Can Bill O'Brien really be the difference-maker for the Patriots' offense in 2023?

Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots
Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots / Elsa/GettyImages

The struggles the Patriots endured throughout the 2022 season are well known by now, with the primary focus remaining on the lackluster performance season-long by the offense.

The improvements needed were so evident that even Robert Kraft expressed his disappointment with the team and the decisions that led to the forgettable season. With the owner's comments being leaked to the public, the pressure was on Bill Belichick to make the right moves during the offseason to put the team in a better position to succeed, and for the most part, he accomplished that.

The most decorated move was the re-hiring of former offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien, giving him his old position back along with becoming the quarterback's coach. It was a well-received decision by the head coach after the disaster that made Matt Patricia the offensive play-caller for the 2022 season.

O'Brien's return to New England brought united excitement from the fans and media, considering how unwatchable the offense was last season. And even several players have spoken highly of their new coach, with Mac Jones sharing the overall excitement among the offense ahead of training camp.

But will O'Brien's presence be enough to improve the offense's performance drastically?

According to NFL Insider Dan Graziano, who recently wrote about the "biggest quarterback questions for all 32 teams," O'Brien's influence and experience will undoubtedly be a massive help. But he questions if enough was done to the roster to give Jones enough playmakers to make a real difference.

"This offseason, Belichick brought back O’Brien, who was the Pats’ OC in 2011, and he’ll be charged with getting Jones back on track. The Patriots still don’t appear to have surrounded Jones with a very inspiring group of receivers, but the hope is O’Brien’s experience on the offensive side of the ball will set things right and allow Jones to continue to develop."

It's a fair argument that Belichick didn't bring in the top-tier receiver we've all been clamoring for over the last several years. Still, it's also reasonable to say that he brought in some unique offensive talent that could make a more significant impact than initially thought.

The additions of JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mike Gesicki are not what most are excited about, but both can elevate the offense in different ways; Smith-Schuster can be everything Jakobi Meyers was and more, while Gesicki can be utilized as a tight end or a jumbo receiver who can help get Hunter Henry open and also providing Jones with another weapon in the red zone.

Then there's running back James Robinson, a dual-threat player out of the backfield, who was once on the trajectory to being one of the best at the position in the NFL. His presence gives the offense more opportunities to open the field and take a load off of Rhamondre Stevenson, who carried the running back duties throughout last season.

Plus, a plethora of dynamic talent was added via the draft this year. They may not be the first-rounders that most were hoping for, but the potentials of Kayshon Boutte and Demario Douglas could put the offense over the top.

Of course, with so many new and rookie players added to the team, there will be an adjustment period before it all comes together. However, that's predominately what the preseason is for, so hopefully, we'll see a more functional offense this summer than we did last.

O'Brien has a tall task ahead of him when the Patriots return to work this week for OTAs and training camp just around the corner. But his years of experience and vast knowledge of running a successful offense will be the most crucial aspect in how this team works and prepares through practices, compared to the last offseason mess.

So could O'Brien be the missing piece to get this offense back on track? It seems more likely than not, but time will tell.