I think this general conversation is kind of interesting in that almost all of the subjects would be fine as long as they're allowed to be the weak link. Strange would be fine if he's between two quality linemen, Jones is fine if he has great protection and good weapons, the receivers are fine as long as they aren't asked to be 'number one', and I even think Patricia would probably be fine if he were calling plays for Brady/Edelman/Gronkowski. The offense isn't coordinated because Belichick didn't hire a coordinator. All roads lead to him. He's been amassing guys who are good enough to make the team but not good enough to make the team better.
Rebuilding is a process that takes time. He's putting pieces in place. Let's compare from 2020 to today...
- Off rank: #27 points, #27 yards
- Def rank: #7 points, #15 yards
- Off rank: #20 points, #25 yards
- Def rank: #8 points, #8 yards
QB: Went from Cam Newton, who was never going to lead the Patriots anywhere, to Mac Jones, who looks like he might not be the answer either, but at least he's young and has the potential of getting better. I think the Pats are still better off now at the QB position than they were in 2020.
RB: Went from a rookie Damien Harris and Rex Burkhead (Cam was their leading scorer on the ground with 12 TD) to a proven Harris and Stevenson. To me this is a significant upgrade at the RB position, with a bright future ahead of them. Stevenson is going to be a beast for years to come.
WR: Went from Meyers, Byrd, Harry, and a broken down and soon-to-retire Edelman to Meyers, Agholor, Bourne, Parker, Thornton. Not that we have the second coming of Swann and Stallworth or Rice and Taylor, but that's a significant upgrade at the WR position.
TE: Went from Izzo, Keene, and Asiasi to Henry and Smith. Again, Henry and Smith aren't exactly Gronk but that's still a major upgrade at the TE position.
OL: Went from Wynn, Thuney, Andrews, Mason, and Onwenu (who was great as a rookie) to Brown, Strange, Andrews, Onwenu, and Wynn. Given the injuries and poor play, the current line is significantly worse than it was in 2020. Major downgrade here.
So on the offensive side of the ball, their roster has improved considerably at all the skill positions; the OL is the major downer.
DL: Went from Wise, Guy (heh), Cowart, and Simon to Wise (much improved), Guy, Barmore, and Godchaux. Depth this year is much better. Overall quality is much better now than it was. Significant upgrade at DL from 2020.
LB: Went from Bentley, Hall, Copeland, and rookies Uche and Jennings to much improved Uche, Judon, Wilson, McMillan, and improved Bentley and Jennings. Serious upgrade at LB in 2022 from 2020.
CB: Went from Gilmore and Jason McCourty, with JC Jackson playing a ton, and Jonathan Jones and Williams in the mix too, to Jack Jones, Jonathan Jones, Mills, Bryant. I think the 2020 group was better with Gilmore and Jackson both doing well. But I'm ok with this group as well. Jack Jones is an up and coming stud. Jonathan Jones has been good for the most part. Mills is fine. Bryant sucks, but Bryant sucked in 2020 as well. Overall this is a downgrade to this position, but it's not like they have bad corners this year. The young guys (especially if Marcus Jones comes along) are exciting.
S: Went from Phillips, DMcCourty, Dugger (rookie) to Phillips, DMcCourty (aging and slower), Dugger (much improved), and Peppers. The decline of DMac is offset by the improvement of Dugger. Phillips is a good player. Peppers is versatile at least. I give this current safety group a little edge, thanks to how good Dugger is now. Pro Bowl level player. Call this even or a slight edge to the 2022 group.
K/P: Went from Folk and Bailey to Folk and some guy whose name I can't even remember off the top of my head. Wash.
KR/PR: Went from Gunner to Marcus Jones. Kind of a wash because that year Gunner was all-pro. But Marcus...man this kid is electric. Call it even.
So on the defensive side of the ball, I'd say CB is downgraded from 2020, but DL and LB are MUCH better, and they do have terrific young CBs. Safety has an emerging star in Dugger, but probably need more moving forward. Special teams are a bit of a wash.
On the whole, I think the roster in 2022 is much better than it was in 2020, when the rebuild began. There's many places they need to improve, but they've already done a lot of improving with respect to the roster itself. We wanted the to get faster and more athletic, and they definitely are that, at LB, CB, and WR especially.
The coaching staff is another story altogether. Swapping out McDaniels for Patricia has.....been bad. Very bad. And for everyone who ripped on McDaniels while he was here had better rethink that because a good OC really can help the offense in every way. He's SO much better at that job than Patricia is, it's not even funny. So I'd give the coaching staff a major downgrade.
So where to improve? Most realistically?
QB - Either Mac needs to get better or they need to find another guy.
S - Need another young stud there to pair with Dugger.
OL - Good lord, they need an overhaul on the line. Keep Strange and Andrews, and have Onwenu be a guy you can play at G or T, but they need a TON of help on the OL - roster position #1 for retooling. It's not sexy, but man, it's important.
WR - If somehow, some way, they could get a true #1 receiver, that would be amazing. But just keep in mind that having a #1 receiver at a high cost that limits you elsewhere may - or may not - really help all that much. Adams in Vegas is a great example. Elite, world-class WR, but the Raiders aren't very good.
P - Need a new punter. Not the top priority, but they do need to improve there.
COACHING STAFF - Either the current guys need to improve dramatically or they need to find some new guys. One good thing is that for the first time in forever, I doubt anyone will poach any of NE's coaches!