We’re now just a few days away from the New England Patriots kicking off their 2023 season against the Philadelphia Eagles. So much about this team has been broken down and dissected at various levels since training camp started in late July, so let’s have some fun and go off the map a bit, with our annual Patriots’ bold predictions.
Now keep in mind, these are bold predictions. We’re not saying all, or any, are going to happen. They reflect the extremes of what is possible for this team.
In three years of writing this column, two projections have proven to be correct – both in the first year in 2020. Those were Cam Newton catching a touchdown pass, and Ja’Whaun Bentley being the only Patriots linebacker to play over half the team’s snaps.
Will there be another correct ‘bold’ prediction this year? Are these goals too lofty? Or are they not really that bold at all? Let’s get started with a projection on offense that goes against one of the biggest talking points from this summer…
The Patriots will rank in the top five of the league in lowest pressure rate allowed
The story of the summer has been the struggles of the Patriots’ offensive line. Those issues were on display throughout the preseason, culminating in the team not starting Mac Jones in the preseason finale, reportedly because they were not comfortable with the level of protection he would have in the game.
It is important to remember though, that the Patriots were playing mostly backups throughout the summer. The team returns its four regular starters from last year’s offensive line in David Andrews, Trent Brown, Mike Onwenu, and Cole Strange. All but Andrews missed significant time during the summer.
With that group leading the way, Jones was pressured on 29.2 percent of his dropbacks, per PFF. That was actually the fifth-lowest among 20 qualified quarterbacks. So in reality, we’re just expecting them to match last year’s number. But how?
Now you may notice there are only four offensive linemen listed above, when in reality there are five starters up front. That’s where the first of two big questions for this year comes in – the right tackle position. While the Patriots return four of their five starters, the four players they rotated through the right tackle spot last year – Isaiah Wynn (left in free agency), Conor McDermott (on IR), Marcus Cannon (still unsigned), and Yodny Cajuste (left in FA) – are all gone. Of all of Jones’ pressures last year, that group combined to allow 29.9 percent of the total.