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Mac Jones In 2022: Sophomore Slump? Or Healthy Second-Year Jump?

A quarterback’s second season is always closely watched and scrutinized, and Mac Jones’ sophomore year will not be an exception. As a result, the Patriots needed to make several changes this offseason to set their young quarterback up for success not only in 2022 but for the years to come.

Did they make those changes? Or did too much change for a young quarterback to overcome?

After a successful rookie season, Jones has a lot to live up to in comparison. Mac’s been training with teammates throughout the spring and is said to have worked with some of the best trainers available to him. But will this be enough to avoid the typical sophomore slump? Can Jones build upon his successful rookie season?

Inevitably the answer won’t come until the 2022 season ends. But with the many factors brought on by the team and Jones himself, it seems more likely he is set up for a successful year.

New Coaches = More Involvement In Playbook

There have been many coaching changes within the Patriots organization this offseason, particularly with Josh McDaniels heading to the Las Vegas Raiders to take over head coaching duties. However, the longtime offensive coordinator’s departure creates uncertainty about who will be replacing him.

But there are some fresh minds in the mix for the offense, according to Belichick.

Although the team hasn’t given proper titles to most of their coaching staff, it’s looking like Joe Judge and Matt Patricia will be heavily involved with the offense from what has transpired so far this offseason. Given their coaching histories, some feel they are odd choices, but nothing has been made official yet.

Shortly after his stint as head coach of the New York Giants, Judge returned to his first NFL home with New England. He had spent seven years with the Patriots before his head coaching gig, with most of his experience as the particular team’s coordinator.

Judge did spend some time working as the wide receivers coach in 2019, giving him some offensive experience.

After spending 13 years in Foxboro, Patricia took the role of head coach for the Detroit Lions for the 2018-2020 seasons. Last year, he was brought back to the team and given the “senior football advisor” title.

Patricia has worked with several units within the team throughout his NFL career, including the offensive line, linebackers, and safeties, and was named the defensive coordinator from 2012 to 2017.

Both coaches may be newer additions, but they have quite a history with the team. With no official titles given to them at this point, it’s difficult to say what exactly their roles will entail. But with Jones going into his second season with the Patriots, it’s fair to assume he will be heavily involved with creating this season’s playbook.

He is also taking ownership of the offense, willing to vouch for plays and concepts that he likes and pump the brakes on the stuff that hasn’t worked. Jeff Howe of The Athletic

It’s been many years since the team’s offense has had a fresh set of eyes and ideas in creating what the offense will do. Jones’ involvement will be vital in determining their creativity and success. As the leader of the offense, he is just as, if not more, knowledgeable of the capabilities of his receivers and what worked best for them last season.

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Offseason Training Will Pay Off

Much of the offseason reporting regarding Jones recently has been detailing his training with not only members of the Patriots’ offense but with some well-known coaches in the football world. The Patriots’ staff are said to be impressed with all the quarterback’s work and are happy with the progress he has already made.

This shouldn’t be very surprising, but the Patriots sound ecstatic with quarterback Mac Jones’ offseason dedication. Jones has spent long hours at Gillette Stadium, often beating the coaching staff into the building to get a jump-start on film study for the day. Jeff Howe of The Athletic

It had been a rumor circulating for some time, but Jones finally confirmed he had worked with the quarterback’s coach, Tom House. A name familiar to longtime Patriots fans, House is known to have worked with Tom Brady for years as well as Drew Brees and Justin Herbert.

With some concern over his “lack of arm strength” in particular, working with House on the basics and more to improve his game will certainly show this upcoming season.

On top of working on his performance on the field, Jones has also noticeably slimmed down with help from the team’s nutritionist Ted Harper. When asked what his offseason regimen has been like, Jones said, “I learned more this offseason than I probably ever have about nutrition, sleep, wellness, etc. So I’m taking what I learned that I feel will help me and apply it.”

His teammates have seen the changes, too, as many have mentioned how impressed they are with their QB’s work.

Jones also worked with the Patriots’ strength and conditioning coach, Moses Cabrera. His participation in offseason training with teammates, then at OTA’s, has shown his dedication and a visible change in the quarterback. The extra time Jones has put in is a clear indication of his readiness to have an even better second NFL season.

Improvements To Offensive Weapons

After the big spending spree of last year’s offseason, it was unlikely many new players would be added to the Patriots team. However, with offensive struggles continuing in 2021, despite the number of big-name additions, there was hope that Belichick would bring in a top-name offensive talent.

Because of their limited cap space and their seeming unwillingness to manipulate it too much to create the space needed, top-name free-agent WRs signed elsewhere. But Belichick did manage to achieve an in-division trade with the Dolphins, trading a couple of draft picks for DeVante Parker.

Bringing in Parker may not be an ideal scenario for many, but he does add some improvement to the wide receiver room. It doesn’t appear there is an obvious WR1 yet, even with Parker’s addition. However, with OTA’s and training camp nearing, this could drastically change the potential depth chart.

The Patriots also added another receiver through the draft this year, selecting WR Tyquan Thornton in the second round. Thornton has blazing 4.28 speed, which will be a valuable tool for Mac to maximize.

Additionally, WR/RB combo player Ty Montgomery was signed in free agency, making him another possible versatile piece of this young offense.

But Belichick didn’t stop there, as he also drafted two RBs this year. Pierre Strong Jr. and Kevin Harris make a crowded RB room with James White returning. It’s unclear how much playing time both will get during their rookie seasons, but those questions could be answered in the upcoming weeks.

Although the organization didn’t make any giant leaps in free agency, it did bring in players with high potential for the foreseeable future. As a result, the offense is getting younger and faster, which the team desperately needed.

Plus, a majority of the leading players of the offense will be heading into year two with the Patriots this season. Their familiarity with Jones, the coaches, and team operations will be a massive benefit for the team overall.

The 2022 Draft Was All About Jones

Because it appears New England has their starting quarterback for years to come, they were able to enter this year’s draft with the knowledge of who to draft that best suits their offense.

Before the draft, Belichick re-signed a handful of essential players from the offensive side of the ball.

Maintaining those such as Trent Brown and James White ensures Jones will have familiar guys around him who know how he plays and how the Patriots run things.

Once the draft began, it was clear gaining more protection for Jones while also selecting more future weapons was the focus.

Although many of the picks were not favorable to most, Belichick could get his hands on some of the best available at their position. That started with the shocking drafting of Cole Strange in the first round. Certainly not a popular choice, but a valuable one nonetheless. Strange was at the top of the list for OL due to his athleticism, and he fills a significant need for the team.

The rest of the draft went similarly, as they chose a WR in the second and double-dipped at running back in later rounds. Adding more depth to skill positions with younger and faster performers was made apparent this year, ensuring Jones will have a lot of talent around him.

The draft ended for the Patriots by selecting two OL in rounds six and seven. They are not locks to make the team, but protecting their quarterback was also significant for New England in this draft.

With other positions seeming to need help, the heavy offensive draft made it crystal clear that the Patriots want to set Jones up for success the best way they can.

Check out our other articles @ Gillette Gazette And follow Sara on Twitter @smarshxo

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