As any NFL team’s hopes rely on their quarterbacks, so do the New England Patriots in 2023. No great revelation there. Mac Jones is the apparent starting quarterback if early reps are any indication.
This is a multi-level question that involves every position group on offense. Let’s take a look at what they’ve done generally in each and assess the situation.
New England Patriots made some strides in offense
The New England Patriots added a nice wide receiver in JuJu Smith-Schuster but lost Jakobi Meyers. They also drafted two wideouts later in the draft. It was not a significant investment. Smith-Schuster at his best is an improvement over Meyers, but by how much?
They also added pass-catching tight end Mike Gesicki.
Gesicki can play. He’s a major upgrade over now-traded Jonnu Smith.
Unfortunately, both Gesicki and his fellow tight end Hunter Henry are out of contract after this season. Failing to draft even one tight end to prepare for next season and provide depth now gets the team an F grade for that non-effort.
At running back, they lost productive but injury-prone Damian Harris and signed James Robinson, also an injury risk. They did OK there but probably came out short in the exchange
The New England Patriots had one overarching offensive objective in mind this off-season, adding to the offensive line. The question is, have they done enough in that critically important unit?
Did the New England Patriots improve their offensive line enough?
The answer is yes, and no. The yes is that they have certainly attempted to bolster the interior O-line positions. They used three mid-round draft picks on center/guard, Jake Andrews, guard/tackle Sidy Sow, and guard Atonio Mafi.
While the Andrews pick was a reach in the fourth round, the other two weren’t. They are big guard types and should be nice additions, especially since Mike Onwenu, the starting right guard is a free agent after the season. What about the offensive tackle (OT) position?
There the optics get a bit murky. They added two newcomers at tackle. Riley Reiff, a 34-year-old veteran, is a solid player, but Calvin Anderson is basically a waiver-wire-level player. They also re-signed decent journeyman Sean McDermott.
The Patriots failed Mac Jones in not bolstering the OT position nearly enough. The move for the New England Patriots whose OT position was a complete disaster in 2022, was to first, sign a starting OT to protect Jones in free agency.
What the Patriots did and did not do at offensive tackle
The best choices here were offensive left tackle (OLT) Orlando Brown Jr. and Mike McGlinchey, an offensive right tackle (ORT). They whiffed and signed neither one of these top free agents starters. That was big mistake, No. One.
This is because the injury-prone starting OLT, Trent Brown is a free agent as is the older newly acquired Reiff after this season.
To magnify the mistake. They failed to even draft one offensive tackle. The aforementioned Sow may be a candidate, though he played guard most recently. That notwithstanding, they made big mistake No. Two by not drafting one or two additional offensive tackles.
An injury to either Brown or Reiff will be catastrophic to the offensive line and by proxy for Jones. In the final analysis, no, the New England Patriots did not do enough to solidify this unit, the second most important on the team in the offseason.
Maybe the team will escape serious harm by having a season free from major injuries at the position but don’t count on it. Both tackles are over 30 and tackles just get hurt. The outcome of all this is that the New England Patriots didn’t do nearly enough at offensive tackle.
The answer to the title’s question thus is this, to a certain extent have indeed hung Mac Jones out to dry by not providing the top-notch additional starter and solid young depth at offensive tackle. That could be a game-changer.