By now, a lot has been said and written about the New England Patriots’ recent offensive struggles — from execution and not trust or talent being the main issue, to the need to find and follow the 2018 blueprint again, to quarterback Tom Brady insisting that he is gaining confidence in his receivers each week. Coordinator Josh McDaniels, meanwhile, offered his own thoughts on the unit during a media conference call earlier this week.
The message the veteran coach preached was a simple one: patience.
The Patriots are in the middle of an ongoing process to get their pass catchers and quarterback Tom Brady to read plays the same way, as McDaniels pointed out, and this process will continue throughout the rest of the season even though is has not yielded many positive results just yet. Hopefully, from the team’s perspective, it will do just that soon and end with the passing game finding the groove it has missed for much of the year.
“I don’t think there’s any shortcut to being on the same page, in terms of anticipating what the other person is thinking, feeling and seeing,” said McDaniels when asked about the team’s involvement in getting Brady and the receivers on the same page. “A lot is made of somebody thinking one thing and somebody else thinking something else. I think there’s a lot of factors in the passing game that would determine what being on the same page really means, but practice, repetition — there’s no shortcut to it.”
“Every rep we take in practice, every pass we throw, every side session that we’re able to take part in, every conversation, every one-on-one drill that we do in practice, every film session that we’re in, it just continues to try to build off of the last one. I think patience is something that...” said McDaniels, before abruptly changing course. “I know everybody wants everything to be a finished product, and we do too, but at the same time you have to understand there’s going to be a process and we’re going to try to stick to it.”
The process itself may not have changed over the course of the season, but the faces certainly did. While some like Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett were part from the very beginning this offseason, N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers were only added during the draft and its subsequent free agency period. Mohamed Sanu, meanwhile, was acquired ahead of late October’s trade deadline — all while the likes of Josh Gordon, Antonio Brown and Demaryius Thomas came and went.
Amidst all this turnover, Brady and the remaining pass catchers will need to find a way to get onto the same page. At times this season, they already were but inconsistency remains a major problem for the group. For McDaniels, however, the issues can be classified as growing pains and the overall plan is still unchanged: the Patriots need to be willing to stick to the process in order to create a foundation for possible success further down the line.
“We have to be committed to it, and we know that it’s productive when we stay the course and continue to coach the right things and fix the right things and then the players go out and make corrections and they have success with it,” he said. “Once they make the corrections and have success with it, they gain confidence in it and they start to trust each other more, and there’s no shortcut to that.”
“I think our guys are trying really hard. I have absolutely zero issue with our effort and the desire to do it right, and I think that that’s what everybody is working towards,” he added. “I love the attitude that our guys take into each practice and each opportunity to get better. Each game is the same way — we go into the game, we do some things well, we do some things that we have to fix and try to learn from, and hopefully we can do those better the next week. That’s football; football is an imperfect game.”
The Patriots certainly have a lot of areas to work on, with the quarterback-receiver chemistry being pretty high up on the list of priorities. But while Tom Brady and his pass catchers not named Julian Edelman or James White have struggled to get in sync recently, McDaniels seems confident in his players’ abilities to find their way out of the recent funk through more practice and in-game repetitions alongside each other.
“I know our players are working their butt off to try to do that,” New England’s offensive coordinator said. “I know that the quarterbacks and the receivers, quarterbacks and the tight ends, quarterbacks and the running backs — again, there’s a lot that goes into being productive in those areas — timing, anticipation, reading things the same way, adjusting if you need to. A lot of things are improved through repetition and practice.”
“If we can create good habits and have those experiences that we can build on, then I think we’ll be better for it down the road,” he added. “Everybody’s looking for the same thing, everybody wants the same goal at the end of the day: it’s for us to be the most productive we can be and the most efficient we can be in the passing game.”