The New England Patriots have begun the 2023 season as poorly as possible, record-wise, losing to straight. To make things worse, both losses were at home. Not since 2001 has the team started this poorly.
That season and for 18 years more, the team had the best ace-in-the-hole possible in Tom Brady. Brady replaced the injured Drew Bledsoe in 2001 and the rest as they say is history.
To paraphrase what another Boston team's president said, "Tom Brady ain't walking through that door. Bruce Armstrong ain't walking through that door. John Hannah ain't walkin' through that door." Etc.
Teams are built during the offseason and the squad just plays out the string with the offseason hand that's dealt to it by itself. If you have Tom Brady, the great safety valve, he can make up for a whole host of deficiencies. Current Patriots quarterback Mac Jones can't.
There isn't anyone available who can be that person but there is a player currently on the team who can help. It's practice squad quarterback, Malik Cunningham.
New England Patriots' should activate and play Malik Cunningham now before it's too late
Malik Cunningham can help immediately. He should be added to the 53-man roster today and placed on the 46-man gameday roster every week. Here's why.
First, Mac Jones doesn't seem to possess that certain "it" that allows a player to rise above circumstances and carry his team to a hard-fought victory. Jones has played OK in the first two games but failed to get his team a win against the Eagles or the Dolphins.
Not saying he should be replaced as the starter just yet, but his play should be augmented with what Cunningham has to offer. First, it's strategically helpful to have a dual-threat quarterback on the roster. It forces the opposition to devote valuable game-planning time to prepare to counter his possible insertion into the lineup.
While Jones has shown decent mobility in the first two games, he isn't a threat to do a lot of damage on any given play. Cunningham is. Like other true dual-threat types, he can turn either a scripted run play like a quarterback draw or an unscripted broken play into a 50-yard or more gain.
Cunningham is a big play waiting to happen, and the quarterback isn't the only way he can be of assistance. He can also be utilized alongside Jones to open up defenses and score touchdowns.
New England Patriots Cunningham is a multi-faceted weapon
Cunningham can be used in a running back role and be put in motion as a decoy on an RPO play. In addition, he can line up as a wide receiver, go in motion, and then catch a pass or actually take a pitch and run with it. He also makes up for the absolute train wreck of an offensive line they field with his ability to improvise when there's pressure, which is most of the time.
He is also the best option on a third-and-long play at quarterback forcing the defense to come up to the line of scrimmage to forestall a big gainer on the ground. A good passer, Cunningham can fake a run, draw the defense in, and then throw the ball downfield to pick up the first, as well.
Two losses at home in the first two games is a harbinger of looming disaster to come and an exit from any playoff hopes by Halloween. This team needs drastic action now to preclude that eventuality.
Are they astute enough to use the player on their team (practice squad again) who can help turn things around? They paid a tidy sum to sign Cunningham as an undrafted free agent, so why not give him an opportunity to justify that expenditure?
History says it's unlikely. This is a stubborn bunch. Innovation is not their strong suit. When they had Brady, he did all the innovation you'd need. They don't have him now and it's time to unleash the option that is available to give them the edge they need.
Will the New England Patriots football operation be gutsy and astute enough to give this a try? Probably not. But rest assured, if they sit on their hands and expect things to all of a sudden improve dramatically with the disaster of an offensive line they deploy, they'll be toast in a month.