The 2022 NFL preseason is rapidly approaching, with team practices growing more intense by the day. Coming off an offseason for the ages that changed not only the complexion of individual teams but both the AFC and NFC as a whole. Many things will look quite different from a season ago. It’s the perfect time for the fourth annual edition of Three Burning Questions. As in years past, this 32-part series will look at the three most pressing questions facing each of the 32 teams. Here are the Three Burning Questions for the New England Patriots.
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Mac Jones Encore?
Like his fellow rookie quarterbacks, Zach Wilson in New York, Trevor Lawrence in Jacksonville, Justin Fields in Chicago, and unexpected starter Davis Mills in Houston, Jones had his ups and downs. He was arguably the best and at the very least the most consistent of the rookie QB class. He seemed conservative most weeks, but when the pressure was on he delivered more than he didn’t. Jones recorded over 3,800 yards passing and 22 touchdowns. The Patriots added former Miami Dolphins receiver DeVante Parker to Jones’ arsenal of weapons. Expectations are very high for Jones in his sophomore campaign in New England.
What’s Old is New Again?
Super Bowl XLIX hero for the Patriots, Malcolm Butler, whose interception of Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, when everyone in the stadium and watching on television expected a Marshawn Lynch run, returned to Foxborough as a free agent. Butler, along with fellow new additions cornerback Terrance Mitchell and safety Jabrill Peppers will hope to fill the void left by J.C. Jackson. Jackson took his talents west to Los Angeles to join the Chargers.
Jackson recorded 25 interceptions in his four seasons in New England. He earned his first Pro Bowl selection last season. Butler will likely be the key as he is most familiar with the Patriots’ defense before he fell out of favor with coach Bill Belichick, which led to his benching during their Super Bowl LII loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and ultimately led to his departure.
Can They Own the Division Again?
With the genius that is Bill Belichick still the head man, you can never count this team out. They have struggled to find their identity offensively since Tom Brady left for the sun and sand of Tampa Bay. The Cam Newton experiment came and went without much sizzle. Jones looked the part last season getting this team to double-digit wins. For this team to compete with and try to contend with the back-to-back division champion Buffalo Bills, Jones will have to add to his numbers and limit his mistakes. He threw 13 interceptions last season.
For this team to get back to their own expectations he’ll likely have to keep that number under 10. The Patriots’ defense should once again be in the top quarter units in the league, so the offense will be the determining factor in where their season ultimately ends up. Not only are they trying to contend with the Bills, but the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets are also improved. Either way, fans are in for an exciting season in New England.
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