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Replay: Best of Patriots.com Radio Thu Apr 11 - 02:00 PM | Tue Apr 16 - 11:55 AM

Patriots Mailbag: Exploring WR options and more?

Some fans are growing impatient with the play on offense and wonder if it's time to explore options.

Mac-Jones-WK4-2022-Mailbag-16x9 copy

Regarding Mac Jones, we all know the offense is pretty bad with offensive line struggles and receiver trouble, but what would you say is Mac Jones' weakness? Is it arm strength with regards to tight windows? I personally think when watching him he looks too small for the NFL. - Brandon Loggins

After watching that game, I honestly don't think the Patriots bring back Mac on another deal. I don't think he has any superior NFL ability. When watching him behind the line oftentimes I'm not confident we'll get a first down, what are your thoughts? Is Mac not talented enough? - Brennen Lee

Jones obviously struggled in Dallas but I don't think that game was necessarily reflective of how he's played in the past. In terms of his weaknesses I would agree his arm isn't among the strongest in the league, and at times that gets him in trouble when he tries to make certain throws – like the one he threw across the field that was picked off and returned for a touchdown. I also believe that Jones is limited in terms of his mobility and at times watches the pass rush too much instead of keeping his eyes downfield. Without the ability to make many plays with his legs, he can get in trouble by getting rid of the ball too quickly as the rush is surrounding him. Again, some of those issues were magnified in Dallas in a game that was among the worst of his career. He's also shown good pocket presence at times and can be effective when he's in a rhythm. The problem for the Patriots has been those periods haven't happened often enough.

Why are we not playing Bailey Zappe over Mac Jones now because obviously Mac is struggling. I'm not sure what is going on with him but something needs to change. I like Mac but he is not living up to his expectations. Very disappointing. - Michael Petracrca

Again, Jones did not play well in Dallas and deserved to be pulled from the game when he was. However, Zappe did not perform much better when he went into the game and didn't necessarily make things any better. If Jones continues to turn the ball over and make the mistakes he did last week, then I believe Belichick will have to think long and hard about making a change. But at the moment I feel Jones still gives the team a better chance to succeed.

First off, thank you all for the effort you put into this show! I appreciate all of your honest input/analysis. Don't let people force you to skew positive or negative, I like your honest opinions. As much as losing 38-3 to Dallas sucked, I feel like it was the wake up call the team needs. We have been operating with such a small margin for error that we need everything to go right just to be an average NFL team. This is a crucial moment and how our team responds is what will define us for the remainder of this season and beyond. My question for you: Do you honestly think the team has the maturity and cohesion to be able to learn and grow from this? Or is there too much of a disconnect between players and coaches, and not enough buy in on either side? I hope our boys rally together and figure it out. - Kason Wan

We will certainly find out. I agree with your assessment about the team having a really small margin for error, which we've seen time and again when the Patriots have gone against quality opponents. A missed opportunity or a turnover greatly reduces the Patriots chances to win, and once the team falls behind it is ill-equipped to mount a comeback. I do believe there is maturity and leadership in the locker room but I'm not sure there's enough overall talent to lift the team to the level of playoff contenders. But we shall see how the team responds moving forward as injuries and inconsistency have really plagued the Patriots in 2023.

Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10).
Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10).

Through the first month, Mac Jones is still our best quarterback. Bailey Zappe is a replaceable No. 2 with a Brian Hoyer ceiling. Thoughts on elevating Malik Cunningham to backup with a special package of plays to spark the offense? In all honesty, after the first month, what downside do you see in this scenario. Keep Mac but "Taysom Hill" Cunningham into the play calling? - Dave Ferreira

If I'm being completely honest I really didn't see anything from Malik Cunningham during training camp or the preseason to lead me to believe he is ready for any sort of role with the team. He mounted one scoring drive in the final minutes of the first preseason game when the field was filled with mostly players who are no longer in the league. He didn't really get many other opportunities to perform as a quarterback and spent almost all of his time as a wide receiver. Asking him to step in and try to make plays as a quarterback at this point could lead to a lot of mistakes and turnovers. I know after the Dallas game you might be thinking the turnovers are coming anyway, but to put Cunningham in that position would be unfair at this point. It's possible that Belichick is working him as a quarterback during practice each week to better prepare him, but if that's not the case then I don't like the idea.

Can you guys chill about the WRs? They whiffed on a couple of picks and a couple of free agents. Unfortunate, but it is what it is. Let's move on. Also, please stop with the WR trade ideas. For a non-title contender to trade a bunch of picks in order to pay full freight for a wideout makes absolutely no sense. The Pats are 100 percent about winning football games and 0 percent about getting the fans and media excited. A Davonte Adams-style trade just isn't going to happen, nor should it. - Peter Hill

I understand your point of view on our discussion during our recent "Patriots Unfiltered" shows, but there are elements that I think you are ignoring. I don't think Evan, or anyone else, is interested in giving up a lot of assets to acquire a player if the Patriots aren't contending for a playoff spot. You may be right to label the team as a "non-title contender" today but what if that outlook changes over the next month or so? What if the Patriots start winning some games and find themselves in the middle of the race? Would you still feel acquiring a talented player to help the offense would be a bad idea? Now, I don't believe Adams is a realistic option given his contract status but what if someone like Jerry Jeudy or Tee Higgins or even Justin Jefferson became available? If the Patriots start winning some games I would think Bill Belichick would want to explore all avenues to improve the team. Obviously picking up high-end talent like Jefferson is unrealistic but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be discussed. If the Patriots don't turn things around in October, then I would agree with you that giving up any resources at the deadline may not be the wisest course. But there is still over a month's worth of games to be played before then.

There is a growing rumor that the Vikings might be willing to offload some precious assets like Justin Jefferson and edge rusher Danielle Hunter to gain draft capital for 2024 and beyond. It would be a tremendous boost for our offense, but what would it cost for picks and players? And does a trade like this depend on how the Patriots see their future with Mac Jones at quarterback? - Ross Redd

This post dovetails nicely with Peter's thoughts on trading for wide receivers. Jefferson is looking for a new contract and the Vikings struggled to start the season. It's possible with Kirk Cousins set to become a free agent that Jefferson might not necessarily want to sign a big extension to stay in Minnesota next season. Therefore, a trade shouldn't be completely ruled out given the Vikings situation. However, Minnesota still has some time to turn their season around, especially in the NFC which doesn't appear to be as deep as the AFC. Also, Jefferson will be looking for a huge contract extension and who knows how much the Patriots would want to give up for a potential rental. And any Patriots interest would all be predicated on the team turning things around and playing some really good football over the next month. If that happens and Belichick feels like the team can contend, I would be strongly interested. At the same time if you give up a first-round pick you have to be willing to re-sign Jefferson at the end of the season and that won't come cheap. He will likely become the highest paid receiver in football and deservedly so. I'm not sure how much Jones would play into that, but adding a talent like Jefferson would certainly make him look a lot better. Unlikely yes, but fun to talk about.

On the punt after the safety against the Jets could the Patriots returner have fair caught the punt thereby placing the ball at the 25-yard line? - Rik Furcolo

You raise an excellent point, Rik. The new rule regarding touchbacks on kickoffs does indeed apply to free kicks as well, so Myles Bryant could have signaled for a fair catch and the Patriots would have taken over at their 25 instead of the 16, where he was tackled after his 11-yard return. Bryant was forced to backpedal to his own 5, and would have been better served to call for the fair catch rather than risking a fumble and putting his team in worse field position. Little things like this can impact games, and the Jets wound up taking their next possession at their 45-yard line, which is excellent field position. The Patriots defense closed the door anyway so it didn't matter but every little bit helps.

On the final drive of the first half against the Jets the Patriots wasted over 20 second in the final minute, on top of that with 14 seconds left Mac Jones gets up and hurries to get back to the huddle, but a timeout had already been called. What was that? Tom Brady would have called the timeout himself, while sitting on the ground. What kind of game management was that? The Patriots basically invented the double dip, and they can't even get that right anymore. Come on. Please wake up and start searching for a quarterback. - Alain LeDuc

I did not like the way the offense handled the final drive of the first half against the Jets. I thought the play calling was inconsistent – for example Bill O'Brien took a deep shot down the left sideline to Demario Douglas, the play that should have resulted in a pass interference penalty – and then followed that with a quarterback sneak. There was plenty of time to continue throwing and settling for a 50-plus yard field goal in the rain didn't seem like a wise course of action. The sneak resulted in a minimal gain and the field goal wound up coming from 57 yards out. Why not throw a shallow crosser or even a screen (plays with little risk of turnover) to pick up some yardage to make it a more realistic field goal? Jones could have shown more awareness on the play you mentioned but I do feel like he threw a good deep ball to Douglas and the Patriots probably should have wound up with a chip-shot field goal had the flag been thrown.

Team photographers David Silverman and Eric J. Adler present their best photos from the Patriots Week 4 game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023.

Would it make more sense to not run the ball always on first down and to mix it up with some first down passes and first down runs since the running game has not been productive? - Richard Lanza

Was there a requirement the Patriots had to run every first down of the second half of the Jets game, going at most 3 yards? It was obvious the Jets knew they would run cheating people up to the line shooting gaps to tackle for loss or at best gain a yard or two. Was there rule they were not allowed to pass on first down or were they protecting Jones from making a deadly mistake? - Michael McLaughlin

Through the first three games of the season the Patriots were quite balanced when it came to run and passing on first down. The were 45 first-down runs called and 46 first-down passes. So, Bill O'Brien has actually done a pretty good job of mixing up the approach and keeping defenses honest. There have been times in those games when the score dictated the approach, such as the fourth quarter of the Eagles and Dolphins games when the Patriots trailed by multiple score, calling for a more pass-heavy approach, and the Jets game when they were protecting the lead and running more often. Overall I haven't seen play calling as much of a problem thus far, but the bottom line is production and Bill Belichick himself said that 15 points won't likely be enough to win most weeks.

I love Bill Belichick as a coach, but feel he's holding the team back as a general manager. Besides the draft/reaches, we came into the offseason with two glaring weaknesses, stud wide receiver and left tackle. Neither were addressed at all and if anything got worse with Jakobi Meyers for JuJu Smith-Schuster. Last year the same deal with two defensive coordinators running the offense, stunting Mac Jones' growth. Is there any chance Robert Kraft will get a full-time general manager and Belichick would be willing to take a back seat? - Peter Moubayed

We get this question a lot and I honestly don't think it's a very realistic possibility to separate Belichick the coach from Belichick the GM. I can't see him being willing to be force fed players that he doesn't necessarily want and therefore I don't see it as a likely scenario. Belichick has built a dynasty in New England over the last two-plus decades and anyone doing the job as long as he has is going to have a lot of hits and a lot of misses as well. I don't always agree with his moves – I didn't like the decision to move on from Meyers as an example – but it's really hard to question the overall body of work. If you want to remove him as general manager you will most likely have to be willing to move on from his as the coach as well.

Greetings from Virginia. I can't help but wonder how Miami built such a powerhouse team with some very high profile and priced players, but the Patriots don't seem to go for that type of team construction. My question is, has Miami leveraged a short-term super team but seriously affected their future? - Hugh Sager

Miami obviously has constructed its roster, particularly on offense, to accentuate speed. The Patriots don't have that type of explosiveness in their attack, but I'm not sure it's about any sort of philosophical opposition to those types of players. As for the long term, there is nothing about the roster construction to suggest it's not something that can be sustained. Clearly young players like Jaylen Waddle will eventually be getting bigger contracts, but they can be structured in a number of ways to make them compatible with the cap. So, I don't envision Miami not being able to continue having success with the roster they have due to any flaws in its construction. Injuries can always impact every team, but the salary cap won't be a huge factor and really hasn't been in the league for several years.

I was disappointed we did not draft a receiver or tackle in the first round this year, but is Christian Gonzalez' early success proving the Patriots wisdom in taking him instead of drafting what was available for the higher need positions? Elite receivers and tackles seemed to be in short supply in 2023, and might be more plentiful in 2024. - Ken Stickney

First, I believe cornerback was a major need heading into the draft and having Gonzalez available made it a very logical pick. Most experts felt Gonzalez would not be available when the Patriots came around and his play has been outstanding. I felt the decisions to pass up tackle later in the draft was curious, and there were some wide receivers that would have made some sense as well. Dawand Jones is starting in Cleveland and went in the fourth round. So, it didn't need to be a first-round pick for a tackle.

DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the writer and don't necessarily reflect those of the organization. Read Full Disclaimer

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