New England Patriots: What to expect from new Mac Jones led offense

Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

Now that 53 man rosters are set, the NFL world awaits the start of the regular season. While old friend Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will kick things off against the Dallas Cowboys a week from today, the New England Patriots won’t open their regular season campaign until September 12th when they welcome in the Miami Dolphins.

In case you have been living under a rock and missed it, the Patriots will be led by rookie quarterback Mac Jones this season, giving the team an exciting new look. There has been much talk about whether they made the correct decision in releasing Cam Newton, but there’s no sense harping on that any longer. It’s time to move on and enjoy the excitement that comes with Jones being named the starter.

There are a lot of questions and unknowns surrounding the Patriots offense now that Jones has been appointed as the starter. Newton was the presumed starter all offseason long up until the point he was cut yesterday morning, and we had a sense what the offense would like with him under center. That doesn’t exist with Jones.

All we have on Jones is his college career and three preseason games. It became clear early on he was a much better fit in the Patriots offense than Newton was, it was just a matter of when he would be given the reigns. Now that the training wheels are off, we can dive in and take a look at what the Patriots offense will look like with Jones leading the way.

The New England Patriots offense will return to it’s old “Tom Brady” scheme

It was clear last offseason that the Pats offense was going to have adopt a bit of a new look when they brought Newton aboard. They had just lost Brady to the Bucs, and in the process, the basis of their offense as well. Gone was the pure pocket passer they had developed their offense around for the past 20 seasons, and in came Newton, a dual threat quarterback who relied on his legs just as much as his throwing arm.

It’s safe to say that the coaching staff should dust off some of the plays they had to throw away last season when Newton came aboard. Jones playstyle is much more similar to Brady’s than Newton’s was, and it should allow the Pats to run their preferred offensive gameplan.

Head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels clearly are more comfortable running a system designed for a pure passer than a dual threat quarterback, so it makes sense they rolled with Jones over Newton. They made as much clear in the offseason when they signed the top two available tight ends in free agency in Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry.

Bringing in two top tier tight ends will allow New England to dip back into their “12” personnel package that was so common during the Brady era. It was at it’s best when Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez were taking the league by storm. Even during the end of Gronk’s time in New England, they always had another tight end alongside him so that they could roll with this package.

The “12” personnel group refers to having two tight ends, two wide receivers, and one running back on the field. Adding Smith and Henry gives them their most potent combination of tight ends since Gronk and Hernandez, and fans should expect to see a lot of this throughout the season.

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This was a group that largely was phased out of the offense last season, in part to Newton’s playstyle and a lack of weapons on offense. Bringing in Jones, Smith, and Henry to help revive it showed early on what the New England Patriots wanted their offense to look like in the future. Turns out the future just so happened to be this season.

Part of what makes this package so deadly is play action passes. You could almost always count on Brady to dial up a play action and find a wide open Gronk streaking across the field on a crossing route. That’s where the running back room comes in.

For much of training camp and the preseason, the running backs were the talk of the town. Spearheaded by Damien Harris, if this group can get things going on the ground, that will really help the offense open up. Considering Jones is still just a rookie, there are going to be times he struggles, and it will up to the ground game to pick him up.

The good thing is the Pats are well equipped to do that. Harris showed the potential to become a star running back in this league, and with Rhamondre Stevenson in tow, along with dual threat backs James White and J.J. Taylor, it will be hard to slow down this group. And their success will help make or break the passing game.

The play action is only as successful as the run game, because if teams don’t fear the threat of you running the football, there’s no reason to play the run; you can essentially just drop off the line and play the pass. Two tight end sets typically incorporate play action, because if you load up on the line, teams typically think you are running the ball. But when your quarterback holds onto the ball, a tight end can slip into some space for a big gain.

This personnel grouping obviously isn’t going to be run every play, but it provides insight into what the offense will look like. The New England Patriots strength on offense is their running backs and tight ends, so they will obviously use this to their advantage. They have some solid wide receivers, but they probably won’t be throwing out three or four wideouts for most of the game; simply put, they will probably lose if they do this.

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The good news for the offense is that Jones has shown the ability to control the offense the way the coaching staff wants him to. This offense relies on you dropping back, going through your reads, and making the right throw, which is precisely what Jones is about. He showed as much in preseason, and it wasn’t necessarily surprising to see the amount of success the offense had under his control.

There’s a chance Newton is still a better quarterback than Jones, but it ultimately won’t matter. Even if Jones struggles, the offense is in much better position to be successful this season with him under center rather than Newton. It may not always be pretty, but Jones is well equipped to have a successful rookie season leading the New England Patriots offense.