With the Patriots’ first preseason game this week, all eyes will be on the offense in hopes of seeing a better grasp on the playbook and consistency.
As the start of preseason games approach, the Patriots’ offense has a lot to overcome as they continue to learn a new offensive scheme.
In training camp so far, there have only been three practices with pads, thus not giving a lot of true work to discuss. But the offense’s struggle to learn the new playbook has been more obvious than anything else leading to concerns about how they’ll look in Thursday’s game against the New York Giants.
What have been the biggest issues in camp so far?
Mac Jones showing frustration throughout camp, performance is lacking because of it
The biggest point of emphasis this week will need to be consistency. There are not many new players on the offense this year, with mostly all from last season returning. And Mac Jones had an impressive rookie outing. However, the introduction of a brand new offense is taking its toll on the quarterback and it shows.
Although Jones’ performance has been highly discussed, he hasn’t been the biggest problem to date. Boston Herald beat reporter, Andrew Callahan, noted that Jones’ completion percentage at this point in camp is significantly better than last year. But given the extent of the offensive struggles, there’s not much of a silver lining to see.
On Monday, the offense continued to flounder, with some beat reporters calling it the “worst offensive outing of camp so far.” The o-line was predominately the issue once again, giving Jones little time to accomplish anything offensively.
Something getting lost in the shuffle is the possibility that Josh McDaniels’ departure will prove to be more problematic than anticipated. Jones is only beginning his second NFL season, already adapting to the changes from college to the pros. And now he’s forced to learn another new system, with new coaches as well.
Will this prove to be too much? Is it a disservice to Jones to make all these changes?
The offensive line is providing no protection to quarterbacks or running backs, controlling the limited success rate of any plays attempted
Drills are different due to the change in scheme, but one hurdle this offense needs to address the most is protection. Both Jones and Bailey Zappe have had several plays ending in either a throw-away or tucking of the football. They’re not given much time to complete a play successfully.
Some of that can be attributed to the development in understanding the new play-calling, yet at the same time, it’s clear the offensive line is disjointed as a group.
The Boston Herald’s Karen Guregian spoke with Patriots’ former OL coach, Dante Scarnecchia, on Monday about the difficulties seen so far in camp and the legendary coach seems more optimistic than most;
"“I would say this, in fairness to everyone, I just think this is the wrong time to evaluate it. The pads have come on, but they’re not playing real football yet. Whenever they play the Giants, we’ll have a better idea where this thing is. Even at that point, it’s not totally fair to say they can’t (do it)."
Scar would go on to say, “What doesn’t look good in training camp early, has no bearing on anything.” which in most cases, is true. But it has been some time since a Belichick-coached Patriots team has struggled through camp this much and for this long. This in turn has created a lot of drama in the media and the fans.
This may not settle the worries of most people, but coming from a man that knows offensive lines and Belichick more than nearly anyone, his words should hold more weight. And it appears there is not much worry within the Patriots organization despite what onlookers are saying.
What about the run game/running backs?
A lot of this goes hand-in-hand with the inconsistent protection at the line.
From what’s been seen in camp so far, the defense is easily having their way, stopping any significant running play and getting to the quarterback.
Part of the new Shanahan-style scheme is heavy on the run game, making a lot of the work in practices so far with the running backs. But because the line is getting beaten immediately on almost every play, the plays are nearly DOA every time.
That continued during Monday’s padded practice;
If the offensive line cannot get into a groove, there’s no chance the run game will ever be successful. It’s still early in the training camp process, with Monday being only the 10th practice and just the third day with pads. And more will become clear once the team finally plays a real game, even if it is just one in the preseason.
But the concerns are continuing to grow with little optimism as the days go by. It appeared the offense took a step back on Monday, which led David Andrews to gather the entire offense mid-field at the end of the day, seemingly discussing the state of their struggles.
There’s even been talk from reporters, like Mike Reiss, on the possibility of the Patriots bringing in Scarnecchia to at least help diagnose the problem and how to fix it. Whether or not the retired coach would be interested in that is yet to be seen. But the idea of it certainly doesn’t hurt.
Where does the Patriots’ offense go from here?
There are still five weeks until the start of the regular season with several practices left between now and then. There is still time for the offense to get in sync and solve the issues at hand, and the next few practices as well as their game against the Giants will be very telling.
But how the improvements needed will be made are still the biggest questions.