Are the New England Patriots ready for the 2023 NFL season?
That is an interesting question as Bill Belichick finalizes his 53-man roster.
In looking around the NFL this preseason, there have been highlights and performances hyping up fans all over the league. Aside from undrafted rookie quarterback/wide receiver Malik Cunningham, the dominance exhibited by rookie defensive end Keion White and an explosive touchdown reception by sixth-round pick Kayshon Boutte, the preseason has been a snooze fest.
Patriots didn't show much in the preseason
Capped off by a 23-7 loss to the Tennessee Titans in the team’s final preseason game, the main concern for the Patriots is obviously the offensive line. Due to injuries and lack of depth, the Patriots’ offense hasn’t really been able to get anything going. Whether it was Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe, Cunningham, or Trace McSorley in under center, constant pressure stalled drives and halted any momentum of offensive flow.
Sounds much like the 2022 season, right?
If the team can get Cole Strange and Michael Onwenu healthy on that line with David Andrews, Trent Brown, and any combination of Riley Reiff, Calvin Anderson, or Conor McDermott, the O-line could be solid to very good. They will also need one of the rookie offensive linemen to step up along the line for depth. The best bet is fourth-round pick Sidy Sow who could solve the state of the offensive line if he can solidify one of the guard positions which will enable the team to move Onwenu back to tackle.
In all, Brown, Strange, D. Andrews, Sow, and Onwenu as the team’s best five would be ideal, and giving Mac Jones some time to operate would be a solid offense.
Quick thoughts and opinions on the Patriots offense
The New England Patriots offense hasn’t shown much, which is mostly by design. We know Rhamondre Stevenson will be Stevenson, but for this Patriots team behind the play calling of Bill O’Brien to surprise folks, they will need newcomers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mike Gesicki to make an impact in the passing game.
Both players fit what O’Brien likes to do, but their impact on the team should make Hunter Henry and the wide receiver duo of Kendrick Bourne and DeVante Parker even more effective in the offense.
Speaking of Bourne, the Patriots must get this man back involved and featured in the offense. Despite being in Belichick’s doghouse most of last season, Bourne came in and made plays, and sparked the offense. Given that he is obviously a favorite target of Jones, he needs to be a part of what this offense does in 2023.
The Patriots will also need either second-year wide receiver Tyquan Thornton or rookie Demario Douglas to breakout as down-the-field targets for Jones. Thornton has a nice catch in the preseason (see below), and Douglas has shown consistent flashes that he could be the steal of the draft.
Along with the addition of Ezekiel Elliott, this Patriots offense could be very balanced and effective if they get that offensive line straightened out.
New England Patriots final 53-man roster buzz
As of Sunday, there haven’t been any surprise cuts by the Patriots besides maybe defensive tackle Carl Davis, but living in the land of Bill Belichick, there will be some and perhaps even a couple of surprise trades in there.
While most fans are buzzing about whether Cunningham will make the final roster, another rookie who could make some noise in 2023 is Kayshon Boutte. Will he make the 53-man roster?
He should. The LSU product has been outshined by Douglas, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t sparked his own value as part of this wide receiver group. Belichick’s own words seem to signal he’ll be a part of the roster in some way.
“He didn’t do a lot in the spring, and as camp went on seemed to get stronger and more productive, both in practice and games, really in all of the areas that he worked into,” Belichick said when asked about Boutee’s progression this preseason. “So, that was very encouraging, and he showed explosive ability on the field when he played.”
If Boutte does make the 53-man cut, what does it mean for Thornton? What it means is that Thornton will have to work his way back up the chart. He will still get his opportunity to live up to his second-round expectations, but Douglas and Boutte will make him work to earn snaps and produce when his name is called.
To round this out, some names to watch to make the 53-man roster include linebacker Ronnie Perkins, who made a statement in his final preseason performance, defensive lineman Sam Roberts, safety Joshuah Bledsoe, veteran kicker Nick Folk, and running backs Kevin Harris and J.J. Taylor.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if any of those players are cut, but most of those names are former Patriots draft picks they would be giving up on.