Throughout its highs and lows, the New England Patriots’ 2022 was nothing but not eventful. Now that the year is almost over, it is time to take a look back. What were the biggest stories to emerge over the past 12 months? Who helped shape the Patriots that we know today? And what moments stood out?
Welcome to Pats Pulpit’s 2022 Review.
The Patriots get blown out in the wild card playoffs: After a one-year absence, New England returned to the postseason in January. However, the trip to the tournament ended in disappointing fashion: the Patriots were blown out 47-17 by the Buffalo Bills in the wild card round, failing to win a playoff game for a third year in a row — something owner Robert Kraft lamented during the offseason.
Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler leave for Las Vegas: Following the Patriots’ playoff departure, the organization saw several prominent members leave. Among them were offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and director of player personnel Dave Ziegler. The pair took over as the Las Vegas Raiders’ head coach and general manager, respectively, and took several other coaches and front office personnel with it. Losing offensive assistants Mick Lombardi (wide receivers) and Carmen Bricillo (offensive line) was particularly felt.
Matt Patricia and Joe Judge take over the offense: With McDaniels leaving after serving as New England’s offensive coordinator for the last 10 seasons, the team had to find a replacement. None was named, however, with Bill Belichick instead handing the keys to the offense over to a collective: Matt Patricia and Joe Judge led it alongside the head coach. Patricia is now calling plays as well as serving as offensive line coach, while Judge is working with the quarterbacks.
J.C. Jackson heads the list of free agency departures: Five months after trading away Stephon Gilmore, the Patriots waived goodbye to another staring cornerback: J.C. Jackson left New England in free agency, signing a massive five-year, $82.5 million contract with the Los Angeles Chargers. Jackson was not the only player to leave in free agency; Ted Karras and Brandon Bolden joined Cincinnati and Las Vegas, respectively, while Kyle Van Noy was released in a cap-saving move.
Malcolm Butler returns: In light of Jackson leaving for Los Angeles, New England engineered one of the unlikeliest comebacks in recent memory. Malcolm Butler, who had left the team following his surprise benching in Super Bowl LII, was brought back into the fold. The reunion did not work out as hoped, but it was still an interesting development in what was otherwise a relatively quiet free agency period for the cash-strapped Patriots.
The trade wins are blowing in New England: This entry covers more than just one singular moment, because the Patriots were quite active on the trade market. It started in mid-March, when guard Shaq Mason and linebacker Chase Winovich were sent away (the Winovich trade yielded linebacker Mack Wilson in return). In April, wide receiver DeVante Parker was acquired, followed by one trade each in May and July: quarterback Jarrett Stidham was sent to Las Vegas, followed by wide receiver N’Keal Harry being moved to Chicago. Finally, in September, the Patriots parted ways with offensive tackle Justin Herron.
Cole Strange heads a promising rookie class: With Dave Ziegler gone, the Patriots promoted former college scouting director Matt Groh to the director of player personnel spot. His first draft as Belichick’s right-hand man was a promising one: led by first-round guard Cole Strange, the group has produced some promising results. Rookie cornerbacks Jack and Marcus Jones in particular have stood out besides Strange, as have undrafted free agents Brenden Schooler and DaMarcus Mitchell.
The offseason hype train is running full steam: Coming off a playoff season while being led by a first-year quarterback, New England was seen as a team to look out for in 2022. Never was that more apparent than during organized team activities, when Mac Jones’ connection with Tre Nixon started to look like Brady-Moss 2.0. They were not the only players receiving some offseason hype, though: Josh Uche, Cameron McGrone, Nelson Agholor and Lil’Jordan Humphrey all appeared to be players in line for a major jump in production and opportunity at one point in spring and summer.
The running back room sees some major turnover: The Patriots’ coaching staff saw its longest-tenured member step down during the offseason. Ivan Fears, who had been with the team since 1999 — including the past 21 seasons coaching running backs — quietly announced his retirement. While still helping behind the scenes, the position is now being led by Fears’ former assistant, Vinnie Sunseri. Another retirement rocked the running back room back in August: former team captain and member of three Super Bowl-winning teams James White stepped away after missing most of 2021 due to a hip injury.
Zappe Fever breaks out: Week 3 of the regular season saw New England lose its starting quarterback: Mac Jones went down with an ankle injury on the final play of the game, paying the way for his backups to step up. Brain Hoyer lasted not even one quarter, though, before making way for fourth-round rookie Bailey Zappe. The youngster did an admirable job, leading the Patriots to two wins in his two starts — and delivered a surprising spark in a Week 7 loss to the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. “Zappe Fever” was not here to stay, but it was fun while it lasted.
The throwbacks are back: The move had already been announced in December, but it became reality on Oct. 9 against the Detroit Lions: the red Pat Patriot throwbacks made their comeback after a 10-year hiatus. New England looked good in the return, not just because of the outfit: the team won with a final score of 29-0. The second throwback game in Week 13 against Buffalo was far less successful; New England lost 24-10.
Marcus Jones single-handedly defeats the Jets: The Patriots offense is having a rough time so far in 2022, and Week 11 against the New York Jets was no exception. However, they received a spark from rookie return man Marcus Jones that day — and one of the biggest plays of the year: in the final seconds of the 3-3 game, Jones ran a punt back 84 yards for a touchdown to give New England a 10-3 victory.
The Disaster in the Desert: Fairly or not, one moment will represent the Patriots’ offensive ineptitude better than any other this year. We are, of course, talking about the series of game-ending laterals against the Raiders in Week 15: Rhamondre Stevenson inexplicably tossed the ball to Jakobi Meyers, who then threw it across the field directly to Las Vegas’ Chandler Jones. Jones returned the ball for a touchdown to give his team a 30-24 win. The play was bizarre, and yet somehow on brand for the 2022 Patriots.
Happy New Year, friends, and thanks for following along. Here’s to a 2023 that will see some better Patriots football.