Opinion: Watching Patriots’ new offense is a tough ask

  • New England Patriots assistant coach Joe Judge with quarterback Mac Jones (10) and offensive lineman Bailey Zapp (55) during training camp at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., on Tuesday. Matt Stone / Boston Herald via TNS

  • Second-year Patriots quarterback Mac Jones has been frustrated by the apparent lack of progress in adapting to a new offense system in training camp. Steven Senne / AP

  • New England Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne extends for a catch during Wednesday’s training camp session in Foxborough, Mass. The grab was one of the few attractive things about the Patriots’ offense to date. Steven Senne / ap photos

Boston Herald
Published: 8/4/2022 11:34:29 PM

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Since Saturday, Mac Jones and the New England Patriots offense has been well behind on the training camp scoreboard.

It’s been a string of losses, with the defense outplaying the offense day after day.

Jones & Co. just can’t cobble together many positive plays during 11-on-11s, and that’s against a defense that didn’t force Josh Allen and the Bills to punt the last two times they met.

The growing pains of installing a new offense, streamlined or not, has been on full display. And that has left Jones more than a little frustrated at the end of the day, as the Patriots quarterback fled in a hurry following Saturday’s forgettable ending sequence that included a pick-six.

With pads on the last two days, it hasn’t gotten much better. It still looks out of sorts, as the unit searches for consistency.

In some ways, the daily results are killing the second-year quarterback — metaphorically, of course — as Jones explained what he was feeling on Saturday.

“I care a lot about football. We all do. It’s very competitive, and when we lose ‘the day,’ to me, that’s like a shot in the heart. It’s like we lost the game,” Jones said following Tuesday’s practice. “So there’s a lot more than that because it’s practice and you want to learn. But at the end of the day, we’re out here competing.

“The goal is to have more good plays than the other team, and in this case, that’s the defense right now,” he went on. “I feel we can compete even more and even better. But a lot of it is just execution and the Xs and Os and figuring out how to communicate with each other. So better days ahead.”

Some progress has been made, but it’s been baby steps at best. The rookies have been talking about getting 1% better every day.

That’s a pretty apt description of the offensive improvement, as Jones & Co. attempt to break in a new outside zone scheme, filled with heavy doses of jet motion, along with running play-action that utilizes more bootlegs.

On one play, Jones was forced to run for his life — and not by design — as Ja’Whaun Bentley broke in from the blind side without being touched. Henry Anderson also came in unscathed on another play.

Jones says it all boils down to improving their communication, along with solving the problems they’re having up front.

“We have a lot of room to grow here. I think our offensive line is doing a good job. We just have to get on the same page,” Jones said. “A lot of it is talking through it and finding ways to attack better. But we have great coaches that will get us there.”

Do they?

Neither Matt Patricia or Joe Judge has ever coached a quarterback or called offensive plays. Bill Belichick has, and he certainly qualifies as being great, but it remains to be seen what Patricia and Judge can do.

Ever since the pads came on, Patricia’s offensive line has watched their counterparts on defense control the line of scrimmage.

Christian Barmore has been a constant disruptor, Matthew Judon has made his presence felt and others have gotten clean shots at Jones as well.

Yes, it’s a work in progress, one that continues long after practice ends.

“The biggest thing is just getting the plays on the screen and watching them,” said Jones. “ ‘All right, here’s the problem. This guy’s unblocked. How do we block him?’

“It’s really not rocket science, but our job is to execute what they tell us and go through my reads and go through my run looks, and we’re going to continue to grow in that area.”

Currently, they’re running base plays and having trouble. So they haven’t been able to get past the first level.

To be fair, it hasn’t all been bad. Receivers have taken turns shining. Monday was DeVante Parker’s day. On Tuesday, it was Nelson Agholor who emerged from the fray. He made a couple nice catches during the team periods.

But for the most part, especially with the run plays, it seems like a hot mess.

While it’s a bit early to start pushing any panic buttons, if this is how it looks come September and October, it’ll be a disaster.

Jones says he’s partly experimenting with plays, but that doesn’t answer for all the issues they’re having transitioning into more of a zone-based running game. Clearly, they need more practice and more repetitions to get comfortable and find some kind of rhythm.

Because right now, no one is in sync. Jones desperately wants the offense to work, he wants to feel good about what they’re doing. It’s just not happening right now.

It’s about growing pains. It’s also about having patience. But given what’s at stake, it’s hard to feel good about the offense moving at what seems like a snail’s pace while getting all the kinks out with the new system.

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