Mailbag Monday 5/22: What if Mac Jones improves, but the team doesn’t?
We’re back with another weekly mailbag and answering submitted questions through social media. Last week, we touched on Tom Brady’s return, Kendrick Bourne’s status, and the cornerback room as a whole.
This time around, the conversation turns to Patriots quarterback Mac Jones and rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez, along with the offensive line and receivers room.
If you’re interested in getting into next week’s mailbag, comment down below, or follow me on Twitter @CamSGarrity
Without further ado, let’s get into your questions for this week.
Q - How will the Patriots upgrade the O-Line and WR room? - Patrick G. (Facebook)
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
Thanks for the question. In all honesty, the Patriots have likely finished their moves across the roster. After bringing in Calvin Anderson, Riley Reiff, drafting Sidy Sow and retaining Conor McDermott, the Patriots have signaled they’re likely done adding for now.
As of now, I think Andrew Steuber, who was a redshirt rookie also has a chance to compete for the right tackle slot. We can’t forget that Trent Brown is also on the roster and will be a starter, barring any injuries or moves. But as of now, he’s penciled in at either tackle slot.
A lot of the offensive struggles were pinpointed to Matt Patricia’s failed offense, but it’s also the fact that talented players checked out and weren’t as bought in. With Bill O’Brien in the fold, that won’t be an option.
As of now, I predict the offensive line to be Brown at left tackle, Cole Strange at left guard, David Andrews at center, Mike Onwenu at right guard, and Reiff at right tackle, with Calvin Anderson, Atonio Mafi, Sidy Sow, and Jake Andrews on the bench.
As for the wide receiver room, we’ll have to see how it shakes out in camp. The Patriots don’t have anything set in stone in terms of starters, and we’ve seen O’Brien allude to wanting a clean slate on offense.
That leads me to believe that the Patriots will not want to move on from anyone, but instead, they’ll have an open battle for reps.
It’s yet to be seen how it will come together, but in my 53-man roster projection, I have six receivers on the roster: DeVante Parker, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kendrick Bourne, Tyquan Thornton, Demario Douglas and Kayshon Boutte. The Patriots have plenty of talent, but they’ll need to unlock the potential of everyone.
If we’re looking for a true No. 1, the players that have flashed that before, whether in college or the pros, are Parker and Boutte. That title is certainly up for grabs.
Q: If the Pats don't make the playoffs but Mac has a breakout year, does he stay or become trade bait? -@DarweezySF
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
Thanks for the question. I think this depends on context when we get to that stage of next offseason. If the Patriots go 10-7, barely miss the playoffs, and Mac Jones has, say 4,500-plus passing yards, 35-plus touchdowns and less than 15 interceptions, there is no reason to use him as trade bait.
I actually think the Patriots wouldn’t be making any changes in that scenario, and here’s why. The Patriots have roster space and cap space to retain veterans and add free agents to the mix in 2024. I find it hard to believe that a winning season with an improved offense results in trading a young quarterback under team control. I also find it hard to believe the team moves on from Belichick in this scenario as well.
The AFC is loaded on paper, and a 10-7 finish will likely not be good enough to make the playoffs. So if this is the case, it would actually signal to the Patriots that they now have the greenlight to aggressively build the team around Jones and Belichick.
If the offense is better, and the defense is the same, but decisions from Bill Belichick late in games costs them winnable games, I think there is a chance Jones is still here and Belichick is the one out the door.
This season will be a season of context. We really won’t know what the future holds for Jones, but as of now, it’s time to get excited for a new season of football with the current roster for 2023.
Q: How short (amount of games) is the leash for Mac Jones? - Nicolas C. (Facebook)
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
A good follow to our last question, but to me, I think the Patriots’ “leash” on Jones will be long. I think with O’Brien in the mix and mentioning the offense getting a clean slate, I think the plan is to build around Jones.
Jones only has a handful of RPO reps past the line of scrimmage in the NFL and made his dough running intermediate RPO, quick throws, and play action passes.
I think the Patriots will go as far as he takes them.
In my opinion, Bailey Zappe is a good backup, but that’s about it. They’ll allow Jones to play through this season and take a look at the offense as a whole after this year.
The hope is, with improved offensive line play and an actual coordinator, Jones can get back to 2021 Jones. To me, the notion of a “clean slate” as we have heard as of recent, signals that they’re treating 2022 as if it didn’t happen.
That should benefit Jones entering Year 3.
Q: Will Christian Gonzalez be left on an island 1:1? - Nicolas C. (Facebook)
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Gonzalez, to me, has the potential to be left on an island at some point, but I think early on the team will plan to shadow some help over the top. We could see more two high safety looks from the Patriots at some point, but in my draft kit, I had Gonzalez as a clear cut top-10 player and CB1 in a deep class.
I’m high on him, and eventually, I think he could be like Stephon Gilmore, where the team leaves him on an island against the best of the best. Gonzalez, like any Patriots rookie, will need to prove week in, week out that he is ready, as the Patriots rarely ever give rookies the keys based on where they were drafted.
Even a first-round quarterback in Jones had to beat out a veteran on the back nine (Cam Newton) and a career backup (Brian Hoyer), to get reps in camp.