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Notebook: Better starts on McDaniels' priority list

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The Patriots offense is starting to find a bit of stride despite battling through a week where four of their starting offensive linemen were unable to dress. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones continues to rapidly gain a wealth of experience, along with a host of new players that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is trying to find the right formula for.

Specifically, tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith are off starting to show up, combining for three touchdowns in the last two games, but it still doesn't seem like they've quite scratched the surface of their potential, not only individually but playing together. Slow starts are hampering the offense's ability to incorporate as much of the two tight end sets that were so intriguing coming into the season. New England has produced just 10 first-quarter points this season.

"If we can start better and get ahead and get the lead and play from ahead in those situations, you generally then have more choices as to what you want to be in as opposed to what you have to be in," McDaniels said. "I definitely think there's more to those two guys being on the field together. There's no question about it in all situations that we're looking forward to trying to develop and again, hopefully, we can gain control of the games."

While the Pats haven't been able to consistently gain control of the games just yet, McDaniels has continued to enjoy the process of working with a rookie quarterback.

"[Mac's] learning from each one, he learns by series honestly," said McDaniels. "It's really a fun opportunity to go through this experience with a young player. It's been this way my whole career. I really enjoyed coaching the young guys because they're sponges. They are going to make a mistake here and there, it's impossible to believe they're going to go into a game and play 60 minutes and never do anything that needs correcting.

"You just take those opportunities to try to teach them and at the same time, he knows that I'm not going to lose my confidence in him. It's the National Football League, he's the starting quarterback. We've got to try to win the game and I believe in him, I trust him, I trust our entire offense. We just got to go back out there and make the right play the next time."

As the weather turns colder and the leaves change color, real football is rapidly approaching. The first quarter-plus of the season can be a feeling-out period, but put up or shut up time will soon be here. With so many new faces it's taken a little longer for this edition of the Patriots to find their identity, but McDaniels remains confident their best ball is ahead of them.

"We're getting closer," said McDaniels. "There's definitely some things I think we repeat now and we feel pretty good in terms of our comfort level. I think there's still some growing together as we work together, with one another... I think that that will continue to be a bit of a work in progress schematically.

"I think we're trying to settle in on things that we know how to do and there's always going to be an element each week of something that maybe we don't do it a lot but we're going to do it this week more. I feel better about where we're at. I think by six-to-eight weeks you kind of know where you're at and more than anything else, what do you want to stop trying to get good at. That's really where you can waste your time as a coach."

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