The Patriots are taking this season on the chin.
Mercy won’t come for another two months, but the Pats have momentarily been granted a breather with their annual bye. It’s time for rest and reflection.
With seven games to play, here are seven Patriots thoughts and nuggets entering the break:
Mac has lost the locker room
After he was benched for a second time this season during a Week 5 loss to New Orleans, several members of the organization lost faith in Mac Jones. But now, after getting benched for a third time last Sunday in Germany, Jones’ support is vanishing.
One team source estimated that at least 80% of the Patriots’ locker room is out on Jones. Another said the “vast majority” of players are done with him. Both said the lack of belief spreads to both sides of the ball, with a shared sense that Jones’ worst mistakes negate the best efforts of his teammates.
Certain players, including running back Rhamondre Stevenson, said they’re still behind Jones after Sunday’s 10-6 loss to the Colts. Asked if the team could benefit from a change at quarterback, running back Ezekiel Elliott replied “I don’t know,” and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster said the team would need to figure that out after the bye.
Jones’ 10 interceptions ranks second in the league, and he’s recorded the most turnover-worthy plays of any quarterback this season, per Pro Football Focus. He’s tracking for career worsts in passer rating, touchdown percentage, interception percentage and yards per attempt.
Good riddance, Jack Jones
It was time to go.
Why Belichick stood by Jones through last season’s suspension, last summer’s arrest for carrying loaded guns and large-capacity magazines into Logan airport, his storming out of a training camp practice and then missing curfew two weeks ago made less sense by the day. Jones’ talent covered for him in Foxboro. But once that talent failed to deliver, as quarterbacks enjoyed a 106.1 passer rating when targeting him this season, Belichick cut ties.
Jones believed he deserved a bigger role, according to a source, and acted out in ways that undercut his push for more playing time. He missed curfew at the team hotel before the Pats’ home loss to Washington on Nov. 5, a source confirmed to the Herald’s Doug Kyed. After getting benched for the first quarter of that game, his attitude and level of engagement suffered, including during the team’s trip to Germany, per one source.
Against the Colts, Jones again sat the entire first quarter and didn’t play a full series in the second half. To a degree, off-field problems were always to be expected with the Jack Jones experience. Once his play fell off, too, he lost all leverage and claim to a roster spot.
The Patriots are better off now, even if their defense suffered along the way. Jones blew the coverage on Miami’s game-sealing touchdown during a 31-17 win on Oct. 29, and allowed multiple catches in the Pats’ last two losses to Washington and the Colts.
Don’t rule out Belichick to the Giants
Two weeks ago, it was floated in this space, and others, that Belichick could coach the Commanders next season. But what about another NFC East club?
Belichick’s history with the Giants — with whom he won two Super Bowls as an assistant and first earned recognition as a defensive mastermind — is well-documented. So is his love for the franchise.
This was Belichick on the Giants’ ownership the last time the Patriots and Giants played in Oct. 2019: “Of course, the Mara family — single ownership. They’ve certainly been through all the phases of the league, and not only have done things very professionally and for the good of the game on the field, but present everything well off the field as well — their family and their organization and just the way they do things.”
He continued: “So that’s a storied franchise and it goes way, way back. I was very, very fortunate to be a part of that great organization for 12 years and I learned a lot there from so many people. … I was very fortunate to be a part of that.”
The Giants are 2-8 under second-year coach Brian Daboll, who many presume is safe. But in 2017, the Giants fired Ben McAdoo amid his second year after he went 11-5 in his debut season. In 2021, they canned Joe Judge after his second year. If Belichick has communicated a willingness to return through back channels, why couldn’t the Giants move on from Daboll, too?
Non-obvious preseason take I got right: Slow the Marte Mapu hype train
From the summer: “(Mapu) has one pass breakup in 12 practices, and his path to playing time as a rookie is probably limited to subpackage linebacker. And that’s if Bentley or Mack Wilson (who’s had a strong camp) don’t hold onto the job. Let’s see Mapu in action during the preseason, then I’ll move up from the caboose of this hype train closer to the conductor.”
In 10 games, Mapu has played just 152 snaps. That still trails Matt Judon and Christian Gonzalez, who haven’t played since Week 4. Mapu has yet to make a single splash play and was at least partially responsible for two touchdowns earlier this year. Not to mention, the coaching staff is primarily playing him at safety, not linebacker, where the 230-pounder would be better suited.
Non-obvious preseason take I got wrong: The pass rush could be their best in 20 years
Also from the summer: “Matt Judon. Josh Uche. Christian Barmore. Deatrich Wise. Keion White (two preseason pressures against Houston). Ja’Whaun Bentley blitzing like a Hummer with its brakes cut. Watch out.”
Ha. A complete whiff here. The Patriots’ 18 sacks are tied for fourth-fewest in the league, as is their 6.5% QB knockdown percentage. Barmore is the only bright spot.
Bentley and Wise haven’t nearly matched their output from last season. White and Uche have underwhelmed. I am taking this L.
The blitz is broken
Through Week 7, the Patriots defense ranked fourth-worst in pressure rate. Naturally, they tried to heat up quarterbacks by blitzing more. Instead, those blitzes have had the opposite effect.
Over the last three weeks, in losses to the Dolphins, Commanders and Colts, the Pats allowed the second-highest passer rating (137.5), third-highest EPA (Expected Points Added) and fourth-highest completion percentage (73.9%) to their opponents when blitzing. After failing to heat up Washington’s Sam Howell and Indianapolis’ Gardner Minshew in the first half, the Pats all but abandoned the blitz in the second half of each game. Might they find more fixes as they cool off during the bye?