Three New England Patriots with the most to prove in the 2023 NFL season

Which New England Patriots have the most to prove in the 2023 NFL season?
New Orleans Saints v New England Patriots
New Orleans Saints v New England Patriots / Elsa/GettyImages

The 2023 NFL season is finally upon us as the Patriots get set to host the Philadelphia Eagles at Gillette Stadium on Sunday afternoon. After a disappointing 2022 season that saw the team miss the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, to say the pressure is on would be an understatement. Hell, even the owner has come out and said that this needs to be a playoff year. Now that expectations have been set from the top, here are the three members of the Patriots with the most riding on the 2023 season.

1. Bill Belichick, Head Coach

When the Patriots kick off the 2023 season, it will have been 1,680 days since their last playoff win. Since then, 18 teams have won at least one playoff game including teams such as the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans. The Patriots are 25-25 since the departure of Tom Brady, missing the playoffs twice while losing by 30 to Buffalo in their lone appearance. With six Super Bowl trophies, you'd think Belichick would be safe but when the owner makes comments like the one he made at this year's owner's meetings, the heat is on.

"“Look, I think Bill is exceptional at what he does. I’ve given him the freedom to make the choices and do the things that need to be done. His football intellect and knowledge is unparalleled from what I’ve seen. But in the end, this is a business. You either execute and win or you don’t.""

Robert Kraft

Belichick made up for last year's Matt Patricia debacle by brining back Bill O'Brien as offensive coordinator, but he failed to address an offensive line that struggled last season and has been brutal so far in the preseason. If the line doesn't improve and the Patriots fall flat this season, you have to wonder if Kraft makes a change at the top.

2. Mac Jones, Quarterback

This is definitely a make it or break it type of year for Jones in year three. After a sold rookie season, the team did Jones a disservice by leaving him without a competent offensive coaching staff and a lack of weapons. In addition, Jones suffered a leg injury in week three and ended up missing the better half of four games while struggling to regain his form.

Jones' stats definitely decreased in his second season but he did end the year on a high note as seven of his 14 touchdown passes came in the final three games, all against playoff teams. This year is big for Jones to prove that he can be the franchise quarterback going forward as the Patriots will have to make a decision on whether or not to pick up his fifth-year option next summer. Another down year for Jones and the Patriots may be looking for another quarterback in 2025, if not earlier.

3. Kyle Dugger, Safety

Dugger had another very solid season for the Patriots in 2023 as he returned two of his three interceptions for touchdowns while adding another on a fumble return. His versatility allows him to make an impact in both the running game as well as the passing game, giving the team everything they want in a hybrid role. However, Dugger is now entering the final year of his rookie contract and so far an extension has not been on the table.

With the draft selection of Marte Mapu, another hybrid safety, maybe the team is already looking forward to losing Dugger to free agency after the season. The team has not had a great recent history of signing players to a second contract and Dugger will need to prove he is worthy with another standout season.