Gronk: Bill O’Brien’s return to Patriots ‘the ultimate test’ for Mac Jones
AFC East Reporter
Expectations for brand spanking new New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien are starting to construct.
O’Brien, who was employed in late January, will take over what was a particularly labored and drama-filled offense in 2022 that even featured quarterback Mac Jones screaming at offensive playcaller Matt Patricia. Jones and Patricia by no means appeared to get alongside. Patricia will now not work on the offensive aspect of the ball, if he stays with the workforce in 2023.
But there’s extra hope for O’Brien and Jones, given how effectively quarterbacks have performed below O’Brien throughout his time with the Alabama Crimson Tide (offensive coordinator), the Houston Texans (head coach) and his earlier stint with the Patriots (offensive coordinator).
Former Patriots tight finish and present FOX Sports analyst Rob Gronkowski, who performed below O’Brien in New England in 2011, is an enormous fan of the rent.
“I think that he’s gonna put Mac Jones in the best possible situation week in and week out,” Gronkowski stated throughout Super Bowl week. “So you’re not gonna really see a play where you’re just hitting your head, like, ‘What was that?'”
There have been a whole lot of these moments in the course of the 2022 season.
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It was laborious to inform precisely what the Patriots have been making an attempt to perform with their offense final season. They ran the ball effectively sufficient, however when it got here to the passing sport, the ideas have been vanilla. The teaching workers struggled with fundamental components of play design, particularly with route spacing within the passing sport.
“I feel like Billy O does a great job of utilizing the talent around him, from the quarterback position all the way to the tight ends and to the wide receivers,” Gronkowski stated.
It’s tough to say how massive of a problem O’Brien is dealing with to get essentially the most out of the Patriots’ ability gamers as a result of it seems like New England has to throw out most of its movie from final season. It’ll be tough to guage the workforce’s expertise when the movie is such a large number, with the Patriots making an attempt (and failing) to regulate their offense to maneuver away from the system that yielded a lot success below Tom Brady.
In coaching camp, Belichick known as the method a “streamlining,” an adjustment of the playbook to make life simpler for his or her ability gamers. It was simply the other. The offense regarded extra out of kinds than ever.
“I was actually very surprised when [Belichick] changed up the offense this year, from what I heard and saw,” Gronkowski stated. “That offense that I was under throughout my whole career that I was there … I think that’s one of the best offenses out there. It’s a wonderful system. And just to see them changing this year was a little off.”
Gronkowski added: “Hopefully [O’Brien] brings it back, because I think that’s the best scenario for Patriots football is to have that offense that they were dependent on throughout the last 20 years.”
With a handful of gamers set to hit free company, the Patriots have the next high ability gamers below contract for 2023: tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith; receivers DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne and Tyquan Thornton; and operating backs Rhamondre Stevenson and Pierre Strong.
The greatest potential departure is pending free agent Jakobi Meyers, who has led the workforce in receiving yards for the previous two seasons. In an ideal world, the Patriots would let Meyers go — however solely as a result of they should make a significant improve on the place. Meyers is nice not nice. And the Patriots want a fantastic receiver.
Unfortunately for New England, it is a down 12 months free of charge agent receivers. Meyers will likely be among the many high pending free brokers, a gaggle that additionally consists of receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Odell Beckham Jr. Maybe Bengals receiver Tee Higgins will come out there. Maybe there will likely be another choice that emerges from a contract dispute. But proper now, it is laborious to think about the Patriots massively upgrading their ability gamers this offseason.
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That means the Patriots have to get extra out of the gamers at present below contract. O’Brien should prioritize elevating his new quarterback, Jones.
“Now, he had a great rookie season. Obviously, it kind of went downhill a little bit,” Gronkowski stated of Jones. “In order to be successful as players, sometimes you just got to be in the right system. And I feel like having Billy O come in — that is going to be the ultimate test. If [Jones] doesn’t improve under Billy O, then I think the ceiling is closed. But if he can improve under Billy O, and showcases his talents the right way, I think he can go as far as he wants.”
The final take a look at? Fascinating.
To say it one other manner, O’Brien’s arrival signifies that Jones will not have any excuses in 2023. He’ll have nowhere to cover. The quarterback should show himself — or face the true risk of dropping his beginning job.
Prior to becoming a member of FOX Sports because the AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years protecting the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @McKennAnalysis.
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