Welcome back to another edition of ‘The Super Bowl Race In The Perspective Of Chase’, a close to daily NFL article previewing your favorite teams season! Five seasons ago, the New England Patriots one their sixth and final championship in the Tom Brady era, and who knew that would really be the end of the Patriots reign on the NFL? A first round exit, Brady goes to Tampa, no playoffs, humiliating first round exit, no playoffs, and then now. New England seems to be completely directionless, with a quarterback that got significantly worse in his second year in the league, and a team that doesn’t look top seven in their conference but yet are making championship level signings! Things are confusing in New England right now. So here is everything you need to know about the New England Patriots going into the 2023 season!
It has to be answered: Can the Patriots make the playoffs in a very competitive AFC?
Last year wasn’t surprising when it comes to how the Patriots did as a whole, but certain parts of their team were shocking. And that starts with Mac Jones! Jones, going into the season, was considered the best quarterback from the 2021 class which is funny to think about after 2022. Under 3,000 yards, 14 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, just a 65% completion percentage and 6.8 yards per attempt. He just wasn’t playing great football. And I think something we need to realize about Jones now, is that he is the definition of a system quarterback. He could be alright with a really good running game and supporting cast as a whole, but he’ll never carry his team. And the Pats inability to want to bring in a new quarterback may be what holds them back from contending again under Bill Belichick.
In the running game, Rhamondre Stevenson had a nice season and finally proved his spot the Pats RB1, as he totaled over 1,000 yards on the ground and over 1400 yards of scrimmage. Stevenson’s ability to add value in both in the rushing and receiving game is really valuable on this New England offense. Damien Harris also added in under 500 yards of production. And in the receiving game, it was mainly just Jakobi Meyers totaling 804 yards, six touchdowns and a lateral returned for a touchdown. Beside that, some slight production from DeVante Parker, Hunter Henry, Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor were the only other things that stood out for New England’s pass catchers.
But the reason why this team was still close to a postseason appearance in 2022 was because of their defense. Ja’Whaun Bentley totaled a nice 125 tackle season. Devin McCourty was still a very good defensive back, as the former Super Bowl champ caught four interceptions last year, and so did his fellow defensive back Jonathan Jones. The main load of the defense came from the pass rush however, as now 4x Pro Bowler Matt Judon took down the quarterback a career high 15.5 times, and Josh Uche recorded the quietest 11.5 sack campaign I’ve ever seen! Overall, New England had a nice defensive year, ranking 8th in yards per game allowed, 11th in points per game allowed, 5th in opponent completion percentage and 3rd in takeaways.
With all of this being said, an 8-9 campaign with regressing play from your young, supposedly franchise quarterback isn’t exactly the ideal way to go into an offseason…especially knowing Bailey Zappe is the alternative. So New England is going to give this one last shot, and that made them one of the busier teams in the NFL this offseason! They started off by letting go of their leading receiver Jakobi Meyers, and replacing with him JuJu Smith-Schuster; definitely not a bad replacement. They signed Mike Gesicki to add depth to the tight end core. They also signed James Robinson for about 70 seconds before waiving him. Overall, that was it for a while; not many game changing moves.
But the massive moves started with the NFL draft, as New England acquired an extra mid-round draft pick from Pittsburgh to trade down from 14 to 17…where they still were able to select Christian Gonzalez, the second best cornerback prospect in the draft. Gonzalez was a shut down cornerback who totaled over four interceptions in his first year at Oregon in 2022. He should be a nice replacement for McCourty, who decided to hang up the cleats this offseason. The other big move New England made was not too long ago, signing Ezekiel Elliott to a one year contract. While some don’t like Zeke anymore, he still got the bulk of carries in Dallas last year and had close to 1,000 yards of scrimmage and 12 touchdowns.
So in theory, New England improved. You replaced Damien Harris with Zeke. You replaced Meyers with Smith-Schuster. You replaced McCourty with a younger, quicker and cheaper Christian Gonzalez. And you give Mac Jones a whole other offseason to get better and go back to the player he was in his 2021 rookie campaign. But not everything is a theory. Elliott got worse as the season went on last year and was no longer as dominant of a running back. Smith-Schuster was about to cruise his way out of the league before Patrick Mahomes came around. Gonzalez is unproven. And we don’t know how Mac is going to do in 2023. So how much better did New England seriously get?
There is a possibility the Pats could still have a fine season this year. What if some of the things I just mentioned are wrong, and New England really does improve? But even it that’s the case, I just don’t think New England is a good enough team to reach the postseason. I really think Elliott and Smith-Schuster were holding on in good systems, and Gonzalez is again unproven. You now have to play more improved Buffalo, Miami and Jet teams this year in the division, not even mentioning New England has statistically the hardest schedule in football as well, playing out of division opponents like the Eagles, Cowboys, Giants, Saints, Chargers, Chiefs and Broncos.
And overall, I just don’t trust Mac Jones or ‘If you’re Zappe and you know it clap your hands’ (clap, clap). In all seriousness, even if the team is slightly improved, I just don’t think they’ll be able to compete in a very tough AFC and with a very tough schedule. I’m sorry Patriots fans, but Bill Belichick’s time of dominating the NFL is over, as the New England Patriots will miss the postseason for the third time in four seasons!
Prediction: Pats secure between 6-8 wins this upcoming season, miss the playoffs, and move the future of their franchise in the direction of Bailey Zappe!
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Twitter: Chase Coburn (@coolsportskid)
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