2022 Patriots Preview: Kyle Dugger makes a huge leap and more bold Patriots predictions

·4 min read

Curran: Five bold predictions for your 2022 Patriots originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

We delivered our season predictions and season preview columns last week. But the hunger for crystal-ball peering in 2022 is insatiable. So here I present to you five bold (BOLD!) predictions for the Patriots this season.

Are exercises like this rife with potential for me to look clueless within a month or two? Sure!!! Is there a likelihood that these bold (BOLD!) predictions will be used as a cudgel down the road? Oh yeah.

Do you think that makes it any less fun to do bold (BOLD!) predictions? Yes. Yes it does. But onward we plow. I also will remind that in 2020, I predicted an 8-8 season (they went 7-9). Last year I had them at 11-6, they went 10-7. I remind you of that because NOBODY ELSE WILL!

Wide zone runs will be mothballed by October

The Patriots have diligently worked at implementing wide-zone runs that are a staple of the Shanahan Offense. Still, they stink at them. They could be playing possum and just running those plays into bad defensive looks which is something Phil Perry posited. When the season starts, they’ll audible away from those bad looks and wide zone (or stretch) will look better when utilizedThey’ll be able to get it right when the season starts.

I’m not buying. I saw them attempt to run wide early in 2021. After a few weeks of negative runs, they finally threw up their hands and went back to the interior running game that best fit their personnel. Inside runs still fit their personnel well. Even though they eliminated the fullback, Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson are downhill runners and the somewhat lumbering offensive line personnel they have (with the exception of Cole Strange) is not smooth at getting to the blocks they have to. Again, why they traded their dancing bear right guard Shaq Mason remains mystifying.

Patriots Talk: Season preview: Just how much patience is necessary in ‘22? | Listen & Subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Last year, the Patriots ran 289 times up the middle or over the guards. They ran 179 times around end or over the tackle. Eventually, they’ll get back to that.

The Patriots will allow more than 24 points just twice before Thanksgiving

This one is inspired. The two teams that will top 24 in the first 11 games of the year will be Miami in the opener and Green Bay in Week 4. Other than that, you will bear witness to a defense that is suddenly flying around like hungry bats. Fast and explosive is what the Patriots wanted to become on defense. Fast and explosive is what they are going to be.

The lineup of opponents will also help them be as stifling as I predict: Miami, Pittsburgh, Baltimore (could be a problem), Green Bay, Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, Jets, Colts, Jets, Vikings. In short, the Patriots defense will do its job this year. It’s on the offense to pull its weight.

The Patriots will start 1-3. At best

I don’t like the offense’s chances of pulling its weight early on. It won’t be a talent thing. They have plenty of that at the skill positions and at quarterback.

But I’m so uneasy about the gameday machinations of Matt Patricia working as offensive playcaller for the first time AND doing double-duty as offensive line coach while Mac Jones transitions away from having Josh McDaniels attached to his hip to having ... I don’t really know who.

It’s Bill Belichick’s Super Secret Plan and he seems quite content to spend plenty of "In Bill We Trust" cache entrusting the offense and Jones to unproven offensive minds, reconfiguring the scheme and betting that his eyebrow-raising first-round pick Cole Strange (and, for that matter, his 2018 first-round pick Isaiah Wynn) will be capable.

They will. Eventually. The arc of the season will bend toward success. But it won’t look real good against Miami, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Green Bay.

Mac Jones will be AFC Player of the Month in October

After spending September as a two-headed piñata, Mac and Matt will right the ship in October. The level of competition descends -- Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, Jets -- the Patriots figure out the parts of their scheme that are doomed to failure and scrap ‘em and most importantly they’ll let Mac cook.

The most important asset on offense is Jones’ brain. Second to that, depth and versatility within their pass-catching group. It may seem a lot to put on Jones’ plate in just his second season, but ceding some control to him will A) make them more potent and B) ensure he doesn’t lose his damn mind. 

Kyle Dugger, Pro Bowler

This will be a preseason prediction for me every year until it happens. And after that, I’ll predict he’s going to be All-Pro. He’s just too big, too fast, too strong, too smart, too committed not to become one of the best safeties in the league. Additionally, he’s going to be in a defense tailor-made to highlight him.