The Patriots are turning the page from a forgettable two-week stretch by working to improve all aspects offensively heading into a trip to Las Vegas for a matchup with the Raiders on Sunday.
Although the quarterback is in the crosshairs for many, New England appears to be sticking with quarterback Mac Jones after the Pats starter was pulled from the past two losses. According to offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien, the plan is for Jones to start this week against the Raiders.
"I don't think it's about one person. I really don't," O'Brien said. "There are definitely things (Jones) can do better. Whether it's footwork, the read of a route, or the check of a play. There's also ten other guys out on the field, and all ten of those guys would tell you, 'there's things that I can do better.'"
The Patriots are sticking with their quarterback for now, but that doesn't mean O'Brien doesn't see the obvious that Jones needs to play better. The Pats offensive coordinator laid out areas where the offense as a whole, including Mac, will try to improve. Mainly, limiting turnovers, especially giveaways that have led to four defensive touchdowns, and tweaks by the coaching staff that will hopefully help the offensive line.
For the Patriots starting quarterback, O'Brien pointed to specific areas that Jones can individually improve while explaining how Mac can recapture his fundamentals during practice. Over the last two games, Jones has been mentally sped up by the pass rush and looks unsettled in the pocket with shaky footwork. O'Brien said that's something Jones will work on this week.
"At the end of the day, we're turning the ball over too much. That's the No. 1 thing. We have to stop turning the ball over," O'Brien said. "He'd be the first to tell you that there are things he has to do better, whether it's taking care of the ball or maybe reading the route better or getting us into a better play. He's working hard. He's in here early [today]. He was in here [Monday on a day off] thinking about things to do better. We're ready to go for practice and try to dig ourselves out of it."
O'Brien also balked at the notion that Jones would benefit from taking a week off for a mental break, saying, "there's no time for mental breaks."
Before speaking to the media on Tuesday, O'Brien said the Patriots offensive coaches had a productive meeting centered around ways the staff can help the players execute their assignments better. The team then held a rare Tuesday practice following a player day off on Monday, which is not the normal scheduling and is indicative of where the team sits at 1-4 following two tough losses.
"We had a good fundamental meeting right here about half an hour ago. We're ready to go for practice, taking things one day at a time and try to dig ourselves out of it," O'Brien explained.
Along with backup Bailey Zappe as a potential option if Jones struggles again, O'Brien was also asked about practice-squad rookie Malik Cunningham getting more opportunities, possibly in a Taysom Hill-type package. Other than mimicking Hill in practice last week, O'Brien said Cunningham is working primarily at wide receiver, which was the case over the summer.
"Malik works very hard. He does a good job on the practice squad, plays a lot of receiver. He played some quarterback last week with mimicking (New Orleans Saints QB/tight end) Taysom Hill," said the Patriots offensive coordinator. "But he does a really good job, and he continues to improve. He's probably one of the most improved practice squad players that we have. (He's) a good guy to work with."
New England will also get one reinforcement back, with second-year WR Tyquan Thornton back at practice on Tuesday. Thornton isn't the savior, but his 4.28 speed could give them a vertical element and someone who can beat man coverage with routes down the field.
New England will most definitely make subtle changes offensively, but for those expecting wholesale changes in a knee-jerk fashion to losing by a combined score of 72-3 in the last two games, it doesn't appear like the Patriots are overreacting. The only path for this team to start winning again is through.