The Patriots' latest performance against the Saints on Sunday will inevitably be one of the hottest topics the media discusses throughout the week. Besides the speculation regarding what Bill Belichick will or won't do with Mac Jones for the rest of the year, there are a lot of questions surrounding the current state of the offense entirely.
Surely, warranted criticism will be made about how Jones has performed this season, as inexcusable decisions and costly turnovers have been made. But one aspect of the Patriots' offense cannot be overlooked any longer, especially with the impact it very clearly has on the team every week.
And that is the putrid work by the offensive line.
Although some will deem it excuse-making for the quarterback, opposing things can be true simultaneously. Jones can be stinking it up on the field while also being affected by the lack of consistent protection from the linemen.
The importance of proper blocking from the o-line seems to go under the radar for most people. It's the basis for success in nearly every aspect of what the offense does. It makes the quarterback's job easier, opens up the run game, and allows wide receivers to run their routes without being railroaded immediately by opposing defenders on the line.
Without an offensive line doing its job, the offense will essentially be at a standstill, resulting in what we've seen from the Patriots over the last five weeks.
Despite the offseason hiring of Adrian Klemm to take over as the o-line coaching position from Matt Patricia, the unit has looked even worse than it did last season. Some of that may be indicative of Klemm's coaching; it's difficult to really assert that at the moment, but it all traces back to Belichick's negligence in addressing the roster during free agency.
With Michael Onwenu and Cole Strange dealing with injuries that kept them sidelined throughout the summer and having three rookie interior linemen on the roster, Belichick chose not to go after some of the top-name talent available in free agency. Instead, he waited until days before the opening game to make trades for practice squad players/depth pieces, which would never be the proper improvements for the line.
Because of that, we've seen more than enough evidence that not enough was done leading up to the year, and now the offense is paying for it.
Other than Jones creating issues of his own in games, he also has been the victim of having little to no time to assess the field in order to make adequate decisions. It has been especially bad over the last three weeks, where he has dealt with the highest pressure rates of his three-year career.
One of the most distressing parts of it all is that there isn't a single lineman performing well; it's not just the ones dealing with injury or are inexperienced. Even the most reliable players, like David Andrews and Michael Onwenu, are not performing up to par.
And to top it all off, the few players Belichick did bring in to seemingly help, Calvin Anderson and Vederian Lowe, have been the worst of the bunch, proving even more that his decision not to address the unit much earlier in free agency was a massive mistake.
It's a lot to expect a quarterback to overcome this type of obstacle set in front of them when they rely on the protection of the offensive line to do their jobs. Clearly, Jones has played inexcusably for most of the 2023 season, and this just makes his job even more difficult.
How Belichick will address this the rest of the season, particularly as soon as possible, will be intriguing, especially given how his reputation has taken a hit over the last few weeks. He reiterated the need to start over and make changes to the team after Sunday's loss, but what that entails is unknown.
With the trade deadline just a few weeks away, perhaps he will choose to improve the o-line that way. It's difficult to imagine drastic moves will be made, but it's fair to assume the conversations between Belichick and Robert Kraft have not been pleasant, potentially forcing the head coach to do things he typically wouldn't. And when your season and possible job are on the line, it's probably the right time to do that.