As the Patriots prepare for the 2023 season, they face a lot of doubt from fans and the media about becoming a legitimate threat in the AFC East.
Most have already written the team and Mac Jones off entirely and named the Patriots the worst team in the division. On top of that, calls for Bill Belichick's job have begun, with several stories floating around about 2023 being the legendary coach's last season in New England.
And within that pessimistic conversation surrounding the upcoming season, how Jones will fare in his third NFL season continues to be up for debate. Because of his year-long struggling performance under Matt Patricia last season, there is a universal lack of confidence in what he can bring to the Patriots, with even some (still) believing Bailey Zappe is the right quarterback.
Since most of the takes involving New England continue not to be positive, former players have shared much of that opinion as well.
That is, until recently, when former Patriots linebacker Chris Long expressed his confidence in Jones for the season ahead, citing Bill O'Brien's influence as the most significant factor.
"You know, Mac’s going to be under a lot of pressure immediately, but I think he’s going to thrive. I think Bill (O’Brien) will help. If you said, ‘Hey, I’m going to put you under a hot lamp, but you actually have a guy who knows how to coach.’ That (will make a difference.)"
Although the consensus isn't high on Jones' overall talent and potential, much of what Long said about O'Brien's presence remains a common thread. Even if most feel the quarterback isn't the right guy or won't become much in the NFL, they generally all agree that O'Brien will play a significant part in improving the Patriots' offense.
The irony in that, though, is that O'Brien is also the quarterbacks coach. So not only will his impact be felt on the offense overall, but it will clearly be felt and seen by Jones.
Last season, Matt Patricia was calling the plays, and Joe Judge was working with the quarterbacks, despite their lack of experience working on the offensive side of the ball. Both areas dramatically declined from the previous season, and the inexperienced coaching undoubtedly had much to do with it.
Now that Jones will have an experienced and respected offensive coordinator moving forward, it's difficult to argue against what Long said; Jones will thrive.
From what has been seen so far at OTAs, the assumption appears correct. The quarterback has impressed those who have watched his on-field performance, and a drastic change in attitude has also been felt.
If that's what is being witnessed already in May and June, imagine what we could see come August and September when the real competition begins.