The Patriots will enter the 2022 offseason with plenty of uncertainty on the offensive side of the ball. That’s in large part due to coaching.
Mac Jones and the new-look New England offense will be overseen by some combination of Bill Belichick, Matt Patricia and Joe Judge. It’s a trio of relatively accomplished football coaches, but three instructors who are best known for their work outside an offense. The amount of uncertainty is borderline concerning.
But that might not be the only problem when it comes to putting points on the board. Jones’ arsenal of weapons was relatively uninspiring in his rookie campaign last season, and the Patriots didn’t do much to upgrade in the offseason. As such, ESPN.com’s Bill Barnwell ranks New England’s skill-position group No. 26 in the entire NFL.
Barnwell admitted he “wasn’t enthused” about the group a year ago, pointing to the struggles of Jonnu Smith and Nelson Agholor. He gives New England credit for a solid stable of running backs, a group that performed far better than the pass-catchers.
“This analysis rewards receivers over backs and top-end talent over depth. The Patriots’ supporting cast would rank much better if those priorities were flipped,” Barnwell wrote.
The good news? It’s a year-over-year improvement following last year’s 27th ranking.
It’s not as if New England did nothing in the offseason. The most notable addition was DeVante Parker, the wideout whom New England acquired in a trade with the division rival Miami Dolphins. But after handing out millions in free agency last season on the offensive side of the ball, New England was otherwise hamstrung when it came to upgrades this offseason. If this group doesn’t improve, it kind of is what it is.
The Patriots didn’t do much in the draft to address the skill positions, either. They surprised everyone by drafting offensive lineman Cole Strange in the first round before drafting a couple more running backs and a quarterback. They did, however, draft receiver Tyquan Thornton — projected to be a mid-round selection — with the 50th overall pick. He has game-changing speed, so maybe he makes a difference sooner than later.
Regardless, it’s not an overly impressive offensive outfit, at least not on paper. That’s playing with fire in some ways, too, when it comes to Jones. The last thing the Patriots want is to stunt the growth of their second-year signal-caller.
It’s a risky game to play, and it’s one that NFL bettors, at least, think the Patriots could struggle to win in 2022.