After appearing to take a step back on Monday, frustration was clearly setting in for the New England Patriots offense.
As Brian Hoyer fired an interception to end a two-minute drill, Damien Harris slammed his helmet into the turf on the sideline. When practice concluded, long-time team captain David Andrews gathered the offense on the field for a meeting.
With the Patriots undergoing changes to the offense, growing pains were to be expected. But after Monday’s practice, the unit as a whole continued to consistently be on the wrong page, even taking what seemed to be a step back.
“It’s a little frustrating, sometimes. But our offensive line, the actual players and coaches, are trying the best they can,” Mac Jones told reporters after practice Tuesday. “We have good offensive linemen. Good players up front. A lot of it is just figuring out the scheme and making sure there are no free guys.”
Observing the offense, the disconnect appears to be primarily along the offensive line. The Patriots’ run game has been nonexistent through the first 10 practices. In the passing game, the unit is crisp in 7-on-7s but all falls apart when the trenches come into play in 11-on-11s.
“That’s the biggest thing for me. As long as there’s no one free, I should be able to make the throws like any quarterback can, and I know my offensive line can do that,” Jones said. “It’s just getting the communication down. It’s different from what we’ve done in the past, so just figuring that out.”
While Jones (unsurprisingly) did not go into detail about what exactly is different, communication continues to be a key point of emphasis. Speaking on Monday, David Andrews noted that everything “starts with communication.”
Bill Belichick echoed a similar message on Tuesday, that while the end results aren't always great, often it’s just one or two things that need to be corrected.
“If you look at the result of the play, that’s one thing. If you look at the 22 components of the play with 11 on each side, that's a totally different breakdown,” Belichick said Tuesday morning. “There's an element of both, but if you don't get the 11 things right, you’ll eventually have problems.”
On Tuesday, it seemed the unit finally took a step forward. The offensive line created some large holes in the run game, leading to the most success the unit has had on the ground all summer. Jones also had some success in the air, specifically in the final two-minute drill. With a clean pocket, he lofted a pass up to DeVante Parker who hauled it in over Jonathan Jones. Several plays later, Jones got the ball out quick to Nelson Agholor, beating a blitz.
“I have all the trust in the world in those guys,” Jones said of the entire offense. “The communication needs to improve and we did a good job of that today.”
The Patriots will try to build off Tuesday’s success going forward, and they’ll have their first real test Thursday night as they kickoff the preseason against the New York Giants.
“We feel confident about it and that just has to come with reps, and in-game reps too. We just got to see it on tape and see how it looks,” Jones said. “The buy-in has to be the buy-in, you have to trust it. At the end of the day we’re going to figure it out and make this thing work.”