third in turnovers, third in total DVOA, and among the league’s top in yards and points allowed. However, their offense was a disaster. They ranked twenty-fourth in DVOA and twenty-sixth in total yards. The Patriots’ offense was hard to watch as it seemed every play was a run up the middle, or a ball thrown short of the sticks. Matt Patricia and Bill Belichick did not trust Mac Jones to use his arm deep down the field. Mac has a decent arm and is an efficient thrower, evident in his rookie year.
The conservative offense was unsatisfactory and did not take advantage of some of Mac’s strengths. Jones ranked thirty-fifth of thirty-seven eligible quarterbacks in turnover-worthy plays on deep balls. The lack of trust in Mac and disappointing playcalling hindered the offense’s ability to create big plays. Bill Belichick and the Patriots have to make some drastic moves this off-season to have a chance at making the postseason in 2023.
Who Should Be The Patriots Offensive Coordinator?
The offensive coordinator is the number one problem that needs to be handled. There are a couple of big names on everyone’s list: Bill O’Brien and Kliff Kingsbury. In addition to those two, Nick Caley, Adam Gase, Chad O’Shea, and Zac Robinson are also candidates. However, a bunch of these names needs to be crossed off of everyone’s list. Kliff Kingsbury does not deserve an NFL job anywhere, he failed in college and failed in the NFL so why try again? The media like to think that Adam Gase has connections to the Patriots due to how Belichick and Gase have spoken about each other in the past.
Gase was seen as a “quarterback guru” after the work he did with Jay Cutler and Peyton Manning, but that fell through in Miami and New York. Even though Gase has shown that he is not a great coach or leader, he is still somehow in the mix. The Patriots can not hire Gase, due to his failures in the past.
The only obvious choice. O’Brien was the offensive coordinator for the Patriots back in 2011 and was on the staff since 2007. Bill O’Brien is the reason the Patriots have always been a two-tight end team, he started this type of offense after McDaniels left for Denver. The “family ties” with this hire make too much sense for it not to happen. O’Brien recently worked for Nick Saban, who has coached with Belichick in the past. Mac Jones went to Alabama under Saban, so Bill O’Brien has so many relationships in this mixture of talent that can create something at least decent to watch.
Bill O’Brien picked out some things from his Patriots’ bag of tricks with the Crimson Tide. I do not see why he can’t bring them back to the original spot of Foxborough. After being the play-caller for the prolific 2011 Patriots offense, it makes sense that Belichick would want to bring him back. He can bring a blast from the past to try to make this offense competent. All the Patriots need is competency, and not a defensive coach calling offensive plays. If that is the case, I do not see why they could not make the playoffs in 2023.
Chad O’Shea is the current wide receivers coach of the Cleveland Browns and was in New England from 2009-18. Some may be thinking, why O’Shea if he was fired after one season in Miami? Well, it’s simple, O’Shea was fired because his offense was too complex for an inexperienced Dolphins roster. The Patriots have always been a smart team, while it is no longer as experienced, they still have a high football IQ. For them, understanding O’Shea’s offense won’t be as difficult.
He also knows the “Patriot Way,” since he was in the building for nearly a decade and has been a part of some great offenses. As time went on, he had a larger load in decision-making when it came to the offense in New England. O’Shea knows how to coach for a Belichick lead team and, just like O’Brien, can bring back some similar playcalling styles that the Patriots are used to.
Zac Robinson is an extremely new name to the offensive coordinator pursuit. As the quarterbacks’ coach for the Rams, he has grown a lot since being hired in 2019. Robinson is a great mentor for young quarterbacks, as he is credited with helping to fix their mechanics. This can help Mac fix some issues he has had in the past and improve throughout the year. Sean McVay is quoted saying that he is “a rising star in this profession” and it is obvious to see with the Rams.
In training camp, the Patriots were trying to install a McVay and Shanahan type of offense. Zac Robinson could help this team transition to that McVay offense that we have seen work for other teams, like Kevin O’Connell and the Vikings. McVay’s offense is the future of the NFL. Hirings from his coaching tree are very common. Adding creativity to the offense, like a McVay system, could help Mac figure out what works and what does not work while having a coach confident in him.
However, there is one issue. Mac Jones will be on his third offensive system in three years if Zac is brought in. Unlike Bill O’Brien and Chad O’Shea, Robinson has never been on the Patriots’ offensive coaching staff. This could end up being a problem, but we do not know yet. There have been many times when young quarterbacks have struggled because of too many coaches. Robinson is worth taking a flyer on because it brings something new to the Patriots, a rare occurrence.
Free Agency is key for the Patriots to improve. While Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater are set to retire, there are some current free agents on the roster. Nelson Agholor, Damien Harris, Jonathon Jones, Jakobi Meyers, and more are in need of new deals. The re-signing of Jones and Meyers is crucial. However, you don’t bring all of them back.
Let them walk
As for the players you let walk, they include Damien Harris, Nelson Agholor, and Isaiah Wynn:
Damien Harris was great for the Pats, but his injuries and the money he will ask for are not worth it with Rhamondre Stevenson on the roster. Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong Jr. showed flashes throughout the year, they can be good backups to Stevenson. Agholor’s not worth bringing back. He solely caused a few turnovers for the Patriots and was not worth his contract, let him go. The upside of bringing him back is minuscule as he is getting up there in age and will ask for, not as much as his last contract but, a decent amount of money. Lastly, Isaiah Wynn has to leave. Wynn’s injuries caught up to him too many times in his tenure with the Patriots. As a first-round pick, the expectations are higher and he did not live up to them.
As stated previously, Meyers and Jones are necessities to this team. Meyers is the only wide receiver with real chemistry with Mac Jones, it would be a tragedy to let him sign somewhere else. Jonathan Jones has been great for the Patriots his whole career and is coming off a good year, so signing him to keep the depth of the cornerback group is a need. There are some other small re-signings to make. Re-signing Cody Davis, Jabrill Peppers, Raekwon McMillan, Carl Davis, and Conor McDermott are good moves to keep depth.
The Patriots will have around $45-50 million in cap space this off-season. Equally important to that fact, they are never big spenders. Outside of the 2021 offseason, the Patriots have never spent big on free agents. However, if I am the Patriots, I send a bag to unrestricted free agent Jessie Bates III, safety from the Bengals. The Bengals were scared to pay Bates, as they franchise-tagged him before the 2022 season, so he may be okay with leaving. Going to a Belichick defense has always helped players’ careers and Bates, an elite safety, would benefit greatly from playing in a Belichick system. McCourty is retiring and Bates can fill that hole, so Bill should try his best to bring him to Gillette.
The big contract can also go to a tackle, like Mike McGlinchey or Orlando Brown. The two are not the best pass protectors, not bad but they definitely have to grow in that aspect. It makes more sense to go after a tackle in the draft, given how expensive a “top-tier” tackle can be nowadays, so I advise against this.
There are some other not-as-expensive signings that could be made as well. Linebacker Bobby Okereke is a UFA and has been solid for the Colts and can be New England’s starting inside linebacker. Okereke ranked as the nineteenth-best linebacker on PFF, tenth in tackles, and fourteenth in stops. He is not a star, but a decent enough player to play alongside over already solid Ja’Whaun Bentley.
There are two ways you can go for the 2023 NFL Draft if you are New England. Scenario one is to draft an offensive tackle at 14. The choices here are Peter Skoronski from Northwestern and Broderick Jones from Georiga. Isaiah Wynn leaving and Trent Brown not playing well leave a hole at tackle and these two quick, athletic tackles can help fix that. If this is the way they go, the Patriots should draft a wide receiver on day 2, then inside linebackers and safety help in the later rounds.
Scenario two is nearly the same but flipped. The Patriots draft a wide receiver at 14. The top prospects projected to be available here are Quentin Johnson from TCU, Jaxon Smith-Njigba from Ohio State, and Jordan Addison from USC. If they can choose between the three, ignore Johnson. Quentin struggled against better competition and bigger corners and that rarely translates well to the NFL. While it can be fixed, it is not an easy task.
Addison is a talented route runner and has great ball skills, which will give Mac a receiver who can actually get open and make plays down the field. Smith-Njigba is coming off of an injury but is a great talent at the receiver position. He has elite route-running, footwork, body control, and ball skills, but lacks great speed. Between Addison and Jaxon, you almost can not go wrong so I am okay with either choice. After round 1, you go for a tackle on day 2, and the same as scenario one for the later rounds.
There have been some rumors floating around about trading for a wide receiver. Names like Deandre Hopkins, Mike Evans, and Jerry Jeudy are the big ones. It would be great to see Hopkins in New England, Mike Evans may be worrisome. Hopkins is 30, 31 in June, and Evans is 30 next season. Deandre would be the more realistic of the two. It would probably be a day-two pick to get him due to his age. Deandre has shown no signs of slowing down, but father time always wins. The immediate upgrade that comes with him may be worth it though, as it really is all the Patriots need to be a competent offense. That is not including an offensive coordinator.
Mike Evans is off the table. I have only seen this in a couple of places but I do not like the idea. Age is also a problem and so are his inconsistencies. Evans was pretty inconsistent catching the ball this year and it is not worth bringing him onto the team. As for Jeudy, the Broncos most likely will not trade him. A new coach will be coming to town in Denver that can help Russell Wilson, Courtland Sutton, and Jeudy improve next year. There is no reason for Denver to give up on Jeudy as he is an elite route runner that really just needs to focus on securing the ball. A young receiver with the upside of Jerry would be great, but not the most realistic.
In reality, the Patriots’ most likely moves are the obvious ones, as they always are. Bill O’Brien will be signed as offensive coordinator, they will let the players above walk and bring the others back, and draft a tackle at 14. A trade may happen for a receiver, but that is just very unpredictable given their trade history. Deandre Hopkins would be a great addition but we just do not know at this time.