The 2-8 New England Patriots are now the worst team in the AFC, bar none. They are also tied with the similarly hapless Giants and Cardinals record-wise behind the pathetic Carolina Panthers, who sit at the bottom of the pile at 1-8. It's a race to the bottom, and the Pats are smack dab in the middle of it.
Much of the onus has to be placed on the Patriot offense, which is the team's Achilles heel, as expected. After a miserable offseason in both free agency and the draft on offense, the Patriots need significant retooling to get the ship back on course.
Monster changes in personnel are mandatory.
The first and foremost site for change is the most critical position on any NFL team: the quarterback. To put it mildly, the Mac Jones experiment, first-round pick or not, has not worked. Jones has flopped after an impressive first year in 2021, and his trajectory since has been a downward spiral to the bottom of the heap. The thrice-benched Jones is throwing for 65.4% completions with only ten touchdowns and ten interceptions.
Whether it be Matt Patricia and Joe Judge as in 2022 or Bill O'Brien this season, the results have been the same: poor. It's a season ticket to somewhere else. The Patriots need a new quarterback. The suggestion here is to give Malik Cunningham a full rollout for the rest of the season. There is really little to lose.
New England Patriots have to fix the quarterback position first
The New England Patriots' offense, particularly the offensive line, is a sack-producing machine. Jones has been on the canvas more than a Floyd Meriwether opponent during his illustrious boxing career. He lacks escapability. It's a flaw any time, but coupled with a porous O-line, it's a prescription for last-place.
It's time for the Patriots to step up into the new NFL offensive thinking. That's where mobility and a dual-threat quarterback come in. Cunningham was signed to a big-time undrafted free agent contract ostensibly (and if so mistakenly) as a wide receiver. That hasn't worked because the player is a quarterback.
No one else on the current Patriots roster has his ability to make things happen with his feet. He's a good passer but excels as a runner. He'll have to, as in running for his life with the current Patriots offensive line. Suggestions that he's had an opportunity to show what he can do with his six plays, maybe two as a true quarterback, can't be taken seriously. He hasn't had any opportunity.
The play is to give Cunningham the ball and see if he can make some similar contributions to one of the NFL's best, Lamar Jackson of Baltimore, whom the Patriots ridiculously passed on twice in the 2018 NFL draft's first round. Cunningham broke Jackson's records at Louisville. He deserves a full opportunity in this train wreck of season to see what he can do.
Giving Cunningham an opportunity makes perfect sense. First, the team has no one else with his escapability. He needs a chance to see if he can be an NFL quarterback. If he shows well, the team can defer drafting a quarterback until maybe a later round instead of the first. If not, you draft the next QB early. It clarifies the future strategy for the position.
The New England Patriots need to remake their offensive tackle and wide receiver positions
The Patriots punted on seriously addressing the O-tackle position in the 2023 offseason. It cost them any chance at a playoff run. The big additions in free agency were 34-year-old Riley Reiff, who no longer can play tackle, and Calvin Anderson, who unfortunately has been ill throughout the season. In addition, the team drafted no offensive tackles in 2023. This omission and lack of a top free agent signing amounts to personnel misfeasance at best.
The team needs to sign the best free-agent tackle on the market in 2024. Unfortunately, unlike 2023, the pool of available players is unimpressive. Tyron Smith of Dallas is perhaps the best but he will be 33. Jonah Wiliams of Cincinnati is 25, but he's not the player the Patriots need. The time to move was the last offseason.
The draft now has to be the key focus.
Next on the list is wide receiver. This long-time thorn in the side of the Patriot's offense remains one. Their best receiver was Kendrick Bourne, who suffered an ACL injury and is a free agent. After Bourne, Rookie sixth-round pick Demario Douglas has been the team's best. It's not nearly enough, and a top pick, maybe Marvin Harrison Jr, a terrific wide receiver from Ohio State may be that choice.
Those three offensive positions need to be heavily invested in this offseason. Will the Patriots be astute enough to do so? Let's just say the current personnel administration doesn't seem to be qualified. A change at the top is required. It's a question owner Mr. Robert Kraft will have to address. If not, expect more of the same fumbling and bumbling in personnel next season. It is what it is: a last-place operation.