Perry: Five bold predictions for your 2022 Patriots originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
There's so much uncertainty associated with this year's Patriots that, when it comes to predictions, the world is your oyster. Throw anything against the wall, see if it sticks. Because there's a chance it sticks.
Now the problem you might run into is when you're coming up with bold predictions. Because anything is possible, because there is no consensus opinion on how things will shake out, conjuring up a prediction that bucks convention is a little more difficult to do.
No matter. We are resolute in our pursuit of bold and so here are five predictions of that variety for this upcoming, unpredictable Patriots season.
Bill Belichick will call offensive plays
At some point. Maybe not for a lengthy stretch. Maybe not for a full game. But Bill Belichick certainly will have significant input in how the Patriots are attacking their plans on a week-to-week basis offensively, and it would not surprise me if at some point he took the reins -- and the coach-to-quarterback communication system -- from presumed play-caller Matt Patricia. (Patricia, by the way, did not commit to the fact that he would be calling plays come the regular season. When asked about it last week, he said that the preseason was the preseason so we'll have to wait and see how things work for Week 1 and beyond.)
Yes, Mac Jones will have a lot of say when it comes to which plays are run and when. He'll have the ability to override what gets signaled into the huddle. But at some point, the bold prediction here is that it will be Belichick doing the signaling.
Belichick will move on from Shanahan runs
Can't wrap my head around Belichick becoming a do-what-we-do kind of coach. It's clear he wants the Patriots' identity to be one that incorporates more wide-zone runs, which is what has helped offenses in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Green Bay take off. But even after spending a great deal of time trying to iron out the nuances of those wide-zone runs this summer, trying to simplify things for everyone involved offensively, it hasn't clicked just yet.
If those runs continue to get stuffed at or behind the line of scrimmage, expect Belichick to move on. He's not afraid to adjust, and he has no patience for negative runs. Even if it means scrapping hours upon hours of work this offseason, if they aren't productive, Belichick will shift away from the types of plays he hoped would be a staple of this year's attack.
Jack Jones will become a starter within a month
Hard to teach the kind of instincts and change-of-direction ability required to be around the football as frequently as Jones has been this summer. Before September is through, the fourth-rounder out of Arizona State will start opposite Jalen Mills. I think.
Jonathan Jones looks like the choice as the boundary corner opposite Mills for now, but perhaps a shift in competition -- from dealing with small-and-shifty wideouts in Miami this weekend to bigger targets in Pittsburgh in Week 2 -- will lead to a shift in the starting lineup. Jonathan Jones could bump inside to his usual slot position, opening up an opportunity for Jack Jones to play on the outside.
A combination of the Joneses and Mills might be a way for Belichick to get his top-three options on the field. Against Miami, having Myles Bryant or Marcus Jones in the slot might make the most sense when it comes to keeping up with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle.
Christian Barmore will be a Top 5 defensive tackle
Depending on the numbers you highlight, you could make an argument that Barmore was already sniffing elite territory as a rookie. Consider this: According to Pro Football Focus’ pass-rush win rate statistic, Barmore was fifth among interior defensive linemen in 2021 behind only Aaron Donald, Jacob Hargrave, Jonathan Allen and Chris Jones. He was second among all rookie interior linemen since 2006 in terms of his total pressures (48), putting him behind only Leonard Williams of the Jets back in 2015.
Barmore has had a really strong training camp and figures to continue to be a seriously disruptive force. By season’s end -- if he continues to shine against the pass and add some run-game highlights to his reel -- he may be viewed as among the game’s best at his position. Bold? Yes. Impossible? Far from it.
Hunter Henry will lead all tight ends in TDs
Hand up. I have a confession to make. This ain’t as bold as it looks. Matter of fact, Henry led the NFL in touchdown catches by a tight end just last year. He shared that honor with Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews and Dawson Knox. But Henry picked up his nine scores in only 10 games. If he manages to stay on the field, he should hit double-digit scores, and he certainly has the potential to reach a career-high in receiving yardage as well. His chemistry with Mac Jones is strong, and Jones’ trust in Henry was visible down in the red zone last season.
Nothing Henry has done this summer would lead anyone to believe that’s going away. If anything, Henry only proved to Jones that he deserves to continue to be targeted in tight spots. While there’s plenty to question about the New England offense going into this season, the connection between Jones and Henry should be a constant. That means touchdowns. And bunches of ‘em.