Patriots CB confirms defense was frustrated with offense in 2023 originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The New England Patriots' defense held up its end of the bargain during an otherwise dismal 2023 season.
While Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe, and the Pats offense struggled to put points on the board, the defense impressed despite losing two of its top players -- rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez and Pro Bowl linebacker Matthew Judon -- to season-ending injuries. The most glaring example of the discrepancy between the offense and defense came from Weeks 10 to 13. After a 10-3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Germany, the Patriots returned from their Week 11 bye and lost 10-7 to the New York Giants and 6-0 to the Los Angeles Chargers.
That seemed to be the tipping point in the locker room as The MMQB's Albert Breer detailed a "disconnect" between New England's offensive and defensive players. On Thursday, Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones admitted the defense grew frustrated with having to carry the team.
"I feel like it's inevitable," he told 98.5 The Sports Hub's Zolak & Bertrand. " If you're in a marriage and you're the only one putting in work, and that's how you feel, eventually that's going to come out as frustration. ...
"It's literally that feeling of like, if you wake up and you feel like consistently week in and week out you're the only one that's still showing up that's going to start to develop some frustration."
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Mac Jones was benched mid-game multiple times prior to Bailey Zappe taking over as the starting quarterback for the final month of the campaign. The third-year signal-caller's regression continued after his promising rookie season. He went 2-9 as the starter, throwing for 2,120 yards and 10 touchdowns while tossing 12 interceptions.
Now, the Patriots find themselves searching for a new QB to lead the team in 2024. They could find the answer via the draft, during which they own the No. 3 overall pick, or in free agency with veterans Kirk Cousins and Baker Mayfield set to hit the market.
As for Mac, is there any hope that he can be fixed?
"I don't know if 'fix' is the word," Jonathan Jones answered. "You can't just point to him as an individual. I'm always a fan of teams sitting quarterbacks young. I think it's an important position that you get to sit back and develop as a game. And if you look at the teams, I mean, Green Bay, you look at up like, well, they don't have a quarterback problem. It's like, well, they brought a guy in (Jordan Love) that they knew had the caliber, sat him for a couple of years, and by the time it was his turn, he's made all his mistakes on the practice field so no one got to judge him for it.
"No one got to see the dumb mistakes that he made during practice because you just come in, you correct it, and then he gets better from that. Whereas, when you throw him out there to the wolves, the media is gonna do what the media is supposed to do. That's your job is to judge your performance. And so, when you throw a guy out there young and the world's gonna judge his performance, it's hard for him to keep that consistency."
If the Patriots select a QB in the first round -- either USC's Caleb Williams, UNC's Drake Maye, or LSU's Jayden Daniels -- sitting him for a year or two likely won't be an option. If they wait until later in the draft to select someone like Washington's Michael Penix Jr. or Oregon's Bo Nix, they could add a veteran to bridge the gap until the youngster is ready to take the reins.
You can watch the full interview with Jonathan Jones below, or on YouTube: