After watching Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen duel in a shootout for the ages last Sunday night, the Patriots lost all hope of ever being a contender again with quarterback Mac Jones.
How could a noodle-armed statue in the pocket who faded down the stretch of his rookie campaign in the first 17-game regular season possibly compete with such all-time great talents?
There’s no chance the Pats’ QB improves because everyone, from Mahomes, who didn’t start as a rookie, to Allen, who had a QBR of 49.8, were finished products out of the gate, right? Right.
And based on my Twitter replies, comparing Jones to another young quarterback without elite physical tools (mobility, arm strength, out-of-structure playmaking) is absolute blasphemy.
Only a blind Patriots homer with zero football IQ could compare the next Joe Montana crossed with John Elway (Joe Burrow) and noodle-armed Mac.
Burrow is way, way more athletic than Mac. He can extend plays, scramble for first downs, and create outside the pocket. So much so he nearly escaped all nine Titans sacks in the Bengals’ divisional-round victory over Tennessee, where Cincinnati scored 19 points, and Burrow produced negative expected points added per drop-back (-0.09).
(via Tucker Boynton)
Let’s ignore that Burrow and Jones’s rookie seasons, pre-Ja’Marr Chase in Cincy, were comparable with identical EPA outputs, and Mac was better in some statistical categories.
Furthermore, using the player profiler’s comparison tool, which considers a players’ physical and statistical profile coming out of college, Mac’s best comp was, you guessed it, Burrow.
We can also forget that during the lead-up to the 2020 NFL Draft that NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah said, “on a scale from three to seven, which five is average, [Burrow] has a five-plus arm – a little above average.”
No, there’s no way that Mac could ever reach Burrow’s level despite a clear road map to do so.
Along with rehabbing from a torn ACL, Burrow worked with QB guru Jordan Palmer last offseason to improve his arm strength and develop more velocity on his throws.
Palmer fixed Burrow’s throwing mechanics, mainly by keeping his heels on the ground through his throwing motion and unlocking his hips to exert more force, and it worked.
Then, the Bengals drafted former LSU teammate Ja’Marr Chase with the fifth overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft to pair an elite receiving talent with their second-year quarterback.
With the help of Chase and Palmer, Burrow went from a 21% completion rate on passes over 20 yards as a rookie to one of the NFL’s best deep passers in year two (41% completion rate).
For comparison, Jones completed 38.1% of his deep throws during his rookie season.
Jones admittedly is a notch below Burrow from a mobility standpoint and won’t be aided by a top-five pick at wide receiver with the Patriots selecting 21st overall in the 2022 NFL Draft.
However, the comparisons aren’t outlandish. Mac and Burrow’s strengths as a passer are field vision, anticipation, and accuracy. They both had average NFL arms as rookies, and even if Burrow is more mobile, he also isn’t on par with Allen, Mahomes, and others athletically.
Plus, Jones flashed better escapability and playmaking on the move than narratives suggest.
Burrow gave Mac a blueprint for elevating his game from year one to year two by maximizing his arm strength to become a better downfield passer through cleaner mechanics.
And the Bengals laid out a plan for the Patriots’ front office to help Jones reach another level by acquiring an elite playmaker as Cincinnati did by drafting Chase.
Although Mac needs to put in the work in the offseason, and the onus is on Belichick to find Mac his Ja’Marr Chase, it’s not a stretch to think a similar year-two leap could come for Jones.
Without further ado, let’s empty our Patriots mailbag on conference championship weekend:
Who will be a bigger loss, Ziegler or Josh? And would BO’B simplify the offense to help agholor, smith and hopefully a rookie receiver be more effective?
— Dave (@ChefdDds89) January 27, 2022
Although he has received a lot of heat lately, the answer here is McDaniels. Ziegler is a sharp scouting mind, but Belichick is still picking the groceries, and the Pats have a pipeline in the front office to replace Zieger. Eliot Wolfe is a top candidate while college scouting coordinator Matt Groh’s role could increase. On the other hand, McDaniels is described by many in the organization as the head coach of the offense. He is responsible for everything from big-picture stylistic approach, game-planning, and play-calling. Yes, Belichick has input and makes fourth-down decisions. But it’s McDaniels’s show on that side of the ball. It’s a significant loss with a young quarterback who is still developing. The front-runner to replace McDaniels is current Alabama and former Patriots’ OC Bill O’Brien. But my sense is that O’Brien wouldn’t be the only hire to beef up the offensive coaching staff if McDaniels leaves. I would also expect the Patriots to bring Joe Judge back, who worked with wide receivers and was the favorite to replace McDaniels in 2018. For better or worse, the Pats would be overhauling their offensive staff, and there would be big shoes to fill.
Witch player would you take from the Saints if they become sellers? Thomas? Lattimore? Someone else? Thank you!
— Ana Lia (@Talrain79) January 27, 2022
There’s a good chance the Saints will start selling off a few vets once they hire their new head coach. With that said, I’d look for the cheaper vets as Pats fits rather than the expensive players such as Marshon Lattimore, Michael Thomas, and Cam Jordan. The one name that stands out is linebacker Demario Davis, who is one of the best coverage linebackers in football and is extremely underrated. This offseason, Davis has an out on his deal and is only due $7.5 million in cash in 2022 if traded. Although he’s up there in age (33), Davis can still play.
What’s your wr rankings for the draft? Good chance a target is there at 21?
— LEM (@LEM0484) January 27, 2022
I’m still working on finalizing my wide receiver rankings and won’t have a final ranking until after the combine. With that said, you can’t go wrong with the Ohio State and Alabama guys. Although he has to recover from a torn ACL, I love the idea of pairing Metchie with Mac after their successful season together in 2020 at ‘Bama. It gives off Burrow-to-Chase vibes. Olave is the best all-around route-runner in the class, Williams is the fastest receiver in the draft (also recovering from an ACL injury), and Garrett Wilson reminds me of Justin Jefferson. Georgia wide receiver George Pickens caught my eye as well. Other than Williams, Pickens might be the fastest receiver in the class, with easy speed that threatens defenders on vertical routes and intermediate patterns off vertical stems (comebacks). Pickens, along with Metchie, are my early day-two favorites. More takes on the WRs to come.
Which ILB would fit better with the Pats : Nakobe Dean or Devin Lloyd?
— Dan Noonan (@dnoonan222) January 27, 2022
Unpopular take incoming: I don’t love the drafts’ top linebackers for the Patriots. Nakobe Dean is an absolute stud who has incredible NFL potential. Dean’s play speed, block recognition, ability to navigate tight quarters, and play in space are all excellent. However, he is only 6-feet, 220 pounds, and I’ll believe that Belichick will take an undersized linebacker when I see it. Dean reminds me of Patrick Queen in Baltimore, who wasn’t on the Pats’ board a few years ago due to his size. As for Lloyd, I was disappointed in his tape. He has flashes of explosive playmaking as a point-and-shoot player. He’ll close with authority if he’s working downhill and things are simple for him. He also offers some edge rusher value and wasn’t a liability in zone coverage. But Lloyd doesn’t physically take on lead blockers, is still a work in progress from a processing standpoint, and wasn’t overly fast or fluid in the open field. I just didn’t see it with Lloyd, and with Dean’s size, I’m not sure there’s a linebacker to latch onto at 21.
Do you think the Pats will prioritize resigning Bentley over High? Younger and should be cheaper. I think Bentley developed well in their system and is a leader
— Manuel Oberwinter (@manuelny86) January 27, 2022
I’m expecting the Patriots to try and keep Bentley in free agency. He’s not the new-age linebacker fans want. But he has improved over the last four seasons, fits their system, is developing a leadership voice in that room, and there will always be a role for a hard-hitting MIKE in Belichick’s defense. Plus, replacing Bentley and Hightower in the same offseason is losing a lot of playing time and production from the 2021 defense. Whether you like Bentley or not, that’s not a good recipe for a team trying to win now.
What are the real chances of a Calvin Ridley trade? A 2nd round will be enough? I think that is better to asses WR at free agency and use 1st-2nd round in Def (LB/DL/CB)
— Pat Patriot (@PatPatriotMX) January 27, 2022
On the surface, the Patriots trading for Ridley isn’t that outlandish. He’s a cost-controlled number one receiver on his fifth-year option, and they nearly drafted him in 2018. But there are a few things that complicate Ridley’s trade market. First of all, where is he at mentally after playing only five games last season due to mental health issues? Obviously, that’s priority number one for Ridley, but you also have to consider whether you can rely on him or not. Assuming Ridley is good to go, he’s also going to want a contract extension, and if a bidding war ensues in his trade market, the Patriots are out-gunned from a draft capital standpoint by a few teams. My guess is it’ll take a first-round pick.
Looking ahead to free agency, are there any players who fit the mold of prototypical #Patriots who you could see coming in? A name I come back too is Leighton Vander Esch. Fills a need at linebacker, supposedly liked him in the draft that year, shouldn’t be too expensive, etc!
— dominic (@1dominic_) January 27, 2022
We all want to see Belichick make another splash, but, realistically, the Patriots won’t have the cap flexibility to go nuts in free agency this offseason. With that said, I’ll give you a few names: WR Christian Kirk, WR Deonte Harris (RFA), LB De’Vondre Campbell, CB Steve Nelson. Kirk was excellent working out of the slot in Arizona this past season and is an ascending player with better YAC skills than he was allowed to showcase in the Cardinals’ downfield passing game. Harris is a gadget-type player who has electric ball-carrying skills and returner ability. Campbell had an underrated season with the Packers, plays fast, and is still 235-plus pounds to operate inside, and Nelson is a veteran corner that plays multiple spots and can play on the outside (a little like Jalen Mills). We’ll use that as a starting point.
Do you think we trade Wynn? And if so what would you do with the OL (which 100% onwenu should be a part of)?
— nickvanhoof (@nickvanhoof6) January 27, 2022
Trading Isaiah Wynn makes a lot of sense for the Patriots. Wynn is due $10.4 million on his fifth-year option, which isn’t a lot for solid tackle play but is an unnecessary cap hit for a team with tackle depth. The Pats could bring back Trent Brown and Ted Karras on much cheaper deals, start Brown on the left side and Mike Onwenu at right tackle, then draft another tackle with a top 100 pick as the future left tackle. By trading Wynn, the Pats would free up a chunk of cap space to play with, and it’s not lost on me that it’s almost identical to Calvin Ridley’s fifth-year option ($11.1 million). I’d be shocked if they didn’t explore Wynn’s trade market.
1. If you could advise McDaniels to add/change one core principle of the Pats offensive system what would it be? 2. Should the Pats still run a 2-gap defensive scheme?
— Ben Burud (@BenBurud) January 27, 2022
I’m not going to say it again, but you know the answer I want to give here (RPOs!). Okay, I said it. But beyond installing an RPO package, I’d love to see the Pats scheme more creatively in the running game by borrowing from the 49ers and Rams’ wide zone systems. More motion, false pullers, and misdirection to build more complementary plays to their staples. The Pats feel very old-school with their power, counter, and fullback lead schemes. Those plays are timeless, but they need more bells and whistles now.
of the guys that we have not seen yet ( Mcgroan, McMillan, Bledsoe, Asiasi, Keane, etc ) are any actually going to help this team going forward ? I ask because it certainly has an impact on where they go this off-season .
— Dan Friedrich (@DanFriedrich2) January 27, 2022
Good question. I was a big Cam McGrone fan before the Patriots even drafted him. He has the play strength to hold up in their scheme but brings some new-age flavor with sideline-to-sideline range and coverage talent. However, McGrone is probably getting a little overhyped by Pats fans desperate for an athletic linebacker. Although it’s unclear how big of a role it’ll be, I could see Joshuah Bledsoe eventually factoring into the safety group. Bledsoe’s teammates were high on his work ethic and IQ. He has some versatility and was a steady player in college. I’ll go with those two for now.