New England Patriots training camp is set to open on Wednesday, July 26, which means the offseason is about to officially transition to the preseason. It’s been a busy last few months for the Patriots, who are looking to bounce back from their second losing campaign in three years.
This year is shaping up to be a pivotal season for several members of New England’s organization, not only on the field but also on the sidelines. If they don’t perform and the Patriots miss the playoffs again, it could spell the end of their tenure with the team.
With that in mind, here are three members of the New England Patriots who are on the hot seat heading into training camp.
3 New England Patriots on the Hot Seat
It goes without saying that this is a crucial year for Jones. He looked like a potential franchise quarterback after making the Pro Bowl and leading the team to the playoffs as a rookie in 2021, only to take a major step backward in 2022. His disappointing performance on the field, frequent pouting and rumored rift with Bill Belichick have raised doubts about his future with the organization beyond 2023.
In Jones’ defense, his subpar 2022 was largely due to factors beyond his control. He had to learn a new offensive scheme for the second time in as many years, and it later turned out the guys running the offense (Joe Judge and Matt Patricia) had no clue what they were doing. He also suffered a nasty high-ankle sprain and didn’t have the best weapons around him, either, making his job even more difficult.
Jones’ weapons haven’t improved much, but at least he has a real offensive coordinator now in Bill O’Brien. If the former first-round pick can play better and prove that last year was a fluke, he’ll solidify his status as the team’s starting QB going forward. If he continues to struggle and maintains a negative attitude, however, it might be time for the Pats to move on.
While many New England Patriots players (including Jones) didn’t play up to expectations in 2022, Belichick deserves much of the blame for that. By allowing Judge and Patricia — neither of whom had coached offense before — to run that unit, he did not put his players in the best position to succeed. He also fanned the flames of the team’s quarterback controversy last year by prematurely bringing back Jones from his ankle injury.
There’s no denying Belichick’s track record as the greatest coach in NFL history, but the recent results have been underwhelming. New England hasn’t won a playoff game since the 2018 season and is only 25-25 since Tom Brady left. Belichick has yet to prove he can win without Brady.
There are other concerns as well. At 71 years old, Belichick is getting up there in age and may be losing his fastball. He’s also elected to fill out his coaching staff with his friends and sons, which suggests there’s no one around to challenge him or bring new perspectives. Belichick also bungled the DeAndre Hopkins negotiations, allowing the Tennessee Titans to outbid him and failing to acquire the star wide receiver his team desperately needs.
With so many challenges facing them this year, the Patriots have an uphill battle to make the playoffs. DraftKings Sportsbook has New England at -300 to miss the postseason, which seems like a bet worth making.
With Hopkins no longer coming to the rescue and limited options available at wide receiver in free agency, New England will likely be counting on its current wide receiving corps to step up.
That includes Parker, who was a mild disappointment during his first season with the Patriots. Fans were hopeful that he would give the receiving unit a boost after the team traded for him last offseason. Instead, he failed to stand out and finished with his fewest yards per game (41.5) since 2018.
Nobody expects Parker to be a No. 1 receiver, but he needs to make more of an impact in 2023 if the Patriots want to contend. Another so-so season of 500 yards and a couple of touchdowns isn’t going to cut it and will probably make him expendable, as such players aren’t hard to find.
After turning 30 earlier this year, Parker needs to prove he’s not over the hill yet.