FOXBORO, Mass. — Bill Belichick said during the offseason that Mac Jones would have more input and ownership of the New England Patriots’ offense in Year 2.
Among Jones’ suggestions: bring on the RPOs.
The quarterback on Wednesday said he “definitely” pushed for the Patriots to add more run-pass options to their playbook this season.
“Other teams were doing them too around the league and having good production,” Jones said in his midweek news conference at Gillette Stadium. “I think every offense has their core plays, and you don’t necessarily want your RPOs to be your core plays, which they’re not, but it’s always good to have that extra flavor you can have in there. It’s a run, it’s a pass — what is it?
“So I think they’re always good, and we’ve just got to keep growing from them, learning how to do them and continue to figure it out early on. That’s kind of what early on in the season’s for, is figuring out what we want to do, and once we find out what really fits, then we’ll use that throughout the year.”
Before joining the Patriots, Jones played in an offense at Alabama that heavily utilized RPOs, which aim to identify and exploit defensive mismatches by giving the QB the option to hand to a running back or throw to a receiver based on how the defense is aligned. And he enjoyed incredible success on those plays.
According to Pro Football Focus, Jones posted this preposterous stat line on RPO passes during his final collegiate season: 61-for-68 (89.7%), 778 yards, eight touchdowns, zero interceptions.
“I think it puts stress on the defense,” Jones said. “I definitely learned (that) in college just watching Coach (Nick) Saban sometimes explode in practice. Just knowing he’s trying to tell somebody to do something, but his guy is running a route, but then it’s also a run. Is it a pass? There’s a lot of cool gray area there from an offensive perspective. … You can’t really ever tell if it’s an RPO or play-action sometimes, so it’s kind of an interesting play.”
The Patriots have tipped their toes in the RPO pool in previous years, but they never were a staple of their offense during the Josh McDaniels era. Whether that changes this season remains to be seen, but we did witness a potential shift in their most recent outing.
Though New England has rolled out significantly different offensive game plans in the first two weeks of the 2022 season, its second — in last Sunday’s 17-14 win at Pittsburgh — featured about a half-dozen plays that had RPO characteristics.
While still a modest portion of their overall offensive output, that was a notable uptick from the Patriots’ typical approach. Perhaps that number will continue to increase as the season progresses and the Patriots’ offensive identity solidifies under new first-time play-caller Matt Patricia.
Jones sounds like he’d be on board with that.
“I like those plays,” the QB said. “I think every offense has some of them in some way, shape or form. They’re good plays, but you’ve got to be able to do a lot of things. There’s the different types of plays — short, medium, long, play-action, RPO, gadget — so there’s different buckets you put them in, and we want to be able to do all of them.
“But yeah, I like RPOs. They’re cool.”