The Patriots do have a solid roster. It's filled with a plethora of good players, but a few of them will surely fail to live up to expectations in 2023. The issue with the roster is that they hardly have any elite players. They might have two in Matthew Judon and Mike Onwenu.
Their depth is great. They have respectable playmakers at each position, but the lack of high-end players and a high-end QB is going to be the downfall of the team in 2023. If you're personally high on Mac Jones, then you might think differently than me, which is perfectly fine.
However, while I think the Patriots can be a disciplined and improved team from 2022, I don't think they'll make much progress in the loaded AFC, and unfortunately, there will be a few players who simply don't play nearly as well as we hope.
Predicting 3 huge busts on the Patriots' roster for the 2023 season
1. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR
If you were expecting JuJu Smith-Schuster to be the Patriots' clear-cut WR in 2023, I think you'll be disappointed. I don't think we'll see him put up big numbers at all, but it's not like he's on a huge contract. Either way, he is the most talented wide receiver in the room, so there is reason to believe he'd be expected to be the WR1.
In the most explosive offense in the NFL last year, Smith-Schuster caught 78 passes for 933 yards and three touchdowns. He obviously caught those passes from Patrick Mahomes, who threw for a whopping 5,250 yards and 41 TDs in 2022.
I don't think there's any chance at all that Mac Jones comes close to those numbers in 2023, so it would make sense if JuJu didn't see a target share or numbers close to what he did in 2022. Smith-Schuster might end up settling into a modest role in the offense, perhaps peaking at around 700 yards.
2. Christian Gonzalez, CB
The New England Patriots are facing one of the toughest schedules in the NFL this year. Tough schedules come with tough matchups, and rookie CB Christian Gonzalez is likely going to face a gauntlet of top-tier wide receivers during the season.
He is already the best CB on the roster, but will the young rookie be able to handle the workload that is likely coming his way? Some potential matchups he might have to endure include players like AJ Brown, Devonta Smith, Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Garrett Wilson, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Thomas, Chris Olave, Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs, Terry McLaurin, Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Jerry Jeudy, and perhaps even more talented wide receivers.
Gonzalez is going to have his plate full in 2023. I don't think he's as good of a prospect as Patrick Surtain II and Sauce Gardner were, and both young CBs played excellently in their rookie seasons. Don't be surprised if Gonzo struggles a bit in 2023.
3. Mac Jones, QB
Well, if you've read my work on Musket Fire, you'll know that I am not the highest on Mac Jones in 2023. I don't think Mac Jones is going to rebound enough in 2023 to remain the QB of the New England Patriots. However, it's possible.
Jones has shown the ability to be effective; he was quite impressive in his rookie season back in 2021, but Josh McDaniels is also one of the best offensive coordinators and playcallers in the NFL, so there's that. I do think Bill O'Brien was a great hire, and BOB does have some history working with young quarterbacks.
But between the Patriots still having some uncertainty at tackle and not having a true WR1, Mac Jones might be in for another long season. If Mac Jones was currently on the San Francisco 49ers and was slated to be their starter, I'd feel a bit differently about him, but I still don't think the Patriots did enough this offseason to give Jones the best chance to rebound from a disastrous 2022.
Him also not having a great relationship with Bill Belichick is also something of note as well.