The very solid moves like signing JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mike Gesicki and drafting Christian Gonzalez and to a lesser extent Keion White have been offset by other factors.
First, they drafted poorly overall and reached all over the draft board. Secondly, they had two gross omissions. They failed to address their porous offensive tackle situation effectively (and not at all in the draft). In addition, they failed to draft a tight end either.
One move, however, has the chance to be a bold and brilliant step in the right direction for the team in 2023 and beyond. It comes in the person of a dual-threat quarterback, undrafted free agent (UDFA) signing Malik Cunningham of Louisville.
New England Patriots may have struck paydirt
How can a UDFA make a huge impact on the 2023 New England Patriots? There are a couple of reasons why signing Cunningham to the largest UDFA contact guarantee in the team’s history could bring a windfall.
Cunningham is a true dual-threat quarterback. He’s not only a passer but an accomplished runner, as well. While his passing stats aren’t too glamorous, his running is.
Currently, the Patriots’ top two quarterbacks on the depth chart are lead-footed Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe. They are pure pocket passers with little escapability to add to the offense. Cunningham is the polar opposite.
That ability, especially in light of the New England Patriots porous offensive line, could be key to an offense. That offense had lots of trouble in 2022 scoring points for a number of reasons, among which was coaching.
If you can escape the rush, there’s always a chance with a dynamic rusher like Cunningham to make good things happen. If he plays, don’t expect much turtling in the pocket and taking unnecessary sacks by him. He’ll take off and gain yardage.
Cunningham would deliver other benefits for Patriots
In addition to his running ability, Cunningham’s mere presence on the game-day roster necessitates that opposing defenses game plan for him at the helm. This multiplies the problems they have in getting ready for what in 2022 was an all too predictable attack.
Assuming new and real Offensive Coordinator Bill O’Brien had a lot to do with his signing and can actually prepare a plan to utilize these talents (his two predecessors, Matt Patricia and Josh McDaniels could not), Cunningham will be a huge asset.
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One situation in which he will be the best option available will be on any third and long situation. Defenses have to be wary that Cunningham can rip off a run of 15-20 yards plus on any broken or even scripted play.
That means real problems in maintaining contain while still covering the Patriot receivers. It’s a no-brainer application of all your resources in trying to make chicken salad out of chicken liver when you’re in third and long situations.
All this adds up to the great potential for Cunningham to make a difference for the 2023 New England Patriots. Hopefully, they will be astute enough to follow up on their really excellent and exciting UDFA signing by utilizing the electric Cunningham to the fullest. We’ll see if they are.