Entering just the third game of the 2023 season, there have already been some people who have concluded what the Patriots season will look like the rest of the way. Other than most fans deeming them an "untalented" team all around and claiming they will finish the year below .500, a lot of the blame for the offensive woes continues to be placed on the shoulders of Mac Jones.
Typically, that is expected of the quarterback of any team when their play warrants it. But Jones has done nothing to support the argument that he is the leading cause for the struggles the offense has dealt with through two games so far.
It has become the talking point of disappointed fans who have convinced themselves that Bill Belichick can somehow recreate the magic he had with Tom Brady over two decades. Since that hasn't yet happened with Jones, he's clearly not the guy.
Although he's only going into his third season in the NFL, with one very questionable year due to Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, some fans feel he's been given more than enough time to prove if he can be Brady 2.0. And because he hasn't, he is labeled a terrible quarterback.
That negativity has made its way into this season, as the Patriots haven't looked like a well-oiled machine in the first two games, resulting in two straight home losses to start the season. Despite the apparent improvements they've made from one year ago, Bill O'Brien's rehiring was expected to make the offense something reminiscent of one run by Patrick Mahomes, apparently, but that will never happen.
There are clear issues that the offense needs to work out, primarily that of the offensive line, which has hindered not just Jones' performance but the run game as well. Rhamondre Stevenson has had a forgettable start, which was unexpected given how impressive he looked last year. And Ezekiel Elliott hasn't been able to be fully utilized yet because of the uncertainty of protection from the linemen.
But that's where the arguments of some fans start to get odd.
We can all acknowledge the shortcomings of the offensive line with no issue, but when it comes to those most impacted by their poor performance, Jones gets the brunt of the blame, while the running backs get all the excuses in the world.
How does that make any sense, especially when the statistics easily prove against that theory?
The offensive line has been atrocious through two games
As it's already been stated, the state of the offensive line is an irrefutable fact that most Patriots fans agree on.
We knew this would be an issue to start the season since the unit didn't look great throughout the summer. Plus, Belichick chose not to address the line early in the draft and actually decided to take defensive players until selecting center Jake Andrews with the 107th overall pick in the fourth round.
The head coach did make the right move regarding who was in charge of coaching the OL, removing Matt Patricia from that position and hiring Adrian Klemm. But not treating the roster as a priority throughout the draft and free agency has already proven to have been a big mistake, and even a more established coach like Klemm cannot be expected to overcome that.
It all has (obviously) impacted the offense as a whole, most notably the run game and Jones. Their performances have suffered due to unreliable protection and having a pass block win rate of an abysmal 37%. It's been so bad that the assumed stars of the offense, Elliott and Stevenson, have had unanticipated lackluster starts, which weakens an already unspectacular offense as it is.
Through two games, the iconic duo has averaged just 82 rushing yards per game and an average of just 3.5 yards per carry. Because they haven't been able to establish the run well, Bill O'Brien has been forced to have Jones pass the ball on over 68% of all plays, the fourth-highest rate in the league.
It's not a good look for a team that should be a run-first offense, yet two of their top offensive weapons are constantly sidelined or used in the passing game because they can be appropriately utilized in their given positions.
Even with this known, as previously stated, Jones has gotten the most blame for it all. But it should be safe to believe that most understand the importance of a functioning offensive line. If that doesn't exist, its struggles create a ripple effect that the offense sees in every aspect, not just the quarterback.
The unit has performed so universally poorly that Michael Hurley of WBZ put together a thread of videos from last Sunday's game showing the worst instances of the line's failures throughout the night. And boy, is it bad.
Yet even with these glaring issues from the teammates' whose jobs are to ensure he can do his job, Jones has performed far better than just one year ago, and undoubtedly better than the judgments being made so far this season.
All the stats prove Mac Jones is not the problem on the offense so far
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Jones' performance has looked far better than anyone thought it would be this early in the season, with a new offensive coordinator and a shredded confidence from the issues of last season.
Although it's clear he is not anywhere near one of the main issues for the offense through two weeks, his name continues to be mentioned as if he is. The good thing about that, though, is that stats prove that point to be moot.
The easiest way to demonstrate that he has been better than how he has been portrayed is to look at where he stands league-wide.
Right now, after two games of the 2023 season, Jones is sixth in passing yards with 547, tied for fourth in passing touchdowns with four, and leads the league in completions and attempts. He sits in the top ten of all starting quarterbacks for everything else, like intended air yards, on-target throw %, big-time throw %, and more.
Because of how he's performed so far, he is projected to finish the season with 4,650 passing yards, 34 touchdowns, and nearly 70% completion. All of this is said to happen even though he's had the second-lowest time to throw the football (2.01 seconds), and his receivers lead the league in drops with five.
Does that sound like a bad quarterback to you?
He's far from perfect and has made some boneheaded throws already; we know that. But that's going to happen, especially this early in the season. It's evident that the hiring of O'Brien has been a significant change for Jones, even if he is the third offensive coordinator he has worked with in three years.
As the season continues, we should only see the pairing click even more, and hopefully, that will keep translating on the field. But Jones cannot be expected to pick up all the faults of everyone around him.