New England Patriots

New England Patriots

New England Patriots

Aug 26, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick walks the sidelines during a preseason game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

  • The Patriots wrapped up their preseason Friday night in Las Vegas against the Raiders. It was a final chance to evaluate the team before the final roster cut deadline on Tuesday, and before their season opener in two weeks. Before our attention completely turns to those events, lets look at what we learned from Friday night’s game, and the week of joint practices.

  • A common theme with the offense

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - AUGUST 26: Quarterback Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots throws a pass against the Las Vegas Raiders   during the first half of a preseason game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on August 26, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – AUGUST 26: Quarterback Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots throws a pass against the Las Vegas Raiders
    during the first half of a preseason game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on August 26, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)

    The struggles of the Patriots’ offense this summer can’t be boiled down to a single issue. But there was a common theme in the way the unit performed. In both joint practices and the two preseason games, the offense repeatedly started slow. It usually looked its best towards the end of practices or on its final drive of the games.

    Running actual game plans instead of a vanilla offense – as all teams do in the preseason – may help open things up. When they’ve picked up the tempo in the joint practices, the result has been some of their best drives.

    At the same time, slow starts have been an issue beyond this summer. It’s been something the team has struggled with intermittently over the last two years, and a trend they’ll hope to break when the regular season begins.

  • Timing needs improvement

    Aug 26, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; New England Patriots guard Cole Strange (69) in the first half against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Aug 26, 2022; Paradise, Nevada, USA; New England Patriots guard Cole Strange (69) in the first half against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Another issue with the Patriots’ offense was the timing. Whether it was Mac Jones’ seemingly sped up with his internal clock, or the offensive line not synching up with the running game, the chemistry just didn’t seem to be there for the most part when the first unit was on the field.

    Again, this is something that could improve with game planning. Drilling specific looks instead of general concepts for the purpose of evaluation will help everybody get on the same page. The question is, how quickly can they iron that all out.

  • Linebacker rotation appears to be set

    HENDERSON, NEVADA - AUGUST 23: Linebacker Raekwon McMillan #46 of the New England Patriots walks on a field during a joint practice with the Las Vegas Raiders at the Las Vegas Raiders Headquarters/Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center on August 23, 2022 in Henderson, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    HENDERSON, NEVADA – AUGUST 23: Linebacker Raekwon McMillan #46 of the New England Patriots walks on a field during a joint practice with the Las Vegas Raiders at the Las Vegas Raiders Headquarters/Intermountain Healthcare Performance Center on August 23, 2022 in Henderson, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

    Ja’Whaun Bentley projects to see the most time in the middle of the Patriots’ defense. The rotation behind him though was one of the bigger questions in the latter stages of camp.

    That rotation hasn’t changed much since the start of joint practices two weeks ago, which is likely an indication the Patriots like the group the way they have it structured. That’s been with Raekwon McMillan and Jahlani Tavai trading off taking snaps next to Bentley, with Mack Wilson in a rotational role. While McMillan and Tavai have gotten on the field early in the two preseason games, Wilson has only played sparingly in the first quarter.

    One player who hasn’t been able to crack that rotation is Cameron McGrone. McGrone was expected to be a factor here coming into camp, but doesn’t appear to have regained that explosiveness he showed at Michigan before tearing his ACL in 2020.

  • Jack Jones plays with an edge

    Coming out of the draft, Jack Jones’ play profile reads like a typical boundary cornerback. Good athlete, long arms, and strong instincts. Something that’s not usually touted as an outside cornerback skill? Hit power.

    While Jones certainly plays physically in coverage, he’s not a player that’s often identified as a big hitter. He showed he does have that trait in his toolbox though, with a couple of big sticks Friday night.

    In addition to those big hits, Jones made a couple of good plays in coverage. It was a strong close to the preseason for the Patriots’ fourth-round pick, and notable given he plays a position where the depth chart is still a work in process.

  • The drop-off from Isaiah Wynn

    Earlier this week, it was reported that the Patriots had trade talks involving starting right tackle Isaiah Wynn. With offensive line depth at a premium, it stood to reason that the Patriots could take advantage and move a starting-caliber player with an expiring contract.

    Such a move would be predicated on those behind Wynn on the depth chart being able to step up and fill his role at a starting-caliber level. At one point, it looked like Yodny Cajuste may be that guy after a strong week against the Panthers. He couldn’t carry that effort over this week though, and Justin Herron struggled as well. The depth may not be there at this point for the Patriots to make this trade short of a massive overpay.

  • What do the Patriots themselves think is the problem?

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - AUGUST 26: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on during warm-up before preseason game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on August 26, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – AUGUST 26: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on during warm-up before preseason game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium on August 26, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)

    There’s a lot of speculation from the outside looking in about what’s wrong with the Patriots. But what do those in the locker room think needs to be fixed?

    Any internal concern doesn’t seem to be focused on scheme changes or the coaching staff. Instead, the two words that kept coming up during the postgame media availability were ‘fundamentals’ and ‘execution.’

    “We have to go out there and execute better. That’s all it comes down to,” Mac Jones said after the game. “At the end of the day we need to be able to execute base plays, scheme plays, all of that.”

    “You have to build. It’s training camp and we understand that,” Lawrence Guy noted. “You have to go back to the film and see where you’re getting beat at. It comes down to fundamentals.”

    “We need to have some better fundamental execution,” David Andrews added. “This is going to happen, unfortunately, in this league. You have to flush it and move on.”

    Bill Belichick used the same term to describe what the team has to work on over the next two weeks before the opener, adding “ “Basic fundamental execution, in all three phases of the game, needs to be better,” before adding another line that’s been one of his go-to’s after a tough loss. “We just have to perform better. I have to coach better, we have to play better.”

  • Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at [email protected].

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