New England Patriots

New England Patriots

New England Patriots

  • Jul 29, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) calls a play during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Jul 29, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) calls a play during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    FOXBORO — When Mac Jones and the Patriots offense compete in 7-on-7 drills, they look pretty much unstoppable. But when the lines come on the field for 11-on-11, Jones simply hasn’t looked like the same player.

    It sounds like there are a lot of factors at play with the Patriots’ offensive struggles at training camp so far. But at times, the issues have led to Jones taking off with the ball instead of throwing, which is rarely going to be ideal. As Jones himself suggested during his press conference after Tuesday’s practice in Foxboro, they’ve had a hard time getting all 11 guys to execute properly at the same time. That’s obviously the key to American football, the ultimate team sport.

    “I think we have a lot of room to grow here,” Jones said. “The goal for me is to not run the ball and throw it so, I think our offensive line is doing a good job, and we just have to get on the same page.”

    The problem is, the offensive line hasn’t entirely done a good job. On Tuesday alone, multiple defenders were credited with “sacks” or “tackles for loss,” sometimes breaching the offensive line untouched. Jones has had good-enough protection at times, but he’s also had a couple of miscommunications with his receivers. His red zone accuracy has been spotty. Plays have been made, to be certain, but the consistency definitely isn’t there yet.

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  • Overall, it was a similar story for the offense. Jones was a perfect 8-of-8 in 7-on-7 drills … but 6-of-11 in 11-on-11. One of those incompletions was a bad drop by Damien Harris, and it came on what looked like a broken play. Another incompletion was due to a batted pass at the line by defensive lineman Henry Anderson. Another was a throwaway, with linebacker Matthew Judon closing on him for what could be credited as a “sack.”

    In addition, inside linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley broke through untouched for a sack, while Raekwon McMillan and Mack Wilson were credited with “tackles for loss.” So, identifying the “Mike” linebacker may be an issue right now, whether with Jones or the line in front of him.

    Jones does look like he’s taken a big jump in terms of his knowledge and comfort with the Patriots’ offense, but at the same time, he and the rest of the unit have had to learn some new concepts and work with a new coaching setup in the post-Josh McDaniels era. So at the very least, there will be an adjustment period for those things.

  • But Jones’ comfort is evidenced by the smooth operation of the offense that we’ve seen in 7-on-7 drills. Ditto 1-on-1 plays between the receivers and defensive backs, often with deep balls. Rookie Tyquan Thornton and Nelson Agholor made back-to-back one-handed catches in those drills. Agholor, in particular, had his best day of camp. Jones has also clicked early with off-season addition DeVante Parker.

    “He’s a great receiver and he’s played a long time in this league and he understands how to attack the football,” Jones said of Parker. “We got a lot of guys who do a lot of different things. My job is to hit them in the hands and they’ll make the plays. So, that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

    The problem is, it’s just not as crisp when it jumps to 11-on-11, especially when it’s starters vs. starters. The individual talent jumps out more and more by the day, but even with schematic changes expected, the Patriots still need to be on point with their timing and protections in order for Jones to succeed.

    Jones has seemed sped up or indecisive when he has a pass-rush coming his way, but it could also be a case of the receivers not going where he’s expecting. That’s what it looked like when he threw a gimme interception to cornerback Terrance Mitchell, as Thornton appeared to run the wrong route upfield, while Mitchell sat in his zone and received the ball like he was the intended target.

    Jul 29, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) throws the ball during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Jul 29, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) throws the ball during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

  • There’s still plenty of time for the Patriots offense to get everyone pulling in the same direction, knowing what they and everyone else needs to do on any given play, and executing. The defense is under scrutiny after roster turnover at key positions, like linebacker and cornerback, but they look like they’ve mostly been executing well. That’s not terribly surprising. The defense usually has the upper hand early on.

    But we’re now six practices in, two padded, and the offense has yet to deliver a significant response to the defense in full team drills. Head coach Bill Belichick said himself on Tuesday that the Patriots have “a long way to go” and “a lot of things to work on.” That’s typical Belichick-speak, but it’s also the plain reality on the offensive side of the ball.

    Certain things have looked incrementally better – the run game showed a slight improvement on Tuesday, and Thornton seems to be getting a little bit better every day – but the overall results have been about the same. So, until we see some kind of jump, or even just a bounce-back day, we’re going to be left wondering what this offense is going to look like when the real games begin.

    “I think that’s why we practice, and I care a lot about football and we all do,” Jones said. “It’s very competitive and when we lose ‘the day,’ to me that’s like a shot in the heart, you know, it’s like we lost the game. So, there’s a lot more than that because it’s practice you want to learn but at the end of the day we’re out here competing and the goal is, to have more good plays than the other team and in that case, that’s the defense right now.

    “I feel like we can compete even more and even better but a lot of it is just execution and x’s and o’s and figuring out how to communicate with each other. So, better days ahead but you know we’re in the start of this thing and we got to get it going but we just have to take it day-by-day.”

  • Leftover Notes…

    Jul 29, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) throws the ball during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Jul 29, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) throws the ball during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    — Don’t be surprised if the Patriots incorporate Thornton as a rookie by giving him a handoff here and there. That’s one way to utilize his speed out of the gate. Thornton made a one-handed grab against Jalen Mills during 1-on-1’s and looks more and more like a legit candidate to start Week 1.

    — The Patriots ran what I like to call the “slappy drill.” It’s a ball-carrier attempting to run about half the width of the field against two defenders trying to knock the ball loose. The only fumble came from Agholor, and it looked like an as-yet unannounced new player wearing No. 36 who made the play. According to Mike Reiss, it’s former Notre Dame defensive back Jalen Elliott. Marcus Jones was the other DB in on the play.

    — The run game couldn’t get much of anything going in the first day of full pads, but gained a little more traction on day 2. They were able to open a few holes inside. Damien Harris had a nice run to the left edge as left tackle Trent Brown took Judon for a ride. Call it 1 percent better. But like the passing game, we have yet to see a big jump.

    — The punt returners on Tuesday were cornerback Myles Bryant, running back J.J. Taylor, and Marcus Jones. The latter should end up returning punts eventually. Safety Jabrill Peppers, who returned from PUP on Monday, was present for this session, but only observed. He figures to get some actual looks as a punt returner in the days ahead, as the team eases him back in.

  • Be sure to keep checking back for our daily Mac Watch columns as training came goes on, and click here for all Patriots training camp coverage at 985TheSportsHub.com.

    Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. You can also email him at [email protected].

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