Answering Patriots Nation Questions

June 18, 2022
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Last week, I Tweeted my followers to ask some Patriots-related questions for an upcoming article. I want to thank everybody involved for asking me questions. Let’s get started!

Questions From Some Of My Followers

The first question, by @BrainJBaby, asks how I feel about the current linebacker situation.

Well, @BrianJBaby, I’m not feeling great. The Patriots missed out on several opportunities last season to score a quality linebacker, both in the off-season and the NFL Draft, which makes me feel like these struggles are self-induced.

Josh Uche and Ronnie Perkins will be getting quality snaps next year. Both are young and relatively inexperienced, which is never a great combination. I would expect them to make more than a few mistakes earlier in the season.

Cam McGrone is another option at the LB position. Despite being a young, 5th-round pick, I’ve seen great reports about him. It seems like the organization is instilling a lot of confidence in him. But again, the combination of youth and lack of experience tends to be a recipe for disaster in most cases.

Despite the negative feelings at the position up to this point, one of the positive transactions made at the LB position in the last few months was the move to acquire Mack Wilson Sr.

Mack’s NFL career is still young and full of potential, but he does not lack experience like McGrone, Perkins, and Uche do. Mack has been an active player in the Browns’ defense since his rookie year, and he’ll be a solid piece to the Patriots’ defense.

There’s optimism about the linebacker position in 2022, but there is also a fair amount of worry. It will be up to the young guys to make things happen next year.

Question From @ProgressGoBrr

Let’s face reality: Bill Belichick is 70 years old. Sure, he looks like he could go on forever, but that stoppage point for him will be coming sooner rather than later, whether we want to admit it or not.

I’m not necessarily concerned with the thought of Bill leaving anytime soon, but the Patriots need to ensure that they’re equipped with the right people and tools for when Belichick makes the announcement. A successor able to swoop in as Head Coach at any given moment is valuable for a team.

If Josh McDaniels were still the Offensive Coordinator, I would feel a lot more comfortable now, especially since Josh strikes me as more of a leader than anybody currently in the Patriots coaching system. Still, I know that Kraft can make the appropriate decisions moving forward. I’d assume that Belichick would also help in that process as well.

Question From @TataBieda

My quick answer: No, not at all.

First and foremost, I would disagree that the Patriots reached on Mac at all. If anything, they were fortunate to get Mac on their team in the first place. According to several reports, the 49ers were planning on drafting Mac Jones at #3 in the Draft, which means that Mac falling 12 spots further is nothing short of a miracle.

Looking back at it now, the move to part ways with Newton was a very smart one by Belichick. It’s not discussed enough, but I suspect that the Patriots knew they would be moving on from Newton from the early part of the 2021 off-season. I have a feeling that once Mac entered the training facility on Day 1, the Patriots knew they would be parting ways with Newton.

Question From @gcap24

This team has a lot more breakout-worthy talent than people give it credit.

For starters, you have the apparent candidate, Mac Jones. Mac is projected to take a considerable leap next season and seems to be putting in much more work than the required amount. Teammates and coaches have also stated that Mac lost a ton of weight this off-season, which is never a bad sign, especially as the quarterback position is gravitating towards a more mobile future.

Next, you have receivers. People like Kendrick Bourne, Devante Parker, and even Tyquan Thornton are all candidates to breakout. The most likely out of that bunch would probably be DeVante Parker for me since he had a wonderful season in 2019 and has shown flashes of elite talent over the last few years.

Then you have those who are overlooked. For me, that player is Pierre Strong Jr.

I have been a Pierre fan since before the Draft, and I was ecstatic to hear that we had drafted him. His tape out of college was highly impressive, and I hope his time with the Patriots, especially this year, shows the same production level.

But, if I had to choose from all those people, I would elect Mac Jones as my breakout candidate. His season last year as a rookie was nothing short of incredible, and I would expect him to continue on an upward, linear path.

Question From @icyphoenix36

My expectations this year for the Patriots are pretty high.

If Mac’s leap is large enough, I could see the squad making at least one playoff appearance. Mac’s leadership can be the driving factor to success next season, despite the holes that remain on this roster.

This group of boys always finds a way to bounce back and respond, even if it isn’t right at the moment. So I’m not worried about how the team will execute in big moments, especially with Mac steering the ship.

With that said, the AFC is as strong as ever, and the Patriots will need some luck to make it over ten wins. But, if they stick to their game plan, fight hard, and do all they can for victory, things might work out.

Question From @rahul_stuff

As I’ve said in this piece, all signs point towards Mac leaping into next season. It’s hard, almost impossible, to determine precisely how large that leap will be, but I expect it to be fairly decent.

My prediction for him next season:

Touchdowns: Right around the high-twenties to low-thirties range seems appropriate. He threw 22 TDs last season, and I see no reason why that number wouldn’t increase.

Interceptions: Probably around 10-13, like last year. Under ten interceptions would be great, but 13 interceptions in a season isn’t horrible, especially for a second-year quarterback.

Passing yards: Near 4,000-4,100 yards seems ideal and reasonable. In all likelihood, the new offensive system will be designed to give Mac more throws and deep-ball opportunities, which will simultaneously produce more yards.

Question From @LFGJEFF

N’Keal Harry is a lost cause for the Patriots at this point. A first-round pick in 2019, Harry had very high expectations entering his rookie season. However, after several years of failure, his time in New England will likely be coming to a somber end, either through his contract expiring or the Patriots releasing him.

I’m surprised that N’Keal is still on the team at this point in the off-season. There was talk about a trade or release being worked out in February, but nothing has happened yet.

Unfortunately, there is very little space for Harry on the team at this point. However, with the addition of Devante Parker, the breakout of Tre Nixon, and potential receiver signings still to come, a move to release Harry could happen at any moment.

Question From @Jakesmith1844

The next question comes from Jake Smith. Jake has an excellent podcast called the Sideline Spectator, and I suggest checking it out. You can access it by clicking on his profile linked above.

At this point, it would be absurd to question Belichick’s hires and methods. It is never a poor idea to keep coaches and staff members in check and criticize them when necessary. Still, he has already developed the trust within the Patriots fanbase to allow himself to hire people close to him. I doubt Belichick would be making a move if it wasn’t the right decision.

Some are overreacting to abstaining from offensive coaching titles, but there is justification to be frustrated. This decision is another case where fans have to put their trust in Belichick and understand that he is no stranger to the game of football. I have gotten a little confused at times with his staff-related decisions, but at the end of the day, he’s the expert.

Belichick Belichick began this title-less staff system when Matt Patricia left for the Lions in 2018. Belichick decided not to hire a defensive coordinator, instead electing to build up a group of experienced individuals to run the defense. This system was a great success, seeing as the team beat the Rams in the Super Bowl the following season.

Earlier this month, Bill described his process of converting the offense to a non-title system as streamlining.” Belichick’s streamlined offense is yet to take complete shape; however, some reports have escaped that it has been a little mess so far. Hopefully, Belichick can get things under control before training camp.

Question From @patsfanivlyfe

The next question comes via direct message. User @patsfanivlyfe asked me:

“Will the defense be more zone coverage or man-to-man since there’s no true shutdown corner on the roster?”

I guess that it will be a combination of both. Earlier last season, we saw the Patriots run some very man-heavy coverage but shifted more towards zone coverage as the year progressed. So I agree that the loss of JC Jackson will impact the type of coverage they run, but it may not be a significant change.

If I had to put my money on it, I would guess it would be a more zone-heavy defense, just because that is what excelled last year.

That is all I have for today.

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