But quarterbacks coach Bill O’Brien still appears to be the guy in charge of the play-calling duties, yielding the question: Can O’Brien be more creative in 2010?
O’Brien wouldn’t take the bait during minicamp and admit that he’ll assume the same role in the 2010 season, but it was clear that he was running the offense during the Patriots’ four weeks of offseason practice. For whatever reason, O’Brien hasn’t been promoted to offensive coordinator — perhaps, labels are for losers? Regardless, he simply has to make improvements from last season’s performance.
The Patriots were sixth in the NFL in 2009 with 26.7 points per game and they were third in total offense, so it’s not like they were a mess on the offensive side of the ball. However, anyone watching the games could see there were some glaring issues.
Too often, there was a lack of functional communication between the coaching staff and the offense, leading Tom Brady to rush plays out of the huddle, call early timeouts and get flagged for delay of game. Additionally, there was hardly enough dedication to the running game, which really hurt the Patriots when they blew a 17-point fourth-quarter lead against the Colts.
And there was a complete inability to make in-game adjustments, which led to four losses in games that the Patriots led by double digits. Most damning, New England was 7-for-31 on third downs in the second half of their losses in 2009. That’s a crushing number for a team that is trying to stay on the field when it’s either attempting to protect a lead or rally to erase a deficit.
As one team source told NESN.com after the 2009 season, there was some “frustration” on the offensive side of the ball, and there was a “big [philosophical] difference” in terms of their execution patterns. That’s clearly not what anyone is looking for, and it will take a collaborative effort from everyone on the offensive side of the ball to correct those issues in 2010.
O’Brien has some more wide receiving weapons at his disposal, including a healthy Brandon Tate, third-round draft pick Taylor Price and veteran Torry Holt. Inject some life into the offense with a fresh batch of trick plays, run the ball with more attitude and let the stars — Brady, Randy Moss and Wes Welker — do what they do best.
That’s how O’Brien can correct the offensive issues in 2010.
NESN.com will be answering one Patriots question every day until July 24.
Monday, July 5: Will the big-money players live up to their contracts?
Wednesday, July 7: Is this the year that Laurence Maroney gets it all together?