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Patriots Offseason Mailbag – Addressing The Hottest Fan Questions

For Patriots nation, offseason is as intriguing a time as the season itself. When Belichick is at the helm, you can never quite tell what’s going to happen, but this offseason is a critical one for the Patriots and bound to be extremely busy. Here, I look at the biggest burning questions from fans, and offer my thoughts.

Nikki asks: “Do the Patriots keep Mac and build the O-line to protect him, or go with a different QB?”

Regardless of who’s under center, fixing the situation at tackle is an absolute non-negotiable must. There’s no quarterback out there who can just magically navigate a situation in which they’re constantly rushed on both edges and brought behind the sticks by avoidable penalties. Furthermore, bringing in Bill O’Brien as their new offensive coordinator shows, at the very least, that Belichick and Kraft aren’t placing all of the blame on their QB.

It’s too early to give up on the first-rounder. His time at Alabama showed just how electric he can be with the right playmakers, offensive line, and good play calling. His rookie season showed potential at the NFL level, and it’s not fair to judge a season in which he was marred by a combination of injury, poor play calling, and awful play at the tackle position. The Patriots should build their offensive line in a draft that’s full of talented tackles, go for another offensive weapon, and let O’Brien’s vision settle in, and see how Mac can do in that situation before giving up on him.

Randy asks: “With the addition of Bill O’Brien back on staff, what offensive scheme do you expect the Patriots to run? Specifically, do you expect the playbook to open up for Mac to take more chances down the field or do you expect them to run a run-first, short pass game that we’ve been accustomed to from the Patriots? Also, any chance Tom comes back?”

I expect a healthy balance of pass and run, and more importantly, situationally focused football, which will differ greatly from a Matt Patricia offense whose play calls didn’t at all match the down and distance. The quick game was too predictable last year, and its overuse made it very difficult for the Patriots to consistently string together drives.

With weapons like Thornton and Parker on the roster, and the potential to acquire more in the draft and free agency, it would be a waste to not try to integrate more explosiveness into the play calling. Mac’s arm has gotten strong due to his work with throwing coach Tom House, so from there, it’s a matter of finding the right situations to use the deep passing game, and to find the balance between aggression and calculated decisions. Certainly, the Patriots shouldn’t lose the checkdowns and short to medium length throws that Mac has excelled at from day 1.

For the Patriots’ offense, it’s all about presenting a balanced and complete offense. They need to be unpredictable with what they do, and need to present every possible attack pattern to keep defenses honest. Last year, they failed on both fronts, but with O’Brien at the helm and Mac heading into his third year, they have the best chance of doing so that they’ve had so far.

The Tom question is interesting. I think there’s certainly a chance, and whether it’s actually as a full member of the team or just a one-day contract, Brady really should be ending his career in New England. It would, in many ways, be a dream come true for Brady to return and run it back. Imagining Belichick breaking Shula’s record with Brady sends chills down my spine in the best way. Ultimately, I don’t see it happening for three reasons.

First of all, the Patriots need to think about the long term, and when they drafted Mac in the first round in 2021, they were doing just that. Going with Brady could, while producing one or two nostalgic years, make the Patriots need to somewhat restart in their search for their future.

Second of all, Brady, with just a couple years left at the most, may not be looking for a team that’s in somewhat of a project phase right now. Finally, Brady’s 20 years in New England were wonderful – he himself said that he wouldn’t trade it for anything. Perhaps, other than a one-day contract at the time of retirement, it’s best to leave that book closed with all of the wonderful content inside.

Nate asks: “Any chance we make a trade for D-hop? If not what receiver could we go for if Meyers doesn’t come back?

Regardless of what happens with Meyers, I feel that the Patriots need a true number-one receiver. Likely, the one to make way would be Agholor, whose skillset is valuable but covered by the others, and whose drops and fumbles are too costly for the team to keep him in such a deep receiver core. The others, Thornton, Meyers, Parker, Bourne, are very good players, with different skillsets, that are all number two or three receivers. However, the Patriots lack that intimidating downfield weapon who can change the course of the game.

Hopkins would be an excellent choice, and while the O’Brien signing adds a complication to that given their history in Houston, there’s no doubt that Hopkins would add the reliability, competitive fire, and explosiveness the Patriots need. Belichick hasn’t been one to play the game of bidding wars, nor does he like to shell out exorbitant amounts of money, so that’s the drawback there.

If not Hopkins, the draft is certainly an option, but the Patriots have more pressing needs to address there, particularly tackle. Jerry Jeudy screams out to me. He’s an excellent route runner, has reliable hands, and is extremely difficult to keep up with. He had the most underappreciated 967-yard season one will ever see, and in a good offensive system, he can do so much more. His relationship with Mac Jones at Alabama, both as a former target and roommate, only increases the allure for him to be on the team.

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