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Cautiously optimistic about the Patriots’ future, and a few other scattered thoughts



The Patriots didn’t just waste a year of development for Mac Jones, they set him back.

A few scattered thoughts on what’s going on with the Patriots, where they are and where they’re heading. Like the charming Marcus Jones, who quickly became the best thing about this Patriots season, we’ll be everywhere with this one…

· Maybe I’m in the minority on this, but I found myself being cautiously optimistic about the near future, meaning next season rather than this Sunday or the next.

As much as the Patriots could use a win over the Dolphins to keep playoff hopes alive and boost morale after two brutal losses, it’s best they pick as high as possible in the 2023 Draft in the ongoing quest and up. now successful enough to replenish the young talent on the roster.

Priorities over the past two weeks, even with their slim playoff hopes currently intact, should be sending Mac Jones into the offseason on a positive individual note, taking a look at some young players who aren’t haven’t had many game day rehearsals, and go 0 and 2 with dignity.

The Patriots have found multiple goaltenders in the last three drafts. Rhamondre Stevenson, Kyle Dugger, Josh Uche, Marcus Jones, Jack Jones, Michael Onwenu and Christan Barmore fall into this category, and Cole Strange and Tyquan Thornton are even expected to have spotty rookie seasons. I kinda like Pierre Strong too; hey, it averages 10 yards per litter.

It’s essential to continue to find immediate contributors in the draft of 23 and never again go back to the lost days and lost nights of relying on N’Keal Harry and JoeJuan Williams to become anything other than roster filler.

· I still believe that Bill Belichick is on the short list of the best NFL coaches, if not the best. That belief will only waver if he keeps Matt Patricia involved in the offense next season. I believe Belichick thought Patricia would struggle as the de facto offensive coordinator at first, but eventually she’d figure it out.

The miscalculation is that there is no time for finally. The Patriots didn’t just waste a year of development for Mac Jones. Their choices caused his regression. I can see him recovering, a la Daniel Jones with the Giants this year, with competent guidance.

· The Patriots’ second-half defensive performance against Joe Burrow and the Bengals’ powerful offense convinced me that this unit is legit. Jerod Mayo and Steve Belichick (who has been on staff since May 2012 but is still treated as a rookie) have done a high quality job with this group, especially given the injuries to Jalen Mills and Jack Jones.

Glad to hear Mayo reiterate his desire to be a head coach soon. He is worthy and would be a great representative of Bill Belichick’s and “Quick Slants” training trees. He would, however, make a mistake accepting the Broncos job. The disastrous trade of Russell Wilson will not be overcome anytime soon.

Mel Kiper Jr.’s crystal ball hasn’t always been accurate when it comes to projecting Patriots draft picks, but it would have been cool if his 2011 draft simulation had been correct. The Patriots selected tackle Nate Solder, who became a quality player in a big role, 17th overall that year. Kiper had them take Wisconsin defensive end JJ Watt, who eventually went to No. 11 at the Texans. It worked pretty well for them, I heard.

While we’ve been delving into the subject of the ’11 NFL Draft, you may recall that the Patriots entered that draft with a second first-round pick, No. 28 overall, but have it traded to the Saints for an ’11 second-rounder and a first-rounder in ’12. The Saints took Alabama running back Mark Ingram, who is on his second tour to New Orleans.

And the Patriots? Well, they turned those picks into running back Shane Vereen, who made 11 catches in Super Bowl XLIX in one of the most overlooked standout performances of the Dynasty era, and, after trading six spots in the draft of 12, they ended defensively Chandler Jones. Hmmm, I feel like I heard his name recently.

There are pages, if not chapters, left in their stories as Patriots, but here are the ratings I would give to every player who was part of Belichick’s free agent spree on March 21.

Matthew Judon: A+. I hope he equals Andre Tippett’s sack record in one season.

Hunter Henry: C-plus.

Jonnu Smith: D-minus.

Nelson Agholor: D.

Devon Godchaux: B.

Jalen Mills: C-plus.

Kendrick Bourne gets a C, but it would probably be a B-plus if Patricia had the savvy to play him and the coaching acumen to figure out how to best utilize one of the Patriots’ few legitimate point guards.

I hope the Patriots keep Bourne after this season, but if I was leading an NFL team in contention with a need for a versatile third receiver, I would go to great lengths to acquire him.

· Mac Jones seemed to be a little, shall we say, calmer against the Bengals, and that’s probably a good thing. While Patricia deserves to be shouted out long and hard and in front of every working camera, Jones doesn’t have the gravity to do it yet, as Vince Wilfork and Julian Edelman have pointed out.

No one should be surprised that Jones can be a lunatic, however. His haunting “eh…eh-huh” laugh in that Arbella commercial should have been clue enough.

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