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Patriots Mailbag: How to round out the offense

This week Patriots fans are concerned about the health of quarterback Mac Jones and wondering how Brian Hoyer would do if pressed into action, while also trying to get more contributions on offense.


An unfortunate topic I know, but with Mac injured, do you foresee Hoyer stepping in or could we legitimately have Zappe as the starting QB? -@clazzyclare

If Mac can't go I think it's pretty much a lock that Hoyer steps in. I know his performance in 2020, when he couldn't avoid a couple killer mistakes, might give some people pause but they did move the ball in the game and I was encouraged by how he looked this summer. Also, let's not forget the crazy circumstances in 2020 that thrust him into the starting lineup that night. Hoyer has a lot of experience to draw upon and I believe the rest of the team would be ready to rally around him if he gets a chance. As for Zappe, he looked very much like a rookie this summer with his fair share of ups and downs. It seems like it would be too much of a heavy lift to get him ready to start and would likely limit the offense even more than it already is. Still, Zappe better be ready to some degree because he'd be just one play away from being thrust into the game. -Mike Dussault

I was a massive Mac Jones fan when he was at Alabama and was excited when the Pats picked him, but I can't help but feel he is now facing a massive uphill battle to secure his job. Do you think that the likelihood of the Patriots starting over again at QB has risen dramatically? -@k3rvball

I'm not sure exactly what you mean by "secure his job," I'm guessing you mean long term, but it's an unfortunate discussion to have coming on the heels of a potentially serious injury. I really thought Mac was putting together one of his best overall games before the turnovers started falling. Those are of course devastating plays that are inexcusable. They pretty much destroyed any comeback chances the Patriots might've hoped for and they'll overshadow all the good things Mac did in this game. But even those can't overshadow that I was highly encouraged by his play early on, especially with the explosive plays. I look at it more through the context of a young team that hasn't quite learned how to beat the best teams just yet. Mac is in his second year. Knocking off Lamar Jackson and the Ravens is always a tall task for anyone. And if the Pats had just avoided the self-inflicted mistakes they very well would've gone right down to the wire with them. There are some encouraging signs but unfortunately this potential injury will put a pause on all that. I continue to think he can lead a team in a competitive effort against anyone but the mistakes must be cleaned up. -Mike Dussault


After watching our New England Patriots slug it out with the Baltimore Ravens I thought it revealed to us all that we are a long way away from being the finished article and that Mac Jones at this point in his career is capable of producing a mixed bag of plays ranging from the good to the bad and in some cases the downright ugly. What is your view on these subjects and what did you take away from Sundays fourth quarter meltdown and the overall performance? -Mark Saez

Just to expand a bit on my previous answer, I think Mac's downfield throws, especially to DeVante Parker showed what he's capable of but ironically it's the good things he did last year that feel like they're not quite back to where they were yet. Specifically I mean in the short and intermediate passing game, where there hasn't been much action for players like the tight ends. We'll take a deeper dive into the film review this week, but while Mac is pushing the ball down the field more it still seems like they're leaving easy completions on the field too many times. Right now, given the potential injury, I'm focused more on the strides they seem to be taking. A couple better decisions and who knows how that game ends up, and that's a very good team that they pretty much went toe-to-toe with for 50 minutes. Need that 60-minute effort to truly know what this team is and how good they can be. -Mike Dussault

Am I the only one who thought the hit on Mac Jones was dirty? It looks like Campbell jumps high then throws his legs into Jones' ankles to bring him down with all his weight. Obviously didn't try to injure him on purpose, but why even bother tackling him? The ball was gone and the game was pretty much over at that point. -Ryan Tondreau

Yeah, that was a tough play and just an absolute bummer given that it basically came in mop-up time with the game decided. I didn't necessarily think it was dirty, Calais Campbell has been in the league a long time and has no need to take a cheap shot at Mac with the game already in hand. Still, it's one of those really unfortunate plays where things just get bent the wrong way and there's not much you can do about it. The way Campbell fell onto Mac should probably be looked at by the league but as of this writing, there was no word on any potential punishment. -Mike Dussault

So I asked a question late last week and wanted to follow up with some observations about Parker's breakout game. All of his receptions came when he wasn't covered by Humphrey or Peters and when he was it ended up in INTs. By deduction, I'm guessing Agholor was covered by one of those two more frequently and had a much quieter game than last week. This isn't to say things can't be schemed up to create these opportunities, but it seems to me the receivers will need just that. Schemed scenarios to create opportunities. I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on that or if I'm making mountains out of mole hills.Ryan Dart

Well I just think that's smart football, taking advantage of matchups and avoiding the strengths of the defense. You'd think without a true #1 receiver that this should be one of the features of the Patriots offense; an ability to make any one of their weapons the focal point on any given week. Obviously, there must be a happy middle ground, because just having overwhelming production from one player per week is not going to get the job done. Humphrey, Henry and Smith played a combined 132 snaps and saw just six total targets for five catches and 32 yard. Bourne played just 18 snaps and had six targets himself. So it seems like they're still figuring things out, especially with Jakobi Meyers out, but rounding out the production seems critical and Mac has no problem going to Bourne when he's on the field. -Mike Dussault

The plays in the flat and the play to Parker in the end zone. They feel like they are single receiver plays. It's like he only has one person to go to on those plays. I can't work out why we would run plays like that. -@TomBish50028036

Yes, I noticed too that it seemed like there were a handful of big plays where Mac really only has one option to go to with the ball. Often it seems like they're using a rub concept out of the backfield to try and create separation but Baltimore was too good at recognizing those plays and fighting through blocks to make the tackles for stops. The failed fourth-down play, the fourth-down play that they somehow converted and the near interception at the goal line by Mac all were similar play calls. Somehow they escaped to continue the drives on two of them. While the offense does seem to expand each week there are still some areas where it feels like they're lagging behind. -Mike Dussault


Do you think there should be fan representation in some of the decision-making processes in the NFL? There is the owners, and the player association, but no fan representation. I feel like the owners have takin the league to a place where the common man is being priced out of live game viewing or being priced out of being able to watch a lot of games on television. -Davidrocco Mittica

Yes, I'm worried about this as well. It's one thing when attending a home game for a family of four is going to run north of $1000 when it's all said and done, but it's another when fans without access to cable or streaming services can no longer even watch the games on TV. Add in how hard it is to even get face value tickets because the ticket brokers now swoop in to get their cut as well and it just seems harder and harder for families to experience a live game and I think that's a really bad thing when it comes to building the next generation of passionate fans. Unfortunately the only way fans are going to be represented in this situation is with how they spend their money, but I wish there was a way for the NFL take this more into account. The game is now growing well into Europe yet the gauntlet to support your team continues to get more difficult unless you're ready to open up your wallet. One idea I've had is to hold a good old fashioned ticket release party where fans can wait in person to get tickets as they were meant to be purchased for what they're supposed to cost. Make it a party and a way for the most dedicated fans to circumvent the broken ticket system. ­-Mike Dussault

If people called you D-Train would you respond? Will you ever go to practice again? Has anyone heard from Erik since he left? Can Patriots Unfiltered producer Matt Morel get a pay rise need him locked up in the roster? -@Jasonmroll14

Wrapping it up today with a little fun from Jason here. That's a no on D-Train, my initial nickname at PU bestowed upon me by Nick Baby Love, but it's a nice throwback to the early days of my tenure here so it does have a bit of a special spot in my heart. But if you want me to respond, go with a "Deuce." Second, yes! I had dinner with Erik last week and he is doing well, happy to be now ignorant to the finer details of the Patriots. It was great to catch up with him and yes, he's still very much missed around here. Lastly, of course, Morel works tirelessly to produce all our shows, putting out fires and making sure everything runs smoothly. Plus he's a former Marine who can take care of any problem that arises. He's the best and needs a long-term extension in my book. -Mike Dussault

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