Patriots Season Preview
BY ERIC ZHAO '25
As the clock hit zero in the Patriots’ do-or-die season finale versus the Buffalos, it capped off a rollercoaster ride that was the 2022 season, leaving more questions than answers—uncharacteristic for a Patriots’ season's end. They found themselves a step behind where they stood the previous season: failing to make it to the playoffs. Looking ahead to this year, the team is even more uncertain with its revamped offense, Mac Jones and the quarterback position, plus the new draft class. The Patriots hope these changes will solve some of the shortcomings from last season and get them back on a winning track.
The offense took a massive step back last season with Belichick placing Matt Patricia as offensive coordinator; he had zero experience as an offensive coach. It’s like telling your Algebra teacher to suddenly teach English—you know it’s not going to end well. To make matters worse, the offense was lethargic throughout the whole season; instead of acting as a driving force, the offense often held the team back. Ironically, the defense and special teams often scored more than the offense. This season, there’s a renewed sense of optimism because the Patriots hired former Texans HC and offensive coordinator, Bill O’Brien, to steer the mess-of-an-offense back into normalcy. O’Brien served as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator in 2011, and he did a very good job back then. The Patriots also overhauled their offensive personnel, letting go of several offensive players in favor of new ones, notably Jakobi Meyers, Jonnu Smith, and Nelson Agholor for JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mike Gesicki. Smith and Agholor never fully clicked with the Patriots during their two-year tenure, and the Patriots deemed they could get better value from a player with Meyers’ contract and asking price. With these new additions, the Patriots hope for a cohesive team, a renewed sense of unity, and a strong season ahead.
Next up, let’s delve into Mac Jones and the quarterback position. Following a promising rookie season, this 2021 first-round pick was essentially the Patriots’ future franchise quarterback; however, the challenges he faced last year have dampened Jones’ future with the team. As a result, much of the fanbase views him as damaged goods, unable to regain his talent. Nonetheless, with the introduction of a new offense and under Bill O’Brien’s guidance, the Patriots can restore and rekindle Jones’s passing skills to where he once was. This season is a make-or-break one for Jones, and if he falters, they may look for his replacement, whether that’s Bailey Zappe or potentially a new quarterback.
The Patriots’ 2023 draft class looks to cement themselves as staples in the team's future. Patriots’ first-round pick Christian Gonzalez hopes to be the team’s shutdown corner for years, while versatile linebacker-safety hybrid Marte Mapu will help fill the role of the retired key pass defender Devin McCourty. Kicker Chad Ryland seems to be the future of the kicking position, succeeding the aging Nick Folk, while punter Bryce Baringer is hopefully the answer to the team’s punting struggles over the past two seasons. Don’t sleep on the low-draft picks and undrafted free agents, too. In every situation, there's a hidden gem, like Julian Edelman, Marcus Cannon, Malcolm Butler, J.C. Jackson, and Mike Onwenu.
There are many things to look out for this season, but the main ones are the new-and-(should-be)-improved offense, namely Mac Jones and the quarterback position, and the fresh rookies. With the most difficult schedule the Patriots have had in years, it looks to be a tough season for this team, especially in a division where each team has only gotten stronger; the Pats may get ten wins if they’re lucky. Owner Robert Kraft’s mounting frustration with the team’s inability to win, let alone make it to the playoffs, has added heat to Belichick’s seat. Especially since the departure of Tom Brady, the greatest player in franchise and league history, Belichick’s record is a mediocre 25-25 without any playoff wins. This is a far cry from the sustained success they had for nearly two decades. Should the Patriots fail to improve this season, Belichick’s time with them will be short-lived and the team will change far from how we once knew it.