What Does Belichick Have Planned at Corner?

Former New England Patriots CB J.C. Jackson
Former New England Patriots CB J.C. Jackson
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Offseason - For this May round of Four Downs, we will be looking at each team's biggest remaining need as well as notable undrafted free agents who will be going to camp with each franchise.

Buffalo Bills

Biggest Post-Draft Need: Interior Offensive Line

The Buffalo Bills came into the draft with very few legitimate needs at any position. Then they spent a first-round pick on their only real position of need (second cornerback) while adding depth to positions such as running back, wide receiver, and linebacker. At this point in the offseason, the Bills have one of the most complete rosters in football; it's a struggle to find any legitimate positions of need.

The only potential need for Buffalo could be interior offensive line. Even there, it probably ends up being a depth add. Rodger Saffold III and Ryan Bates are serviceable, and Cody Ford can back up guard as well as tackle. Beyond that, Buffalo lacks meaningful depth at the position. But how much does that really mean to Buffalo? The Bills ran up the middle or between guards just 49% of the time, the eighth-lowest rate in football.

Notable Undrafted Free Agents

The Bills could add depth to the line through their undrafted free agent class. Texas offensive lineman Derek Kerstetter got 49 starts over 58 career appearances, getting reps at both guard and tackle in college. Kerstetter earned first-team All-Big 12 honors in his final year; he can parlay that into a successful depth role on Buffalo's offensive line. Beyond Kerstetter, Appalachian State wide receiver Malik Williams finished his career top-10 in school history in receiving yards, catches, and touchdowns.

Miami Dolphins

Biggest Post-Draft Need: Safety

The Miami Dolphins have loaded up their offense under new head coach Mike McDaniel. The additions of Tyreek Hill, Terron Armstead, Chase Edmonds, Sony Michel, and Raheem Mostert supplement an already-existing core of Jaylen Waddle and Tua Tagovailoa. The defense is another story. The Dolphins have cornerback locked up with Xavien Howard and Byron Jones, so they spent most of their draft capital adding youth to their already-young linebacker group. Their weakest position at the moment remains safety. Their best player at the position, strong safety Eric Rowe, is in the last year of his deal. Brandon Jones and Jevon Holland are still on rookie deals, but the Dolphins could use some additional firepower. Miami ranked ninth in defensive DVOA against WR1s and 10th against WR2s last season, but that dropped all the way to 30th against "other" wide receivers and against tight ends. The Dolphins also ranked 20th in DVOA against deep passes. Being able to have that sure-fire coverage over the top could take this Miami secondary to the next level.

Notable Undrafted Free Agents

Oregon defensive back Verone McKinley III played safety in college but projects best as a slot corner at the pro level. McKinley is a ballhawk: he shared the Pac-12 interception lead in 2019, then tied for the FBS lead last year with six picks in 14 starts. McKinley could ride his breakout 2021 season into a roster spot with Miami. The Dolphins also added a big-body wide receiver in Idaho State's Tanner Conner. Standing at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, Conner's body type is unlike that of any receiver on Miami's roster. Conner backed up that size with impressive athleticism, running a 4.37s 40-yard dash, registering a 39.5-inch vertical, and leaping 10 feet, 7 inches in the broad jump. His size and deep-threat ability will help him compete at the NFL level.

New England Patriots

Biggest Post-Draft Need: Cornerback

The New England Patriots' draft class was unorthodox to say the least. For a weekend full of surprises, though, their biggest may have come at the 21st overall pick. New England elected to trade out of their original draft spot, allowing the Kansas City Chiefs to move up and take Washington cornerback Trent McDuffie. Since the departure of J.C. Jackson this offseason, New England has done very little to fill the hole of top-end corner. Jalen Mills is still on the roster from last year's squad and slot cornerback Jonathan Jones will return from a shoulder injury. The Patriots added two veterans this offseason, but are they still serviceable? Terrance Mitchell ranked 77th in coverage success rate among qualifying corners with the Houston Texans last season, while Super Bowl XLIX hero Malcolm Butler sat out the 2021 season after temporarily retiring for personal reasons.

New England double-dipped at cornerback in the late rounds of this year's draft, but neither selection is likely to fill the role of CB1. Houston's Marcus Jones is best suited to make an early impact in special teams; while athletic, his 5-foot-8 frame projects him as more of a slot corner. Arizona State's Jack Jones is a project with a multi-year trajectory; New England is hoping to capitalize on the former five-star recruit's potential after he had some up-and-down years in college. None of New England's additions seem to fill the void left by Jackson.

As an aside: we almost listed linebacker for this section, but the team doesn't seemed too concerned about the group at present. Patriots linebacker coach Jerod Mayo has spoken highly of the current crop, specifically noting that they have two redshirt rookies on their roster who did not see playing time last year. Both Cameron McGrone and Ronnie Perkins functionally serve as rookie assets for this linebacker corps, and Mayo seems to be high on both of them.

Notable Undrafted Free Agents

The biggest name among New England's crop of undrafted free agents was Miami quarterback D'Eriq King, but he's already been cut. In terms of addressing their actual need at cornerback, Tarleton State defensive back Devin Hafford could be an intriguing FCS project. Hafford appeared in 56 games in six seasons, landing 12 interceptions and 57 passes defended in his time there. Hafford also ran a 1.52-second 10-yard split at his pro day. Measuring in at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, Hafford could be an athletic addition to this secondary if he translates to the pros. New England has hit on undrafted free agent cornerbacks in the past. One just left town for a payday in Los Angeles.

New York Jets

Biggest Post-Draft Need: Linebacker

The Jets added four impact players to four positions of need in the top 36 picks, receiving near-universal praise from draft graders and fans alike. This draft was the fireworks show at the end of a quietly impressive offseason. New York spent most of free agency adding mid-level talent to positions of need, raising their mean by building through the median. All of a sudden, a team that had glaring needs at every position has a name or two at almost every position.

The Jets' linebackers are the one position group still desperately thin from a talent perspective. In 2021, C.J. Mosley and Quincy Williams counted for 270 of 336 tackles from Jets linebackers, an 80% share. Williams is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2023; the Jets have an out in Mosley's contract next year before paying him $18.5 million. Once we make it past Mosley and Williams, every linebacker on the roster that received significant playing time had a broken/missed tackle rate over 18.5%, according to Sports Info Solutions. The Jets should look to be improved after their loaded draft class and solid free-agency moves, but the fact that New York has added no resources to the linebacker position is mildly concerning.

Notable Undrafted Free Agents

The player who could immediately add some depth to New York's linebacker corps is Middle Tennessee State's DQ Thomas. His 6-foot-2, 216-pound frame means Thomas would likely line up off-ball in the Jets' system, but he brings a unique versatility that should help him make the roster. Thomas finished as Middle Tennessee State's all-time leader in tackles for loss with 53.0 and tied for third all-time in sacks with 20.5. Illinois safety Tony Adams could compete in a safety room that lacks any dominant names beyond Jordan Whitehead. Adams took reps at both safety and cornerback at Illinois, but his 6-foot-even, 200-pound frame profiles him more as a safety. His 4.47s 40-yard dash time and 41.5-inch vertical leap at his pro day could make him quite the athlete at the next level, and his versatility and range could allow him to make a name for himself as a depth piece.

Portions of this article previously appeared on ESPN+.

Comments

60 comments, Last at 02 Jun 2022, 11:29am

1 CB1??

Don't see why New England would need a 'CB1' per se. Nice if you happen to have one, plenty of good teams haven't, entirely manageable so long as you have 3 competent guys back there.

2 I'm a bit torn about NE on…

I'm a bit torn about NE on this. Belichick practically follows the axiom of never overpay for a player no matter the consequences. It hasn't killed him in the past, but that also coincided with having a massive insurance policy at QB. 

I just think JC Jackson is the type of player you should try to keep at all costs. Extend him early to avoid him hitting free agency. 

I thought it was a big mistake.

7 Jackson's contract was $16…

Jackson's contract was $16.5M/yr.

The Patriots paid Gilmore almost exactly the same contract in '17. At $16.5M/yr you're not asking the guy to be the best CB in the league. At $16.5M he didn't even have to be the best CB on the team!

If the Patriots didn't sign him because they didn't think he was worth that contract, their opinion of him must be far lower than the rest of the league.

8 Supposedly the Patriots…

Supposedly the Patriots offered him $17m/per, but not as much guaranteed as the Chargers, and never got the opportunity to match - so that may not be the case. 

That being said, the Pats were really tight on cap space at that time, and I'm not sure they could have even matched it without a couple days of cap screwery. 

9 Yeah, I don't think this was…

Yeah, I don't think this was a case of them not wanting to overpay. It's a consequence of the bizarre free agency year they had last year. Going out and attacking free agency when you're one of the only teams with money should not result in you spending a billion dollars on the guys they did.

It might not even entirely be money, too - they apparently didn't reach out to him until the Combine, and honestly that'd make me question their commitment. Plus, I mean, they ditched Gilmore last season, so Jackson's sitting there watching Gilmore get tossed, not receiving an offer until no time before free agency... Not surprised he might've soured on them.

22 Chandler Jones is one that…

Chandler Jones is one that stands out to me as a guy they let leave way too easily. Which is not at all to say I anticipated him going on to have the career he has. 

The Gilmore signing was also a function of actually needing to spend some money for complicated cap reasons I can't remember - like they might have lost the opportunity otherwise? Or something. They got a couple great seasons out of him. 

Their ability to find high quality undrafted corners is crazy, especially when you compare it to how badly the second round has gone at the same position. Terrence Wheatley, Ras-I Dowling, Darius Butler (who later caught on with indy) Cyrus Jones. 

But then you've got Butler, JC Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Randall Gay, claimed Justin Coleman off waivers. Bizzare. 

26 Just a random thing I ended…

Just a random thing I ended up down looking at weird success by draft round -- the Cowboys essentially never draft QBs high. They took Walsh and Aikman #1 in consecutive years, which was the first time they had done so in 23 years, and they haven't done so since. They've basically gotten 27 years of elite performance out of late-round guys.

59 Chandler Jones

The Cardinals paid him so much they had to let other established veterans go.  That wasn't something Belichick wanted to do.  It was cheaper to keep Hightower and Collins.

Gilmore was let go because Belichick thought his level of play had dropped from his injury.  He's yet to return to that level.  The shocker was only getting a 6th round pick for him, but he made a trade difficult by refusing to play. 

3 Billy B zigs when others zag

Casually observing. And that's not always the correct view. 

He seemed to be on the forefront of coverage>pass rush, letting Trey Flowers and Seymour go and reupping the Mccourty bros forever and signing mercenary Revis. But with big signing of Judon, trading of Gilmore and letting Jackson go, he seems to be reversing course and I'm not sure it's for the best. 

6 I think there's a huge…

I think there's a huge difference between Gilmore and Jackson. Jackson is 26. He's in his prime. 

Gilmore was 31 (which is super old for CBs), coming off a big injury, had looked significantly worse prior to that injury, and was looking for a multi-year extension. He's played 9 games since, and been giving up a 70% completion rate. Gilmore was old and very much trending in the wrong direction.

44 Even when they won a SB with…

Even when they won a SB with Revis, they had spent recent first/second round picks on Chandler Jones, Donta Hightower, Jamie Collins, and some DTs and OLBs.  Belichick seems to likes to spend high picks on his DL/edge until he has a full stock then he looks elsewhere.

47 Yeah

He seemed to recognize the non 1st round contracts wasn't were the value was. But it was for the cheaper DBs. And if they weren't inherently positionally, they were still cheaper $ to make up for it. 

4 The Bills' biggest need is…

The Bills' biggest need is young developing talent, because we've got a big contract at virtually every position group except halfback and tight end. We are already over next year's projected cap without accounting for six projected starters (Knox, Singletary, Crowder, Saffold, Edmunds, Poyer). Some of those guys (Singletary, Crowder) already have replacements in the building but not others - we have no Tight Ends at all under contract for 2023.

45 I agree.  All of those guys…

I agree.  All of those guys except Knox and maybe Poyer will probably be gone after 2022 so the Bills need to develop replacements. Especially at safety because even if Poyer stays he and Hyde cant do it forever.

5 New Englands biggest need is…

New Englands biggest need is to give up and rebuild. It's really hard to imagine the current roster being turned into any sort of contender. 

10 There are a few possible…

There are a few possible takes on the Pats.

DVOA still really loves them. But it really loved the Reid Eagles and their fungible QBs and no-name WRs, too.

The narrative is really down on them. But it was down on the 2001 Pats, too. And you could talk yourself into an unathletic white QB from a prominent college who rides a mediocre roster into the playoffs and catches a bunch of breaks. (This would also be the rich man's version of the 2021 Bengals)

On the other other hand, the magic eventually runs out for everyone. Halas, Lombardi, Landry, Shula, and Gibbs all sputtered to their ending. Father Time is merciless.

11  DVOA still really loves…

DVOA still really loves them. But it really loved the Reid Eagles and their fungible QBs and no-name WRs, too.

I don't understand the "but" here? Is this supposed to be a counterargument to "DVOA likes the Patriots so they're still good"? Why? The only reason Reid's time in Philly ended was due to serious personal issues - I mean, he skipped over to Kansas City and didn't miss a beat.

Honestly the main counterargument I could see to the "yeah, the Patriots are better than you think, regardless of talent" is the head coach's age. Well, that, and New England's definition of "contender" is different than the rest of the league: Reid never made it out of the divisional round before Mahomes came along, and in New England that'd probably be considered a failure. I mean, one year, he went 9-7 and missed the playoffs. Grounds for dismissal!

12 DVOA always loved the Eagles…

DVOA always loved the Eagles more than Reid likely did, and way more than the fans did. Consider the 2008 team. A vaguely disappointing mess at 9-6-1 after a 5-5-1 start, they squeaked into the 6th seed on the back of a tie against a horrific Bengals team. Westbrook was basically toast. Everyone was tired of McNabb. The team had kind of sucked since the SB season. It was a limited team that seemed to struggle with itself constantly.

DVOA? DVOA thought it was the best team in the league. 
https://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/nfl/team-efficiency/2008/regular

I think DVOA thought this was Reid's best Eagles team, which is certainly not the mainstream view.

That feels a lot to me like the 2021 Pats, who DVOA thought was the 2nd best team in the AFC (and the best in weighted DVOA), but the narrative around the team was more like that of the typical 10-7 team. It's a good team, but maybe not 23% good. And the fans are used to 23% good.

13 I think DVOA thought this…

I think DVOA thought this was Reid's best Eagles team,

No, that's definitely 2004. The full-season 2004 DVOA is heavily depressed because the Eagles absolutely demolished the NFC and the last four games were essentially pointless (and the last two were totally pointless). They're well in the 30%'s excluding those games. The postseason DVOA commentary for those years was Aaron basically wringing his hands over what to do about those games because they're just so ludicrously off.

A vaguely disappointing mess at 9-6-1 after a 5-5-1 start, they squeaked into the 6th seed on the back of a tie against a horrific Bengals team.

And then proceeded to squash the 10-6 Vikings and 12-4 Giants, nearly outscoring them combined 2-to-1, and had the lead against the Cardinals in the championship game in the 4th quarter. But OK, let's say the 2008 Eagles are the '21 Pats. The Eagles went 21-11 their next two years, making the playoffs both years. In other words - this isn't a harbinger of doom.

And the fans are used to 23% good.

The problem is that the fans are used to the Patriots being an elite team in the playoffs. They've got enough talent and coaching ability to be a serious threat to any team during the regular season, but the playoffs are a tougher slog.

That's why I used Reid's early KC years as an analog. If New England got those years, I think people would consider it a failure, and that's just insane.

15 And then proceeded to squash…

And then proceeded to squash the 10-6 Vikings and 12-4 Giants, nearly outscoring them combined 2-to-1, and had the lead against the Cardinals in the championship game in the 4th quarter.

I don't think anyone was surprised by either part of that -- hammering the Vikings and Giants, and then blowing a game against another mediocre team. That pretty neatly summed up the 2008 team.

18 Yeah, but like I said, this…

Yeah, but like I said, this isn't some evil portent foretelling doom. It's what happens when you have a dominant defensive team. They're inconsistent as hell, because hey, defense is inconsistent as hell. Said "mediocre team" nearly beat another defense dominated team, too.

23 I guess if by "contender"…

I guess if by "contender" you mean "make the playoffs", if they try, they can probably do that, although their ceiling would be "first round out, second round absolute best case". 

Basically, they are a team that should be getting ready to open the next window, not trying to keep one open that is already shut. 

 

24 "Basically, they are a team…

"Basically, they are a team that should be getting ready to open the next window"

Do you not think that's what they're doing? They jettisoned the old HOF qb, and drafted a new one in the first round. They just let go all their older slow LBs, started rebuilding their offensive line in the first round, etc - and they've got 80 million coming off the cap next year. They're well into the rebuild. 

You don't need to blow up a team to rebuild, and its almost never a good idea to do so. Are there assets you think they should be trading that they're not?

25 I guess if by "contender"…

I guess if by "contender" you mean "make the playoffs", if they try, they can probably do that, although their ceiling would be "first round out, second round absolute best case". 

Yeah, I mean, Belichick could never take a limited young QB to the Super Bowl on the back of a solid defense. That's totally inconceivable.

27 I'd probably call that more…

I'd probably call that more of a prayer than a plan, considering how often it happens. 

Honestly, the FA spending spree last year is the problem. That made ZERO sense. Letting go their best CB and the Shaq Mason trade was also pretty puzzling if your trying to build a solid defense. 

Better WR's also make sense for a limited young QB, but, well, Belichick is almost totally incapable of doing that so you can maybe give a pass for not trying. 

28 I'd probably call that more…

I'd probably call that more of a prayer than a plan, considering how often it happens. 

Winning with a bad QB and great defense is a prayer, but Jones isn't a bad QB at all. Teams with a solid QB and a stifling defense succeed all the time. The difficult part is holding the defense together if you want to stay on that route. But I don't think the Patriots plan on staying on that route.

Honestly, the FA spending spree last year is the problem. That made ZERO sense. 

To be clear, the spending spree itself wasn't the problem. That was smart - they were the big fish in a little pond, well planned. Smart idea to use it then. The problem was the execution, not the idea. 

Better WR's also make sense for a limited young QB,

I'd actually say the tight ends are more valuable in that situation. Which, OK, again makes sense why they went out and just bought 2 tight ends. But, yeah. Execution.

19 Not Lombardi

He went 7-5-2 in '69, it was the then-Skins' first winning record in 14 years. Folks in DC were quite happy with Lombardi, while of course expecting a whole lot more real real soon.

Which maybe he could've delivered. George Allen was certainly a great team-builder too, but really really preferred winning with defense and his beloved special teams. So played Billy Kilmer at QB rather than the far superior Sonny Jurgensen. Lombardi certainly would've had Sonny in there instead.

By '69 the League had caught up to Lombardi in terms of conditioning, and he'd fallen behind regarding special team play. But the cancer got him before he could sputter career-wise.

17 What does it mean for NE to …

What does it mean for NE to "rebuild"? They have a young QB that they want to build around. A tear down makes sense when your cap sheet is bloated and you have 0 qb options fo the future. That's not the situation the Pats find themselves in. Right now, they are in a big pile up of teams with ok rosters and a solid QB. BB can certainly paper over things, but if they want to be "contenders", that's almost entirely dependent on how much better Mac Jones gets. 

29 I think it's more likely the…

I think it's more likely the Pats end up like the early 80s Cowboys, with some playoff runs in them that don't land them a title, and eventually petering out.  As someone else wrote in this thread, the only reason to doubt them is Belichick's age.  I'd add the limitations of Mac Jones; I still think he's Pennington 2.0, and that lack of arm strength will ground the Pats in the playoffs when they're facing the heirs of Elway and Marino.

31 Chad Pennington without the…

Chad Pennington without the injuries is a really good quarterback and not someone. I think that limits you. He won't out duel Mahomes the way Rodgers could, but he certainly good enough. Where if you have a better roster overall, he gives you a chance to win.

I think most of Chad Pennington's failings all come down to health

33 The arm strength definitely…

The arm strength definitely cost the Jets in the 2002 loss to the Raiders, especially in the second half.  Thinking mostly of the Romanowski interception.

If they build a strong enough team around him, perhaps, but that's probably even harder than back then.

34 I think it's more likely the…

I think it's more likely the Pats end up like the early 80s Cowboys, with some playoff runs in them that don't land them a title, and eventually petering out.

I just love how we're saying the Patriots will fizzle out by basically being in the top 25% of the league regularly. Being the early 80s Cowboys would make you a massive success of a team, not a disappointment. Yes, those Cowboys didn't win a title but they absolutely could've.

Winning a Super Bowl with a solidly built defense and a good but limited QB isn't an ideal plan but it's totally doable. It's not like the Patriots are saying "oh, let's pass on getting another Hall of Fame QB and stick with what we've got." They could try to improve on Mac Jones for friggin' 10 years and never get anyone better.

36 Mostly, you just want to…

Mostly, you just want to avoid being one of those teams that always loses the WC round of the playoffs. I suppose the strength of the AFC makes that less likely. Having Buffalo in their division basically locks NE out till Belichick retires I think. 

37 Not to trigger the wrath of…

Not to trigger the wrath of Buffalo fans, but again, are we so sure we know how good Allen is? To lock BB out of the division, it requires Buffalo either maintains their level of talent or Allen joins the ranks of Manning, Brady, Mahomes etc etc. Not even the presence of Drew Brees and Sean Payton could lock down the NFC South, which has seen all three of those teams make the superbowl at some point. 

Josh Allen's magical postseason obscures the fact that he was 11th in DYAR and 15th in DVOA. Those are still pretty good, but a far cry from the ranks of divisional overlords. Interestingly, those numbers put him right around Mac Jones, who an NE truther might argue suggests Mac is even better once you do the subjective supporting casts and rookie year adjustments.

All that to say, I think Allen is closer to the very top of the heap of QBs than he is to rookie year Mac Jones, but the leap from really really good to all timer is insanely steep - most people never make it. It basically asks for you to be a league leading candidate in efficiency almost every year. We'll see if Allen gets there. 

38 In the Brady era, the Pats…

In the Brady era, the Pats didn't win their division twice.

The QB of the teams who beat them? Chad Pennington. (2002 Jets, 2008 Dolphins) Pennington was a 800 DYAR guy who was healthy for 4 seasons, and knocked the Pats off their throne in half of them. Belichick has gotten embarrassingly lucky in never even having another top-half guy in the division consistently. You can beat the Pats if you're only as good as 2021 Josh Allen.

42 You could make the same…

You could make the same arguments for Rodgers and explain why he doesn't have a string of division titles the way Brady has. Chicago is perpetually inept on offense. Detroit is perpetually inept. Even giving those teams good qbs(prime Cutler and Stafford) doesn't wash away bad coaching and bad talent. And the Vikings have only had some years of Kirk Cousins to offer as resistance. That's a better list than NE, which explains why the Packers have more gaps in their division wins(or more a factor of Rodgers inferior health vs Brady); but its still nothing to write home about. 

I think being a division overlord by definition requires many things, including a favorable set of divisional opponents. In that way, I don't think it singles out the Patriots any more than other teams from prior years who dominated their division. 

Manning's opposing Qbs were similarly a bunch of jags, save for one MVP year out of McNair and whatever you think of David Garrard/Matt Schaub. 

46 That's an enormous…

That's an enormous difference. There have been years Rodgers was the 3rd best QB in his own division (The Lions suck; Stafford is actually pretty good. The Bears suck, but Cutler had some great seasons. The Vikings are vanilla, but Bradford and Keenum also had big years, etc.). There have been years where everyone in a division was better than next-best QB in the AFC East. (This was true for most divisions in 2018...)

Hell, Brady would have been 3rd in the AFC West or NFC South in 2018.

Manning didn't face much in division in Indy aside from McNair (and that one year in the AFC East), but he had Rivers and the Reid Chiefs when he was with Denver. Brady, in 20 years, has basically had four years of Chad Pennington, Brees' last healthy year, and then the corpses of Favre and Ryan. It's really remarkable how that has played out.

53 Keep in mind it also wasn't…

Keep in mind it also wasn't just the QBs, the Pats were in a division with 3 franchises that weren't really committed to winning. The Ryan-era Jets took a shot at it, but were always lacking. Buffalo was in the wilderness from 1999 until Ralph died, and their only limited success was with the burnt husk of Brady's predecessor. Miami was a decent team in the early 2000s, but never had a QB. If they'd signed Brees, I suspect the Pats wouldn't have as many division championships.

41 Mac Jones is fascinating in…

Mac Jones is fascinating in that no one knows what to make of him. His ordinal ranks will likely go down by one with Watson returning to the QB pool however.   He had a pretty good year last year with a meh supporting cast in a system that was designed around his limitations. Still, NE's late year swoon was mostly their defense falling off the map rather than Jones and the offence. Where does that leave him? Hard to say.  Best case I would say...maybe around 10th in DYAR/DVOA, with a 10-15 rank more likely. Still, it was interesting to take a guy who has very little chance of being elite. You don't see that often. 

As for Allen, Buffalo has the trifecta of competence going.  McDermott is a decent coach and the FO also is pretty on top of things. Even if Allen ends up as hall-of-very-good (say Matt Stafford or Drew Bledsoe) they should be contenders for years to come and it would be pretty surprising if they didn't break through at least once. 

43 Two comments: Addressing…

Two comments: Addressing them in reverse order.

I think McDermott is an excellent coach personally who can craft a good defense without requiring overwhelming pieces. He's like the inverse Rex Ryan in terms of style, but they are able to coax good defense. And yea, the FO has done a good job but that Allen contract is going to lead to sacrifices the way KC's has. Buffalo should have a good crack at it this year, but if they want multiple chances at it, they will likely need Allen to be better than hall of very good. He probably will need to get to Big Ben level of play; which is kind of where I think he is now. But there seems to be a groundswell that he's at Mahomes' level right now. We'll see this year if thats true.

Mac Jones for whatever reason is being labeled as a high floor, low ceiling guy. And I get it, he's a noodle armed passer who appears to play in a scripted, on schedule offense requiring him to make safe throws and proper reads but who melts into goo when the game goes haywire. Ok, but its important to remember a few things:

1) You can still be an elite QB without elite athleticism. Drew Brees and Peyton Manning and Tom Brady didn't overwhelm you physically. But they overwhelmed you with anticipation, pocket movement, field vision, and rapid fire decision making. So that means Mac could theoretically reach the highest of highs at QB (again, just theoretically)

2) There's a view that arm strength cannot be taught. To a large extent, that's probably accurate. But Brady serves as a good example. He was described as the ultimate weak athlete. And yet, his arm has gotten stronger. His body has added muscle and he's in general a far better athlete than the guy who walked into the combine with his shirt off. This suggests it is possbile to gain athleticism.

I think Mac Jones acquitted himself quite well as a rookie, which looks even better when you observe the disasters that were the rest of the rookies who played. That doesn't guarantee what he will be, but I don't think its fair to look at his rookie year and then profile him as a solid starter going forward. He could improve a lot and I wouldn't be surprised. The talent around him is worrisome though. 

48 It is pretty annoying that…

It is pretty annoying that narrative basically wants to stick every QB in the Mahomes/Brady/Rodgers level or ...they are trash, without really acknowledging that there is a pretty large gap in between. Heck, you can be a HOFer and fall in that gap. 

Arm strength and decision making kinda go together. I.e. you can compensate for weaker arm with quicker correct decision making and you can compensate for weaker decision making by being able to make throws at the last minute. Mahomes kinda has both so he's awesome. 

There is actually alot of QB right know where it's hard to say what their level is bc they havn't hit their ceiling yet. Allen, Murray, Herbert, Burrow, even Watson due to the year off, mabye Lamar Jackson. Everyone from 2021.  

54  He probably will need to…

 He probably will need to get to Big Ben level of play; which is kind of where I think he is now. But there seems to be a groundswell that he's at Mahomes' level right now. We'll see this year if thats true.

I think we've established he can play at that level. Can he do it consistently? That's what I think we have left to find out.

 

Also, I think you're spot on with Mac Jones.

52 "Best case I would say…

"Best case I would say...maybe around 10th in DYAR/DVOA, with a 10-15 rank more likely. Still, it was interesting to take a guy who has very little chance of being elite. "

 

Mac Jones was 12th in DYAR and 13th in DVOA as a rookie. Is your argument that the best case for Mac Jones is absolutely no improvement over the course of his career?

Mac Jones was, as a rookie, one of the better QBs in the league. 
 

 

39 Having Buffalo in their…

Having Buffalo in their division basically locks NE out till Belichick retires I think. 

Eh. Buffalo's got a QB on a top-end contract and New England's got a rookie. If it hadn't been for the weird spending spree for 2 tight ends and a middling WR they'd have a very big money advantage over Buffalo.

I think this year's a tough ask, but if the Jets and Dolphins are both crap next year, I could see them taking the division next year. Not that much of a stretch.

51 The Pats are basically…

The Pats are basically locked in to being competitive until Belichick retires or becomes useless.   Then the clock strikes midnight, because the elder Kraft has become a trainwreck, and no one wants to work for the younger Kraft.  Belichick is 70, so I give the Pats 5 years.  Heres a song for all of you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ObjtVdsV3I

30 Besides, 'rebuilding' is not…

Besides, 'rebuilding' is not how BB operates, never has. His goal is to build a solid team that makes the playoffs a lot of times, because the more cracks you take at the SB, the more chances you have to win one. Brady turned that from an effective strategy to the best performance of all time, but the basic outlines are clear with or without Brady.

32 Patriots

New England’s biggest need is finding a way to make the Bills punt.