With long-time coordinator Josh McDaniels and several other assistant coaches now in Las Vegas, the New England Patriots offense underwent some drastic changes this offseason. Those extend beyond the personnel level, though: the team also made some structural modifications.
Head coach Bill Belichick called it an opportunity to “streamline things,” while players spoke about increasing operational speed on that side of the ball. Nine practices into training camp, however, that process remains an uneven one.
Several times over the last two weeks, the defense came out ahead against an offense struggling to get on the same page or perform at a consistent level in both the running or passing game. Most of the unit’s players have downplayed the changes when talking to the media, pointing to the “one day at a time” mantra.
One notable exception is wide receiver Jakobi Meyers. Not only did he acknowledge that learning the new system has not been easy for him, he also recently spoke about the challenges the Patriots offense as a whole is facing.
“It’s definitely been something to get used to,” he told NFL Network on Friday. “It’s like they say with change at all, any change is kind of hard. There’s going to be growing pains, and I think we’re going through that stage.
“This is the kind of place where they want everything perfect, so it’s just — change and perfection are kind of a hard mix. We’ve kind of been going through it, but at the same time, I think it’s a great learning experience. The fact that we’re all doing it together is actually pretty good for us.”
Entering his fourth season with the Patriots, Meyers served as the team’s number one wide receiver in each of the last two years. The former undrafted free agent again projects to play a prominent role within the unit this season while playing for a new contract.
However, he made sure to point out that individual accomplishments do not matter in New England — and that adapting the new system has been proof of that.
“It’s more so an ego check,” he said. “You’ve got to be really able to throw your egos out the door. We had a conversation about that the other day. Just guys putting their egos aside, forget everything you know and just worry about where you’re trying to be now. We understand we did things a certain way before, but it’s not about that anymore.”
The way mentioned by Meyers sure was a successful one, but with McDaniels gone it has been altered now. So far, the results have been more down than up although reading too much into practice performance can be a tricky endeavor.
The Patriots meanwhile keep, “inching along,” as Belichick said.
Quarterback Mac Jones also shared those thoughts of small but steady growth.
“I think right now, it’s more about the communication of getting there, and we need to kind of just grow a little bit more here and kind of pick up the pace a little bit and see if we can kind of get ready for this next week right here,” he said. “That’s all you can ask for.”
At the end of the day, there is still time to iron things out. However, the aura of concern surrounding the unit will continue to linger until the results on the field look differently than the last two weeks.