AFC East preview: Growing pains forecasted for New England Patriots


Staff member

It is very much a new era for the New England Patriots.

The last time the Patriots played in a game coached by someone other than Bill Belichick, fourth-year defensive end Greg Rousseau was among a slew of Buffalo Bills who were not yet born.

New England Patriots head coach Jerod Mayo, center, is flanked by offensive linemen Calvin Anderson, left, and Michael Jordan on May 29 in Foxborough, Mass. Steven Senne, Associated Press

The team and Belichick mutually agreed to part ways Jan. 11, with his long reign, including six Super Bowl titles, coming to a whimpering end. The next day, the Patriots announced Jerod Mayo as the team’s new head coach, thrusting the 38-year-old former first-round pick by the Pats in 2008 into the highly scrutinized role.

The Patriots went just 4-13 overall and 1-8 at home last season, earning them the No. 3 overall draft pick. With that, they took quarterback Drake Maye out of North Carolina, a few weeks after trading former first-round pick Mac Jones to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Maye is dynamic and has a high ceiling. However, it’s not his team yet.

The Patriots brought in veteran Jacoby Brissett for a second stint during free agency. In June, Patriots offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt called Brissett the starting quarterback, and during spring practice open to media, Brissett took all of the snaps with the first-team offense.

Back in April, after the draft, Mayo told New England reporters that he was mulling a policy set by his predecessor when it came to Maye.

“I think to go back to Bill, I don’t think many rookies are ready to just jump in and play,” Mayo said. “At the end of the day, our philosophy is the best players will play. Coming in as a rookie, hopefully he’s a sponge. ... Look, Jacoby understands, he’s a mentor. He’s very smart, has great leadership skills, and hopefully Drake can learn something from him, as well. I would say we’re going to compete all spring, we’re going to compete during training camp, and the best player will start.”

Part of the problem is the roster around the quarterback is lacking.

The team extended tight end Hunter Henry, wide receiver Jalen Reagor and linebacker Josh Uche in March. Linebacker Matthew Judon was at mandatory minicamp as he heads into the final year of his contract. Still, Belichick – who served as general manager as well – left the roster in disarray.

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, left, listens as new head coach Jerod Mayo answers a question at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. Nancy Lane/Boston Herald/TNS
A tough division got tougher, and the Patriots likely have many growing pains ahead in this rebuild.

Offseason buzz: “The Roast of Tom Brady” on Netflix captivated the audience and threw the Patriots of yesteryear back into the spotlight. An all-star lineup gathered to grill the former quarterback on personal and professional topics. All of the buzz around the old Patriots serves as a further reminder of how much the franchise has slipped. When the main offseason chatter is commanded by the past, perhaps there is some comfort that the current team can fly a little under the radar. But there’s also added pressure to return to form – and to do so quickly.

Who’s new? Mayo and Maye headline the group of new Patriots. Or technically, it’s a new role for Mayo, who played eight seasons at linebacker for the Patriots before coaching the position.

Mayo knows how much will eventually be riding on Maye.

“Our legacy will be defined by and tied to the player who we draft at (No.) 3,” Mayo told the NFL Network ahead of the draft. “I know I asked the fans for patience. But they won’t give me patience. I’m good with it. We’re ready for the challenge.”
It’s critical that Mayo says “we’re” ready – his legacy is just as much at stake.

Also new: WR Ja’Lynn Polk (second round), WR Javon Baker (fourth round), QB Jacoby Brissett (Commanders), KJ Osborn (Vikings), LB Sione Takitaki (Browns), RB Antonio Gibson (Commanders), TE Austin Hooper (Raiders), OT Chukwuma Okorafor (Steelers).

Who’s gone? Belichick, obviously, and a number of other coaches as well. As far as players: QB Mac Jones (Jaguars), WR DeVante Parker (Eagles), LB Mack Wilson Sr. (Cardinals), TE Mike Gesicki (Bengals), RB Ezekiel Elliott (Cowboys), OT Trent Brown (Bengals), CB J.C. Jackson (free agent), OL Connor McDermott (free agent).

Key number: 17. That’s how many new assistant coaches are on Mayo’s staff, once again signaling a major shift moving forward. That’s on top of three new coordinators, and of course, a rookie head coach with no experience as a coordinator in Mayo.

What’s next? See how this new regime actually looks once it takes the field. The rookie quarterback-rookie coach combo is daunting, and going up against the AFC East only hardens the task at hand. The Patriots were determined to shake things up this offseason, and they certainly did. Now, the on-field product is what really matters.
Aaron Rogers isn’t the messiah and TBubbs in Miami is a timing maestro annnnnd that’s it.

TBubbs. Short for Tiny Bubbles which is Don Ho’s big hit outta Hawaii meaning Tua. (in case you were wondering)
I don't think Rodgers is going to be as effective as he was in GB before we ended his season last year