New England Patriots rookies report back to training camp Tuesday, and the crew’s first on-field observe is only a week off. Forward of the Patriots’ 63rd coaching camp, we take an in depth have a look at the 5 greatest storylines surrounding the six-time Tremendous Bowl champions.
5 storylines for New England Patriots coaching camp
The Patriots in 2021 reached the playoffs for the 18th time in 21 years — and did so with a rookie quarterback. However an offseason of unprecedented change within the AFC has Invoice Belichick going through his stiffest competitors but in his bid to return to the Tremendous Bowl for the tenth time because the Patriots coach.
With Josh McDaniels gone, who will name offensive performs?
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It’s a captivating dynamic. Every thing Belichick does is a bit totally different. He’s an eccentric who’s been rewarded for his eccentricity to the tune of eight Tremendous Bowl rings, courting again to his time as an assistant with the New York Giants.
However even by his requirements, it’s a bit wild that Belichick’s prime two offensive coaches heading into 2022 — Matt Patricia and Joe Choose — are failed head coaches who’ve by no means known as offensive performs earlier than. Neither has tight ends/fullbacks coach Nick Caley, who’s additionally reportedly within the combine. Which is likely to be why none of them have been formally named the successor to Josh McDaniels, now the HC in Las Vegas.
The Athletic in June reported that “it’s trending in Patricia’s course” that the previous Patriots defensive coordinator would be the Patriots’ new de facto offensive coordinator, however no resolution had been made. And we will’t absolutely rule out Belichick doing the job himself if none of his lieutenants are as much as the job.
Does Mac Jones have the potential for greatness, or has he already peaked?
That palace intrigue has come throughout a vital second in quarterback Mac Jones’ profession. The 2021 draft’s fifteenth general choose made the Professional Bowl as a rookie, main the Patriots to the playoffs in a season wherein he accomplished 67.6% of his passes for 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
By any honest analysis, Jones exceeded expectations in 2021 and was simply the very best QB in a rookie class that had severe star energy. And it’s encouraging that Jones is in much better form in Yr 2 than he was as a rookie. However questions stay about whether or not he has the bodily items to make the leap from good to nice.
Jones is superb at throwing to the second degree, however he was far beneath common throwing to the third. Jones’ passer score on makes an attempt between the hashes thrown past 20 yards in 2021 was a ghastly 19.0 per Next Gen Stats — a full 65 factors beneath the league common.
Jones additionally wasn’t as correct as somebody with out A+ arm power must be. His on-target fee (76%) and unhealthy throw fee (17.7%) have been each center of the pack.
The Patriots bought Jones some assist in the offseason — drafting speedster Tyquan Thornton in Spherical 2 and buying and selling for former first-round choose DeVante Parker — however no one in that locker room is gifted sufficient to raise Jones to greatness. He’ll need to largely try this himself.
Will the NFL’s fourth-ranked protection take a step again after a bunch of key losses?
It’ll rely largely on how successfully the Patriots exchange J.C. Jackson.
We’re not saying their front-seven items are irrelevant — they’ve misplaced practically twenty years of expertise at linebacker with the departure of Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy — however Belichick has largely made it work with scheme.
Nevertheless, his system doesn’t work with out top-tier cornerback play, and prior to now, he’s paid a premium to ensure it. Not so in 2022, when the Patriots don’t have a single cornerback among the many top 30 in salary.
Anticipate a spirited camp battle at each boundary CB spots, with Jalen Mills, Jonathan Jones (who’s finest suited as a slot nook), Terrance Mitchell, Malcolm Butler, Shaun Wade, and rookies Marcus Jones and Jack Jones all getting lengthy appears to be like.
What’s the Patriots’ plan at working again past Damien Harris?
New England hasn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2016 (LeGarrette Blount — 1,161), however Damien Harris appears to be like like a lock to be the subsequent if he stays wholesome. He fell simply 71 yards shy of the milestone regardless of lacking two video games final 12 months.
However a Patriots again hasn’t had 250 or extra carries in a season since Blount’s 2016 marketing campaign, so anticipate one other committee strategy by New England in 2022. Rhamondre Stevenson, who averaged 4.6 yards per carry as a rookie, might be a giant a part of that committee.
It’ll be attention-grabbing to see who emerges because the Patriots’ pass-catching working again, notably with James White reportedly nonetheless a bit gimpy 10 months after struggling a hip harm that required surgical procedure. That would open the door for rookie Pierre Robust Jr. (taken within the fourth spherical) to take over that position. That’s a bet, nevertheless.
Solely two groups — the Eagles and Rams — are spending much less on working backs than the Patriots this 12 months ($7.1 million total). We’ll quickly see if that thriftiness is savvy or reckless.
Are the Patriots taking part in for a Wild Card, or can they cling with the Payments?
The Buffalo Payments entered the 2022 offseason because the AFC East’s most gifted crew, and nothing that’s occurred since has modified that. Actually, the hole between the Payments and Patriots could have even grown within the final six months with Buffalo’s signing of Von Miller.
The Payments are favorites to not solely repeat as division champs, however win the Tremendous Bowl. The Patriots, in the meantime, must fend off the Dolphins (and even perhaps the Jets) in what appears to be like to be the very best AFC East from prime to backside in many years.