FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Thoughts and quick notes on the New England Patriots and the NFL:
1. O’Brien Impact: Quarterback AJ McCarron played for new Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien with the Houston Texans in 2019 and 2020, so he has a good idea of what Mac Jones is about to experience this year.
He summed it up in what might be the four most important words of the Patriots’ season: “A quarterback-friendly offense.”
McCarron, 32, was in the midst of preparing for his XFL debut on Sunday (his St. Louis Battlehawks visit the San Antonio Brahmas (3 p.m. ET, ABC)) when he received questions about what the presence might be. O’Brien’s bad for Jones.
McCarron sees promising possibilities in part because of the enjoyment and personal growth he experienced in O’Brien’s system as backup to Deshaun Watson.
“OB is a wonderful trainer; very smart, and he gets the guys to play hard. I think he’s going to do an excellent job there,” McCarron said.
McCarron’s reference to “a quarterback-friendly offense” ties into something Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a Fox Business interview in the days leading up to the Super Bowl: “We’re lucky to have a great young quarterback in Mac Jones. I firmly believe in him and in his development.”
What Kraft didn’t say, but seems obvious from the team’s actions this offseason, is that coach Bill Belichick’s 2022 plan to simplify the offense, not name an official coordinator and make significant changes to offensive line protections was closer to a quarterback.unfriendly offense.
It helped set Jones’ development back in his second NFL season, which Belichick often cites as the year players typically make their biggest leap. Now, for the Patriots (8-9) to return to the playoffs and position themselves to win their first postseason game since beating the Rams in Super Bowl LIII, they need to provide better infrastructure around them.
McCarron, who like Jones played at the University of Alabama, sees O’Brien as a difference-maker in that regard.
McCarron spent the first four years (2014-17) of his NFL career with the Bengals, who ran a West Coast offense with longer plays, center making run-blocking line calls, and quarterback handled pass protection calls.
His eyes were opened after signing in 2018 as a free agent with the Buffalo Bills, who, under former Patriots assistant Brian Daboll, ran a “New England-style offense” in which all calls went through quarterback and one word could mean everything from formation, protection and playcall.
After being traded to the Raiders later that season, McCarron eventually landed with O’Brien’s Texans the next two seasons, saying, “The thing that helped me grow a lot as a player was going to Houston. … I dove into that offense, and since then, I’ve wanted to know everything: run-blocking schemes, pass-blocking schemes, he’s the quarterback that puts us in the best possible situation.”
In the Patriots’ ideal world, Jones will have a similar experience this year.
2. Judon in the Super Bowl: What caught Patriots outside linebacker Matthew Judon’s attention about the Chiefs’ 38-35 victory over the Eagles in Super Bowl LVII? “The Chiefs’ offensive line protected themselves wonderfully,” he said on “The Jim Rome Show.”
“they kept [Patrick] Mahomes in an upright position. He had an injured ankle and it wasn’t really touched. He could step in and shoot the ball, and they also did a great job of getting it out of their hands quickly and getting it to the playmakers.”
Judon’s point highlights something relevant to the 2023 Patriots.
How the Chiefs built their offensive line after losing to the Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV: trading for left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., signing left guard Joe Thuney in free agency, drafting center Creed Humphrey (second round) and right guard Trey Smith (sixth round) and the development of right tackle Andrew Wylie (2017 undrafted free agent) show that a team’s weakness can quickly become a strength.
3. Label opening: The window for teams to assign the franchise tag and transition tag to players begins Tuesday and ends March 7, but it would be a surprise if the Patriots use either tag. Receiver Jakobi Meyers is their best free agent, but a $19.7 million franchise tag and a $17.9 million transition tag look rich unless they’re used as a placeholder to buy a few extra days of time toward an extension.
4. Tyquan in the city: Patriots receiver Tyquan Thornton, Baylor’s 2022 second-round pick, was among the players in town last week. It’s early in the offseason, with the team’s voluntary program officially starting in mid-April, but Thornton (50% snaps; 22 receptions, 247 yards, 2 TDs) stayed vigilant running routes and honing his craft. As someone close to him conveyed, “He knows how important sophomore year is.”
5. McCourtys grace: Veteran Patriots captain Devin McCourty has conducted hundreds of interviews during his 13-year NFL career, but none of them were as gritty and graceful as the one he and his wife, Michelle, participated in earlier this month. . The McCourtys were guests on The TEARS Foundation Podcast to speak about her dead daughter, Mia, from May 2020. The hope was to be a light to others. “I never thought I would get to a point where I could talk about it and not break down in tears,” Michelle said. “Hearing from other people who have been through it helps.”
6. May, Slater assist: The Vikings introduced former Patriots assistant Brian Flores as their defensive coordinator last week, and head coach Kevin O’Connell shared that up-and-coming New England assistant Jerod Mayo and veteran special teams captain, Matthew Slater, had rave reviews which played a role in the decision to hire Flores. “The way they talk about the impact it had on them … that mattered to me, what people I really respect were saying,” said O’Connell, who entered the NFL in 2008 as part of the same class. draft than Mayo and Slater. in New England but he did not have as much contact with Flores himself.
7. Increase in entries: The patriots informed its subscribers last week they were making their first stadium-wide price increase since 2008. While some teams raise ticket prices annually, the Patriots have done so less frequently. Since the last stadium-wide increase in 2008, 41% of sections had two increases, 44% had one increase, and 15% had no increase. Last week’s announcement coincided with changes to parking, including an innovative option where fans are paid to park if they are willing to wait 75 minutes before leaving after the game to reduce traffic on Route 1 .
8. Caley’s decision: The Rams haven’t officially announced their full coaching staff, but former Patriots tight ends coach Nick Caley has already started working in Los Angeles as the team’s new tight ends coach. Caley spent the last five years in that role at New England, after two seasons as an assistant coach, and was passed over for the team coordinator job in 2022 and 2023. So he makes a lateral move and will now be working in the system. by Sean McVay. , where perhaps the path to the job of coordinator is a little more open for him.
9. XFL Flavor: Patriots fans tuning in to the first weekend of XFL action will recognize some familiar names on the eight-team rosters, perhaps none more than Seattle Sea Dragons wide receiver Josh Gordon (2018-19). And New England college football fans will notice Boston College linebacker Isaiah Graham-Mobley (Arlington, Texas) and Stonehill College receiver Andrew Jamiel (Orlando). Almost everyone in the XFL is chasing a dream, to which Battlehawks head coach Anthony Becht said, “I see NFL players on my roster.”
10. Did you know? The Super Bowl was decided by three points for the second straight season, which is the first time back-to-back Super Bowls have been decided by three points since Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX: Patriots over Panthers and Patriots over Eagles.