3 Changes Patriots Must Make in 2023 Offseason to Help Mac Jones

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxCorrespondent IJanuary 17, 2023

3 Changes Patriots Must Make in 2023 Offseason to Help Mac Jones

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    Patriots QB Mac Jones
    Patriots QB Mac JonesBryan Bennett/Getty Images

    The New England Patriots made a valiant push toward the postseason in 2022, but their playoff hopes ended in Week 18 with a 35-23 loss to the Buffalo Bills—a team that narrowly escaped with a wild-card victory on Sunday.

    One of New England's biggest issues this season was the regression of quarterback Mac Jones. The 2021 first-round pick was a rookie Pro Bowler but saw a big dip in production this season.

    His completion rate dropped from 67.6 percent to 65.2 percent, and his passer rating sagged from 92.5 to 84.8. Yes, he missed time and was hampered by an ankle injury, but that injury doesn't bear the sole blame for his dip.

    The reality is that New England didn't do enough to support the 24-year-old in his second season.

    Here, we'll examine three changes the Patriots must make in the offseason to better aid Jones in 2023.

Hire a Proven Offensive Coordinator

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    Patriots senior football advisor/offensive line coach Matt Patricia
    Patriots senior football advisor/offensive line coach Matt PatriciaJohn Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

    The first change New England must make is the most obvious. They need to find an experienced offensive coordinator who is willing to play to Jones' strengths and add some creativity to the offense.

    The combination of Joe Judge and Matt Patricia—who have special teams and defensive backgrounds, respectively—yielded a vanilla and predictable offense in 2022. Having them in charge of the offense was a point of contention for the quarterback even early in the season.

    "I think things did get a little sideways, really over the last couple of months," Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer said during NBC Sports Boston's Week 6 pregame coverage. "And I think it's going back from the change to Josh McDaniels. 'Why are we bringing in Joe Judge and Matt Patricia when Bill O'Brien's sitting out there and potentially we could've made a run at him? Why does it make sense to have a defensive guy and a special teams guy here?"

    Several potential coordinator candidates are out there, including Alabama OC and former Patriots coach Bill O'Brien, Cleveland Browns passing game coordinator Chad O'Shea—who spent a decade as New England's receivers coach—and Gary Kubiak. Each would bring more offensive experience than the tandem the Patriots had this season.

    According to Chad Graff of The Athletic, the Patriots will begin interviewing candidates this week, so this is a change that is already in the works.

Add a Legitimate No. 1 Receiver

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    Patriots WR Jakobi Meyers
    Patriots WR Jakobi MeyersJohn Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

    Once the Patriots have a seasoned coordinator in place, they need to focus on getting Jones a legitimate No. 1 receiver. Jakobi Meyers led the Patriots with ah 804 receiving yards, and running back Rhamondre Stevenson led the team with 69 receptions.

    While re-signing Meyers should be a free-agency priority, the Patriots need to add a true top target to the mix.

    Doing so won't be easy, of course, as the free-agent receiver pool isn't particularly impressive. It's set to be headlined by the likes of Odell Beckham Jr., who didn't play in 2022, and JuJu Smith-Schuster.

    With the Arizona Cardinals reportedly open to trading DeAndre Hopkins, he should also get heavy consideration.

    New England could also focus on receivers in the 2023 draft. It's set to hold the 14th overall pick, and three receivers—Quentin Johnston, Jordan Addison and Jaxon Smith-Njigba—are ranked among the top 15 prospects on the B/R Scouting Department's latest draft board.

    One way or another, the Patriots need to add a true No. 1 receiver, re-sign Meyers as the No. 1 and give Jones the sort of quality supporting cast that other young quarterbacks like Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow have enjoyed.

Replace Trent Brown at Left Tackle

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    Patriots OT Trent Brown
    Patriots OT Trent BrownEthan Miller/Getty Images

    Lastly, the Patriots must improve Jones' pass protection. That may mean parting with impending free agent and right tackle Isaiah Wynn. He was responsible for four sacks allowed and nine penalties in just 423 snaps in 2022, according to Pro Football Focus.

    However, the Patriots definitely need to replace left tackle Trent Brown, who was responsible for eight sacks allowed and 13 penalties this season, per PFF.

    The 29-year-old isn't set to hit the market, but the Patriots could save $10.3 million off the cap by releasing him. He was a liability on the left side and could either be cut or moved back to the right side, where he has played the bulk of his career.

    Either way, the Patriots need to find a new left tackle, and a good one. That's easier said than done, of course, though it's worth noting Kansas City Chiefs left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. is set to hit free agency.

    This is another position New England could look to target in the draft, as Peter Skoronski and Paris Johnson Jr. are both pegged as top-12 prospects by the B/R Scouting Department.

    Jones was sacked 34 times in 14 games this season after being sacked only 28 times in 17 games last year. Improving the pass protection would go a long way toward getting the quarterback back to Pro Bowl form.