New England Patriots

New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 22: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots speaks with Mac Jones #10 in the second half of the game against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on October 22, 2023 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

We’ve reached the bye week of the 2023 New England Patriots’ season. There may be no game this week, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be another 98.5 The Sports Hub Patriots Mailbag.

As was the case last week, most fans are already looking well ahead to the offseason. We got questions about about coaching, quarterbacks, and more. Plus, a few questions about the team wrapping up this season.


READ MORE:

Wednesday’s Patriots practice offered a look at who the starting quarterback currently is
Midseason report card: Offense
Midseason report card: Defense & Special Teams


Where are Patriots’ fans heads at as the bye week begins? Let’s take a look with this week’s Mailbag.

  • ashley1992 on Twitter: "Hi Alex, if the Patriots would have gotten just "average qb play" so far this year, how many wins do they have now? / Twitter"

    Hi Alex, if the Patriots would have gotten just "average qb play" so far this year, how many wins do they have now?

    If I had to guess, I’d say they’d be just around but still under .500. To me there are three clear games where the quarterback position was the biggest issue (not to say it wasn’t an issue in others). That’s the Cowboys loss, second Dolphins loss, and Colts loss. Flip all three, and they’re at .500 at 5-5, but as mentioned above there are still other issues going on, and it’s no guarantee an ‘average’ quarterback does enough to overcome them. So final answer, I’d go with 4-6.

    For what it’s worth, I think the same could be said about the defensive injuries. If the team had Matthew Judon and Christian Gonzalez throughout the season, those two players alone may have helped flip games like the Saints game, Raiders game, and Commanders game. Having those players back, even with the offensive issues, could be the difference in a game or two.

  • It’s been more than a year since we saw any positive signs from Bailey Zappe. His last ‘plus’ performance came in Week 6 of last season, against a defense that finished ranked 20th in the NFL. Since then he struggled against the Bears the next week, throughout training camp this summer into the preseason, and then in all three relief appearances he’s had in the regular season. Multiple reports have indicated those struggles are reflective of his practice performances this season as well.

    That’s not to say the Patriots should refuse to turn to him as the starter if they feel they’re done with Mac Jones for the season. He’s the logical next choice having spent the second-most time with this offense, and maybe a full week of preparation as the starter would be beneficial. But the Patriots having not made that switch yet, with the way Jones has played, feels telling that what they’re seeing behind the scenes lines up with what we’ve seen from him in open practices and games.

  • Glen C on Twitter: "How would Trent Mcduffie look in this defense? Was cole strange a Bill pick or Groh special? / Twitter"

    How would Trent Mcduffie look in this defense? Was cole strange a Bill pick or Groh special?

    Would drafting Trent McDuffie (who went to the Chiefs at 21st overall) have been a better move that moving back and taking a guard in the first round? Yes. Beyond that though, I don’t think there’s much to second-guess here. Opposing quarterbacks have a 99.0 passer rating when targeting him since the start of last year – a number that would rank sixth among qualified Patriots cornerbacks in the same time span. Plus, the Patriots need a bigger, outside cornerback more than another smaller (5-foot-11) hybrid defensive back.

    If you want to second-guess the Patriots in terms of drafting a defensive back in the first round of 2022, the guy for me is Dax Hill, who went to the Bengals 31st overall – two picks after Strange. There’s also the decision of drafting Jack Jones in the fourth round, 121st overall over standout athletic prospects Riq Woolen (who went 153rd to Seattle) and Zyon McCollum (who went 157th to Tampa).

  • Mark Cleland on Twitter: "What are your thoughts on the Patriots picking Marvin Harrison Jr with their first pick, and then either trading back into the 1st or using their 2nd rounder on a QB, if so who do you think they could get? / Twitter"

    What are your thoughts on the Patriots picking Marvin Harrison Jr with their first pick, and then either trading back into the 1st or using their 2nd rounder on a QB, if so who do you think they could get?

    I wouldn’t rule something like this out, but it’s contingent on players like Jayden Daniels from LSU and Quinn Ewers from Texas not rising too high up draft boards.

    At the same time, I don’t think Marvin Harrison Jr. is the only player that would make this strategy work for the Patriots. They could also very well go with Notre Dame tackle Joe Alt (who is a similar-level prospect to Harrison, just at the tackle position) in the top-5, then double back on a quarterback later.

  • Mark on Twitter: "Seems inevitable that BB will leave in January. Leaving NE requiring a new HC,GM & QB at the very least! Who would be your preferred HC, GM and QB combination? / Twitter"

    Seems inevitable that BB will leave in January. Leaving NE requiring a new HC,GM & QB at the very least! Who would be your preferred HC, GM and QB combination?

    This is a very big picture question that requires its own post. It’s also too early to know all of the options that are available, so let’s put a pin in that for now and revisit in January.

    That being said I will say this – I think the order those three roles are filled matters. If I were in a hiring position I’d find my head coach first, then let him help fit a GM that he believes fan fill his vision. Then, they find their quarterback.

  • Nick Crampton on Twitter: "Do you think the team will go on a late season spree to dash our hopes of a top-3 pick? Tough schedule coming up for the Bills, should help our SOS for draft order / Twitter"

    Do you think the team will go on a late season spree to dash our hopes of a top-3 pick? Tough schedule coming up for the Bills, should help our SOS for draft order

    The margin will be thin this year for a top-3 pick, although Kyler Murray coming back for the Cardinals certainly helps. However the Patriots’ schedule is tough down the stretch (after the Giants game) with all six games against teams currently very much in the playoff picture. Record-wise, the worst teams they’ll face are the 4-5 Broncos and 4-5 Chargers.

    Something else to keep in mind though – the Patriots ending up assigned with the fourth or fifth overall pick is not the end of their chances to pick in the top 3. If they identify any player – especially a quarterback – as a player they can build around for the next decade-plus, they should be not only willing but aggressive in moving up to a position where they can draft that player.

  • Steve L'Heureux @NHLBruins 🥃 on Twitter: "Barth, can you give us your qb rankings for those eligible for the upcoming draft? High level breakdown, system fit, projected round they will go in? / Twitter"

    Barth, can you give us your qb rankings for those eligible for the upcoming draft? High level breakdown, system fit, projected round they will go in?

    Again, this is a topic that warrants a much deeper dive. Plus, we’re not even through the college football regular season yet, forget the pre-draft process. We’ll evaluate the QB board throughout the offseason.

    That being said, here is a very preliminal, very fluid, certainly can and likely will be changed list of how I view the top quarterbacks right now overall, and what the realistic expectations should be for each (Patriots fit TBD, we need to know who will be coaching the team)…

    Tier 1 (instant franchise QB): Drake Maye (UNC), Caleb Williams (USC)

    Tier 2 (instant starter, franchise potential): Michael Penix (Washington)

    Tier 3 (Potential Year 1 starter, high ceiling/project player): Jayden Daniels (LSU), J.J. McCarthy (Michigan)

    Tier 4 (Potential Year 1 starter, high floor): Bo Nix (Oregon)

    Likely going back to school, will revisit for the 2025 draft: Shedeur Sanders (Colorado), Quinn Ewers (Texas)

  • Daren Dionne on Twitter: "Are the patriots a desirable head coach/GM destination in the event Kraft chooses to go in a different direction? Top 5 pick, 100+ mill in cap space, solid defense that will remain relatively intact. / Twitter"

    Are the patriots a desirable head coach/GM destination in the event Kraft chooses to go in a different direction? Top 5 pick, 100+ mill in cap space, solid defense that will remain relatively intact.

    For the reasons you listed, I do believe the Patriots will be a desirable destination. They may not be at the top of perspective candidate’s lists – teams with an established quarterback are automatically desirable. But I don’t see the Patriots running into the kind of problems that the Red Sox did in trying to replace Chaim Bloom.

  • Liam Frieswick on Twitter: "What's the chance BB is out and Mac Jones stays as the starting QB next year? Maybe Kraft thinks Mac can be good when given a real shot and uses draft + cap resources to surround him with talent and hire a offensive minded head coach? / Twitter"

    What's the chance BB is out and Mac Jones stays as the starting QB next year? Maybe Kraft thinks Mac can be good when given a real shot and uses draft + cap resources to surround him with talent and hire a offensive minded head coach?

    I wouldn’t rule out Mac Jones being on the Patriots to start training camp next year with Bill Belichick or not – whether he’s the starter or otherwise. Even if the team does use a high draft pick on a quarterback they still may feel they need a bridge guy. If Jones plays well and the rookie needs more time, he’d be a logical choice to start the season. If he gets outplayed, Jones is still on an affordable contract and could be dealt if he has a strong summer and the team feels like they no longer need him.

    That being said, I’d be surprised if the Patriots build around him entirely, and don’t use at least one of their premium (top-100) picks on a high-upside passer.

  • 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 abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.

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