For 20 seasons, the New England Patriots were defined by unmatched quarterback play, provided by future Hall of Fame signal caller Tom Brady. Since the greatest of all time has decided to take his talents to Tampa Bay, the franchise has looked to usher in a new era that they hope can be half as successful as their run from 2000-2020.
With the singular Cam Newton season notwithstanding, that transition into the next phase of New England offensive football is headlined by a player who plays a lot like Brady. Mac Jones does not have some of the physical gifts that his counterparts possess, but he looks to make quick decisions inside the pocket in order to maximize success. Utilizing some of the concepts that made Brady great, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels kept things simple for Jones en route to a 67% completion rate as a rookie.
With McDaniels gone ahead of the 2022 season, it will be interesting to see how the Patriots handle Jones in year two. A heavy dose of the running game should continue to be featured, but it is unclear as to who will be in Jones’ ear on the sideline or in the booth. It could be Joe Judge or Matt Patricia, who have returned to New England after failed head coaching stints in New York and Detroit respectively. There has also been some chatter that Bill Belichick himself will call plays.
At this stage of his development, it doesn’t seem like Jones will be the type of player that the Patriots lean on to win games. However, it will be encouraging for the franchise to see him step up in big games, and make throws when the game is on the line. New England made the playoffs last year, but the AFC as a whole is much improved, and will need a second-year jump from Jones in order to qualify once again.
It is clear that New England is supremely comfortable with Jones’ ability to progress, and to stay healthy. Their main insurance option behind him is the 36 year-old Brian Hoyer, who has not fared well in recent game action. However, due to his familiarity with the franchise and the system, he serves as a valuable sounding board in meetings for observations made on tape and areas where a defense might be exploited. Hoyer may get some playing time in the preseason to help stay sharp, but will only be used in the regular season if games are out of hand.
He will be more of a developmental prospect moving forward, but the Patriots selected Bailey Zappe in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft. As a senior at Western Kentucky in 2021, Zappe lit up the stat sheet for 5,967 passing yards and 62 touchdowns in 14 games. While his dynamic play on the collegiate level was exciting, it is unlikely he will see the field when the games matter. He could be a fun name to keep an eye on in the preseason, though.