BOSTON -- The preseason is over. For the Patriots -- and especially the Patriots' offense -- it didn't go very well.
Against the Panthers, Mac Jones and the starters got three drives. The first two went three-and-out, and the third went 81 yards for a touchdown.
Against the Raiders, Jones and the offense got four drives. The first one lost nine yards and ended in a punt. The second ended with an ugly interception. The third one gained nine yards and ended in a punt. And the fourth one ended in a field goal, after an offensive pass interference penalty negated a touchdown.
Taken together, the unit took the field for seven drives, with four ending in punts, one ending in an interception, and two ending with scores for a total of 10 points. Jones posted a 60.0 passer rating, averaging 6.3 yards per attempt while taking three sacks.
It wasn't good.
But the Patriots' coaching staff isn't up in arms about it.
"Yeah, I don't think you really know where your team is until you get to about midseason, you know, mid-October," head coach Bill Belichick said when asked about his comfort level in the offense at the moment. "Play five, six, seven games, match up against some different teams, see for real what your strengths and weaknesses are, and your opponents' as well. You know, what it looks like on paper and what it is in preseason, and what it is in the regular season, I don't think they're all the same."
Belichick added: "People really start attacking you, you start attacking other people, you get a much better feel for what your problems are, maybe what your strengths are, how good they actually are. So, yeah, we'll see."
Prior to Belichick's press conference, assistant coaches spoke to the media in the tunnel of Gillette Stadium. That group, of course, included Matt Patricia, who's coaching offense for the first time since 2005 and is handling a wealth of duties as the offensive line coach in addition to being the offensive play caller (while also serving as the team's nebulously named senior football advisor).
With the rough implementation of some zone blocking schemes for the offensive line being a major story line of training camp and the preseason, Patricia was obviously asked about the issue. Specifically, Patricia was asked if he'd consider scrapping the zone blocking schemes altogether.
Patricia said that everything this summer has been more about the process than results.
"I think really right now for us, when we work different runs in the run game, we have different techniques that we work. So whether it's zone techniques or we run our gap schemes or our double-team techniques, we're just trying to make sure those fundamentals are handled from that standpoint," Patricia said. "Sometimes the emphasis isn't so much on, you know, what does the production look like at the moment? It's how good are we with our pad level, our hand placement, our foot placement? Sometimes, you know, right now we're running into looks that maybe aren't great, you know, just so that we get the runs run in that particular moment and make sure that we're getting enough reps that everything before the reps really kind of get limited as we go forward from there."
Patricia also indicated that some of the lesser effective parts of the summer could have been a byproduct of the team trying to do as much as possible -- an approach that will obviously change as the team works to specifically game-plan week-to-week for each opponent.
"A lot of times we're in training camp, we're kind of doing everything versus everything, if that makes sense. You know, you're trying to cover a lot of different ground versus all looks -- and certainly, that's very difficult to do," Patricia said. "Whereas I would say, you know, as we push forward here in the next couple of days and kind of gear and refocus on Miami, we'll be able to get very specific with some of the things that they do or that we've seen them do, and try to prepare from that aspect of it. But there's still a lot of work to be done, you know, from our standpoint here too, just to kind of finish off training camp and get a couple of good days of practice."
Belichick pointed to last season, when the Patriots started the year 2-4 before rattling off seven straight wins and ultimately making the playoffs.
"I think a lot of veteran players are aware of it, and I've heard a lot of people comment on it, that September's an extension of the preseason, building your team, developing your team, I think there's some truth to that," Belichick said. "But the games start counting, so it's important to be competitive early. But I think we saw some of that last year. We see it every year, but certainly saw it last year."
Obviously, the Patriots' coaching staff has confidence in its plans for the season. Just as obviously, the preseason means very little. The 2017 Browns went 4-0 in the preseason before going 0-16 in the regular season, after all.
Yet as of now, it's officially football season. Even if Belichick is working to downplay the importance of September, there won't be many words that will work to quell concerns if the offense looks the same in the regular season as it has throughout the summer.
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