New England Patriots: Quick takes on the 2021 pre-season offense

J.J. Taylor #42 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
J.J. Taylor #42 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

Here are some quick takes on the New England Patriots pre-season offense before the team cuts its roster down to 53 players by August 31st.

There were lots of positives and not really many negatives in the entire New England Patriots pre-season as cut-down day looms. One thing seems certain, some decent players will be playing elsewhere.

The 2021 version of the Patriots’ offense bears little resemblance to last season’s version. It’s much improved.

Megabucks of owner Robert Kraft’s money was spent on both sides of the ball and the offense has a huge infusion of talent. Looks like it may have been very well-spent.

Quick takes on the New England Patriots pre-season offense

One prelude to all of this, pre-season is still pre-season, and undefeated pre-season teams can frequently fall flat on their faces when the real games begin.

Yet, good play is still good play and evaluations can still be made on individual performances. Let’s take a look at the offense and start with the most important position on the team, quarterback.

The New England Patriots quarterbacks

All eyes are on the quarterbacks, with the returning Cam Newton and the rookie Mac Jones. Both have been lauded in this space on multiple occasions and justifiably so. Each has had a great pre-season.

First, Cam Newton. Newton had a solid pre-season throwing the ball with a completion percentage of about 67 percent of his passes. That’s a solid percentage.

Now here’s a quick take that hasn’t seemed to be mentioned. Cam Newton didn’t run the ball in the pre-season really at all.

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Now, this is not a shock for most quarterbacks, but for Cam Newton, it’s certainly interesting. His best asset has always been his running.

It’s been argued that the threat of the run should actually be his best attribute but there was little of that in the three pre-season games. Pretty much all vanilla play-calling.

Keep that in mind when Cam Newton starts against the Miami Dolphins on September 12th. Teams don’t show very much of the playbook in pre-season. The New England Patriots showed nothing at all here.

Expect lots more against the Dolphins, including some Cam Newton RPO plays. Then there was rookie, and I’ll use the word, sensation, Mac Jones.

Mac Jones has come completely as advertised when it was thought he’d be the third pick in the entire draft by the San Francisco 49ers. They changed directions and went with Trey Lance. Also a good choice.

The Patriots then stumbled into Jones at the Number 15 overall pick, and that was a very fortuitous stumble indeed. The young man can sling it. He completed a pedestrian (for him) 69.2 percent of his passes.

Most of that was with the backup receivers and offensive line against other teams’ back-ups. It complicates the evaluation but it says here we’re looking at a 70 percent-plus completion guy.

Make of that what you will. Mac Jones may have to wait a while but it says here he will light the league on fire when he gets his opportunity. And even more when they give him quality receivers.

The offensive line’s starters are excellent when all are healthy but offensive left tackle Isaiah Wynn is an injury waiting to happen. Trent Brown should be the starter on the left.

The New England Patriots play makers

Now to the offensive weapons. There are some if they are healthy. Newcomers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne are just OK. Bourne has looked better.

The team still needs a No. 1 receiver. Jakobi Meyers is improving and he could be a very solid second or third receiver.

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The tight end situation was addressed heavily in free agency with Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. Neither played much at all in pre-season. When healthy they are solid.

And, interestingly, with Mac Jones throwing the rock there was a Devin Asiasi sighting with four catches against the Giants. Since nothing was expected from Asiasi, it’s very promising, indeed.

Saving the best for last is the running back room. It was good enough to allow the team to trade a former first-round pick and a solid back, Sony Michel, albeit for peanuts.

Leading the way is third-year man Damien Harris. He’s a 1000-yard possibility. There’s James White, the pass-catcher par excellence.

Then there’s all-purpose back, J.J. Taylor who just seems to be able to do everything. He was an undrafted free agent and he’s a find and maybe a breakout player in 2021.

And then there’s the Ram, the exciting Rhamondre Stevenson. Stevenson bashed and burst for five touchdowns in three pre-season games.

He ran for power, speed, and he even was slotted out wide as a receiver at times. That shows the confidence the team has in his pass-catching ability, which is impressive, especially for a rookie.

Stevenson is the real deal and if he gets enough playing time he’ll be in the running for the All-Rookie team. His emergence allowed the team to trade Sony Michel.

In short, this offense has two top quarterbacks, a top-five offensive line, adequate receivers, two excellent tight ends, and a running back room that may be the envy of the entire NFL.

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It looks here like they’re ready to rock the AFC East’s world and maybe the AFC in total, as well, if they can stay relatively injury-free.

We’ll see if this prognostication is accurate beginning at Gillette Stadium on September 12th against the Miami Dolphins and old friend, Coach Brian Flores.

Can’t wait to see how all this translates when they start for real. It says here it will translate just fine, thank you.