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Patriots Team Report: Jones Looks To Get Passing Grade

After showing promise as a rookie, former Alabama quarterback Mac Jones struggled a bit in his second season. With longtime NFL offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien back with the Patriots, can the Patriots make NFL news by returning to the playoffs?

The Patriots added receiver Juju Smith-Schuster and tight end Mike Gesicki while losing Jakobi Meyers. There have been rumblings about DeAndre Hopkins joining the list of pass catchers as New England looks to give Jones more options when he drops back.

Patriots Team Report: Jones Looks To Get Passing Grade
Ja'Whaun Bentley #8 of the New England Patriots | Chris unger/getty images/afp

The NFL predictions have 11 AFC teams ahead of the Patriots in the odds to win the Super Bowl.

When looking at the NFL odds, Jones is +8000 to win the NFL Most Valuable Player award. It is not all about the offense, as leading tackler Ja’Whaun Bentley is closing in on a contract extension.

Training Camp Info

  • Coach: Bill Belichick (24th season with Patriots, 29th as NFL head coach)
  • Training Camp Reporting Dates: July 21 (Rookies); July 25 (Veterans)
  • First Preseason Game: Aug. 10, Houston
  • NFL Week 1: Sept. 10, Philadelphia
  • Bye: Week 11

Top Training Camp Storyline

New England finished eighth in the AFC in scoring a season ago as the decision to have defensive-minded coach Matt Patricia work with Jones backfired. With Jones going into his third NFL training camp, this is the time for the offense to take the next step in what could be the most challenging division in the AFC. Meyers, the top receiver, is gone as is Damien Harris, once thought to be the running back of the future.

There are more questions than answers right now for the New England offense and training camp will be helpful for trying to figure some things out and clear up some issues for those who make the NFL picks.

Impact Rookies

There were plenty of NFL insiders suggesting that the Patriots got a steal when they took former Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez with the 17th overall pick in April’s NFL Draft. The Patriots also added a fourth-round pick by moving down four spots to add a playmaker in the secondary. The 6-foot-2 Gonzalez had four interceptions in 2022 after not recording one in his first two seasons at Oregon. With the off the field issues of last year’s star rookie cornerback Jack Jones, the arrival of Gonzalez could be even more important.

New England continues to add pieces to the defense with the selections of Georgia Tech defensive end Keion White in the second round and Sacramento State linebacker Marte Mapu in Round 3.

There are 21 defensive players on the current roster 25 or younger as New England is looking to rebuild the defense and those first three selections will be a part of that process.

Only four players are ahead of Gonzalez when it comes to the NFL betting lines NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award odds.

Offseason Move that Turned Heads

Things went pretty well in the five seasons that O’Brien was part of Bill Belichick’s offensive coaching staff from 2007-11 as the Patriots were 64-16 during the regular season and reached two Super Bowls.

There is some work to be done with some players coming and going on the offensive side of the ball. The New England offense improved the day O’Brien was hired and now along with former New York Giants coach Joe Judge, O’Brien will be asked to help the offense take the next step in a division where Buffalo has Josh Allen at quarterback, the New York Jets added future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers and Miami has perhaps the best 1-2 receiving tandem in the NFL.

The retirement of safety Devin McCourty leaves some questions to be answered in the back end of the defense. Kyle Dugger can pile up the tackles, but opposing quarterbacks have completed 68% of the passes when Dugger is the primary defender in his first three NFL seasons. The opposing passer rating against Dugger jumped from 66.7 to 95.2 from the 2021 to the 2022 seasons. Adrian Phillips and Jabrill Peppers are other options at safety as that position was not addressed during the draft or in free agency.

Final Analysis

After winning 11 consecutive AFC East titles from 2009-2019 and not finishing lower than second in the division standings for 19 years in a row, the Patriots suddenly are being projected as the last-place team in the division.

Certainly, if the Patriots sign Hopkins to go with the key offseason signing of Smith-Schuster, that should help improve the offense. The reality is that the top picks for the Patriots in recent drafts haven’t always panned out and that could come back to haunt them as the other teams in the AFC East have made moves to get better.

The additions of Calvin Anderson and Riley Reiff could help upgrade the offensive line and that is a big deal with a young quarterback still trying to figure things out.

Playing the first four games against the Philadelphia Eagles, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys will be no easy task as the Las Vegas odds have set the expected regular-season win total for New England at 7½.

New England Patriots Odds

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