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Patriots Unfiltered and Patriots Catch-22 Replay Wed Nov 30 - 03:15 PM | Thu Dec 01 - 05:55 PM

Patriots Unfiltered Mailbag: Improving pass protection key to finding offensive production

The play of the offensive line is in focus in this week's mailbag.

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Are my lying eyes deceiving me or do Patriots wide receivers and tight ends look predictable in running routes? Wide receivers don't look fast, quick or deceptive. Jakobi Meyers seems to be the only player who gains separation. Thought every potential receiver was supposed to sell his route--for obvious and subtle reasons. What's wrong? How to fix dogged route runners?
David Gonsiorowski

I think there are some issues with the design of the offense and how there are too many occasions where the receivers are running routes in close proximity to one another. Obviously I'm not qualified to install an offensive system but it certainly looks like there are some problems with receivers winding up in the same area, which makes it tough for them to create much separation. I also feel like the timing of things isn't always in sync, where Mac Jones looks ready to make throws at times but the targets aren't always out of their routes and prepared to receive the passes. Again, this is a simplistic uneducated view of some of the problems the passing game is facing, but I'm not willing to throw it all on a lack of effort. Certainly there are times when things could be run at a more efficient level but overall I feel the players involved are giving their all but the execution has been lacking – and that includes all aspects of the offense – passing, pass protection, running routes, play design – they've all been issues.
Paul Perillo

It all starts up front. How can the offensive line become better in both pass protection and run blocking? Are we expecting David Andrews back at center this week?
Brian Berndtson

Andrews did indeed return but things went from bad to worse as he suffered what various reports have called a significant thigh injury. Even before he left the pass protection wasn't great (Mac Jones was sacked on the first play of the game) and after he left it got worse. Unfortunately the offensive line also lost Isaiah Wynn to a foot injury and he could miss some time as well. So, it will be hard to significantly improve things, at least in the short term. But at the same time there are ways to scheme things up to help Mac Jones get rid of the ball quicker, and it's possible the line can improve with some more time playing together. And most importantly, getting Andrews and Wynn back healthy and in the lineup would help the most.
Paul Perillo

A win is a win, right? That being said, the Jets game did nothing to right the ship as far as the "new" offensive system. And it's not Mac Jones' fault, or Matt Patricia's either. I know the play calling was hampered by the Jets pass rush all day and that's on the offensive line. I'm not giving Patricia a pass, he's a very good coach but I just don't think he's right at the helm of our offense. I really think the big problem all season is the lack of consistency with the front five and the lack of a true fullback. With Andrews down again and Wynn possibly out too, what can be done at this point?
Gary Abrams

There are a lot of problems on offense and it will be hard to correct them all to get to the point where it is productive enough to be able to compete with the league's best. The offensive line has struggled and is now dealing with injuries. The group will need to find some cohesion playing together with backups Yodny Cajuste and James Ferentz likely having to fill in for Wynn and Andrews. Things should improve as they develop more experience playing together, especially in pass protection. Mac Jones also needs to deal with the lack of protection better than he has in recent weeks. I agree with you that these problems on offense are not all on Jones, but there are times when he needs to learn to throw the ball away and live to fight another play. The coaches also need to recognize these shortcomings and find ways to better deal with the lack of protection as well. I thought there were times against the Jets that they did a good job of scheming up some different plays to catch New York's defense out of position. More of those types of plays might allow the offense more opportunities to put points on the board. Like I said, the problems have been widespread so it won't be easy to correct them all. But it's realistic to expect some improvement down the stretch.
Paul Perillo

We all recognize our offensive difficulties in the red zone from penalties to predicable run plays. Having players like DeVante Parker, Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith and Tyquan Thornton enough to throw it into the end zone? Why is our red zone offense a no-fly zone for Mac Jones?
Marc Allard

I think the problems in the red zone have been about the mistakes more so than the play calling. Too many breakdowns in pass protection and too many penalties have created negative plays that have pushed the ball back and made it difficult to find the end zone. They also aren't getting to the red zone nearly often enough. Against the Jets the offense made just two trips inside the red zone. On the first trip they were called for an illegal formation on the first play, setting up first-and-15 from the 20. Three straight passes left them a yard short of a first down and led to a field goal. On the second trip, the Patriots faced third-and-2 from the 7 and Jones was forced to avoid immediate pressure and scrambled, but Yodny Cajuste was called for holding to make it third-and-12. A sack on the following play pushed them out of field goal range. So, it's not that the Patriots haven't called pass plays; it more about a lack of execution.
Paul Perillo

With the Raiders in total freefall at 3-7, do you think Josh McDaniels will survive to the end of the season or after? If he is fired (which is highly likely), do you think the Patriots would take him back as offensive coordinator? Do you think he'd even want to return? I think a lot of Mac Jones' regression is due to the departure of McDaniels.
Jeff McCarroll

The Raiders are indeed a mess and McDaniels deserves some of the blame for that. He inherited a 10-7 team that was competitive in the playoffs against Cincinnati and the Raiders upgraded their talent in the offseason by adding Davante Adams and Chandler Jones among others. Yet, the Raiders can't seem to win any close games, which again is at least partly on the coaching. From afar it would seem McDaniels has been unwilling to adapt his offensive system to fit the parts that he has, and that's led to some of the struggles they've had during the season. However, I don't believe McDaniels will be fired in his first season. Las Vegas brought in McDaniels and GM Dave Ziegler together and to cut ties in the first year would seem to be a rash decision. Mark Davis has indicated that McDaniels isn't going anywhere but we've all seen the dreaded vote of confidence from the owner go the other way too. It just happened in Indy when Jim Irsay backed Frank Reich only to fire him a couple of weeks later. But I think McDaniels is safe for now. And I'm also not sure he'd want to come back either, but that's a question for another time.
Paul Perillo

What receiver if any would be out there for a first-round pick that the Patriots could pair up with Mac Jones? The Bills got Stephon Diggs for Josh Allen and look what happened. The Dolphins and Eagles also did this and look what happened. I know Belichick won't do it but it's fun to dream. Could the Seahawks be persuaded to give up D.K. Metcalf or maybe Jerry Jeudy in Denver?
Danny Leandres

I love your idea and would love to see the Patriots get aggressive in that regard this offseason. I also would like to see another wideout added in the draft, as they did in the second round this season with Tyquan Thornton. I think Jeudy would be a candidate to get moved since the Broncos offense seems frustrated with Russell Wilson. Jeudy was brought up as a possible trade candidate at the deadline and obviously didn't move, but that doesn't mean the Broncos wouldn't revisit that possibility after the season. There will be changes to the Patriots receiving corps with Nelson Agholor and Jakobi Meyers currently free agents and DeVante Parker and Kendrick Bourne entering their final years. So there almost certainly with be significant turnover. Again, I like your aggressive approach to finding a young talented option with some experience to potentially put at the top of the depth chart.

Paul Perillo

Do you feel the trade for Mack Wilson was a net positive, or would the Pats be better off with Chase Winovich
Jake
Sacramento, California

I think Wilson has probably given the Patriots a little more than they've gotten from Winovich over the last two seasons but nothing too significant. Wilson has been active defensively and provides some mobility in the linebacker corps, and that might prove valuable in some upcoming games against Josh Allen and Kyler Murray. But when the Patriots did face mobile quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson and Justin Fields, Wilson wasn't really a factor. Overall I'd take the swap as I don't feel Winovich was a great fit in New England.
Paul Perillo

Draft pundits, sports writers and fans like myself thought the Pats would draft a linebacker early, which of course they didn't. The defense is extremely well rated. How would you rate the performance of our two third-year draftees, Anfernee Jennings and Josh Uche, and the imports Jahlani Tavai, Raekwon McMillan and Mack Wilson. Key contributors or JAGs?
Rolf Froehling

Of the group I feel Tavai has by far been the most effective player. He's been a solid contributor in the front seven, especially against the run but even at times dropping into coverage. He did a great job tracking T.J. Hockenson in a game against the Lions earlier in the season on a play that resulted in a Jack Jones interception. Jennings has occasionally contributed setting the edge on the perimeter and been a factor against the run. Uche had three sacks against Indianapolis but has otherwise battled hamstring issues and been quiet. Wilson, as I mentioned earlier, has been active in the second level in pass coverage and has managed to disrupt some plays. His deflection led to a pick in Pittsburgh earlier in the season, and he could be a valuable piece down the stretch against some of the mobile quarterbacks. Of the group I'd say McMillan has been the least impactful. He's been injured and hasn't seen significant playing time.
Paul Perillo

The offense is awful. There isn't an offensive coordinator, instead a former defensive and a former special team coordinator are responsible, neither of whom really excelled offensively in their time as head coach. You risk the development of your potential franchise QB. Why not admit the mistake now and hire an offense coordinator with offensive experience and potential? Even though we're in the middle of the season, it can't get any worse offensively. And there are plenty of advantages: a breath of fresh air offensively this season, if it works out time advantage for next season (if it doesn't work out no other season lost next year), he could establish a relationship with Mac and not start all from zero next offseason.
Willi Anrather

Hiring an offensive coordinator from outside the organization at this stage is completely unrealistic. How do you find a candidate who has experience in the Patriots system who can come in and work with Mac Jones and the rest of the offense? Which out of work coach would be able to fill that role at this stage of the season? I think the coaches showed some signs of creativity against the Jets – obviously still a long way to go since they failed to move the ball consistently and put just 3 points on the board. But I felt the runs to Damien Harris with both tight ends in the backfield were wrinkles that worked, as well as the designed play action passes to both Henry and Smith that resulted in big gains. The coaches need to find more ways like this to get the ball moving because the offense simply hasn't been good enough just lining up and trying to move the ball conventionally. But expecting a new offensive coordinator to come to the organization at this point is unrealistic.
Paul Perillo

Can you provide an update on Brian Hoyer? Do you foresee him getting added back to the active roster this year? Long term, do you see him becoming a future Patriot coach?
Geoff Moore

Bill Belichick hasn't offered any updates on Hoyer's status but considering he went on the injured reserve list with a concussion I'd say he's still dealing with the aftereffects of the injury. We haven't seen him much since he went down against Green Bay, which also is an indication that his injury is serious. As for potentially coaching someday, Hoyer hasn't indicated that's something he'd like to do. Things can change, obviously, but at this stage I don't see that in his future based on things he's said in the past.
Paul Perillo

With the ups and downs of this season at the quarterback position leaving us all a bit puzzled and even though I am still a Mac Jones fan who is really hoping that he can again find some decent form and show some confident decision making like he did last year but if things don't turn out the way we hope would you get behind my idea of trying to bring in the Dallas Cowboys backup quarterback Cooper Rush? I believe he has enough to be successful in the NFL and would probably not cost the franchise an arm and a leg. What do you think?
Marc Saez

Why would the Patriots want to bring in another backup quarterback when they already have Bailey Zappe, who is one year into learning the offense and understanding the system? Plus, why would Dallas want to let their backup quarterback go after he showed he was capable of filling in for Dak Prescott when needed? Jones is the Patriots quarterback at this point, and if the Patriots wanted to add a level of competition to the mix for next season then I would think it would need to be in the form of a high draft pick (unlikely) or a veteran starter who would be available like Jimmy Garoppolo (also unlikely). But adding Rush to the mix doesn't really do much either way in that regard, even if the Cowboys opt to let him go. He will be 30 next season and has never been a fulltime starter. I'd stick with Zappe as the backup and allow him to compete with Jones if you don't feel things have improved.
Paul Perillo

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