Pats Preseason: QB Edition

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Deathofthebambino

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I think 2020 was at the extreme end and agree they'd like to be more balanced than that. But I do see a multi-year effort to de-emphasize the passing game and emphasize the run (and defense). They had the best passing offense in the league in 2017, so they traded away their top receiver to draft an OL, let their #2 WR walk and didn't replace him with anybody, and drafted a running back in the first round. From watching the "Do Your Job" documentary, they were explicit that the Buffalo game - where they ran for 273 yards and only passed for 117 - was the blueprint for success in 2018 (though I would argue that the importance of the running game in the playoff run is overstated). In 2019 they invested in a couple WR, but Harry and Sanu were both big dudes who can block. But the OL/FB injuries took away the run game that year. Last year obviously they stood pat on WR and went with the power run. Even after drafting Michel they've put mid-round picks into early-down runners. This offseason they invested a lot in pass-catchers, but the two biggest tickets were tight ends (after drafting 2 TE fairly high last year). It all points to the same thing to me: they want to run the ball up the gut a lot on early downs and in short yardage, and have the ability to pass out of run looks.

The interesting question to me is why: was it to make up for a declining Brady in his twilight years? Was it to ease the transition to a younger QB by putting him in an O where he wasn't asked to throw 35-40 times a game? Is it to take advantage of defenses going smaller personnel, 220-lb LBs and dime defenses? Is it because he sees RBs as undervalued by modern analytics and WRs as overpriced, and is trying to buck the market and build an effective offense cheaper? All of the above?
I agree with you that they seem to have been moving toward a more run-centric offense for a few years now. What I will say though, is that I don't know if it's a good thing. If you want to win with ground and pound in today's NFL, you better have a top 5 (probably top 3) defense who can keep the opponents offense off the field and limit them to about 23 points or less. A running offense has to be able to keep moving the chains, grinding out clock, because one or two bad drives against the KC's of the world, giving up a short field position, and you are doomed in today's game.
 

DourDoerr

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I agree with you that they seem to have been moving toward a more run-centric offense for a few years now. What I will say though, is that I don't know if it's a good thing. If you want to win with ground and pound in today's NFL, you better have a top 5 (probably top 3) defense who can keep the opponents offense off the field and limit them to about 23 points or less. A running offense has to be able to keep moving the chains, grinding out clock, because one or two bad drives against the KC's of the world, giving up a short field position, and you are doomed in today's game.
Agreed on the necessity of a top 5 D and would add the necessity of a top punter and ST units.
 

DourDoerr

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Super Nomario

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Finally, The Athletic claimed that Cam played with the O starters against the Giants' D starters. They also state that Mac then came in and played with O backups - but against the Giants' D starters too (at least for a time).
I think at least part of the second quarter was with the O backups vs NYG's D starters (at least some of them), but Mac's two TD drives were both in the 3rd quarter when it was backups vs backups.

Looking at Cam's INT with a wide open WR along the sidelines is damning.
It's really not. He had a great matchup with Meyers vs a late-rotating linebacker who had to play with his back to the ball. Should he pass that up to see if there's an absolutely perfect matchup elsewhere? I also haven't seen a view that shows me where the safety is when Cam releases it; I suspect it looks wide open because the ball is already in the air and the FS is moving towards the throw.
 

8slim

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Mac has been great, but I think there's some recency bias to the idea "he's far ahead of every other rookie QB":

View: https://twitter.com/McKennAnalysis/status/1432144335760498692


• Brian Hoyer: 29/44, 354 yards, 1 TD
• Jimmy Garoppolo: 46/79, 618 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT
• Jacoby Brissett: 38/55, 387 yards, 1 TD
• Jarrett Stidham: 61/90, 732 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT
• Mac Jones: 36/52, 389 yards, 1 TD

Sure, Mac played better than his numbers (given he had a drop on a deep ball every week), but a rookie QB having a great preseason is nothing new. We thought Stidham played well enough in the preseason that they could just hand the reins to a fourth-round pick who had barely played. Jimmy G was good enough that reporters were asking whether Brady's job was secure three games into the season.

Does that take anything away from his preseason? No, he's been great, and he's done everything he was supposed to do. But we should be careful about taking too much from the preseason. It's preseason.
I guess that's fair, statistically. I was thinking more about being game-ready from a practice, preparation, leadership and mental standpoint. None of those other 4 guys had any remote expectation of starting, and there was certainly talk about Garoppolo and Stidham that they were very inconsistent in practice. Mac has been scrutinized more than any rookie Pat QB since Bledsoe, and by all accounts he has checked all the boxes on the things I mentioned.
 

Cellar-Door

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If you were to rank the qualities a QB must possess in order to be successful, where would this quality above rank? 1? 5? 10? I'd say it's in the mix with pre-snap adjustments, quick release, and progression reads. A good case for #1 actually because you can be elite at all those other traits and literally throw it all away with a bad toss.
I'd need to know how they calculate that, because sometimes an inaccurate/uncatchable throw is the right one. Brady for example has had high uncatchable pass ratings (last year depending which site's version you use he was worse than Cam Newton for example) but that's because he dumps the ball at guys' feet a lot in spots where there is good coverage. Other "uncatchable" balls can be things like high throws to the boundary where either your guy skies up and gets it or nobody gets it.
It's hard to quantify throws as catchable/uncatchable. And even within that, you have the previous issue of whether an innacurate/uncatchable pass is a bad thing.
In Mac's case I think it's mostly good, he's shown strong accuracy. On the flip side, I think he's had some throws where he made an accurate throw that was a bad decision, and some more where he didn't make a throw at all instead of dumping it.

Overall I don't love the stat. I think Mac has shown great accuracy, but i don't think the stat being used has much if any value.
 

Big McCorkle

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I think 2020 was at the extreme end and agree they'd like to be more balanced than that. But I do see a multi-year effort to de-emphasize the passing game and emphasize the run (and defense). They had the best passing offense in the league in 2017, so they traded away their top receiver to draft an OL, let their #2 WR walk and didn't replace him with anybody, and drafted a running back in the first round. From watching the "Do Your Job" documentary, they were explicit that the Buffalo game - where they ran for 273 yards and only passed for 117 - was the blueprint for success in 2018 (though I would argue that the importance of the running game in the playoff run is overstated). In 2019 they invested in a couple WR, but Harry and Sanu were both big dudes who can block. But the OL/FB injuries took away the run game that year. Last year obviously they stood pat on WR and went with the power run. Even after drafting Michel they've put mid-round picks into early-down runners. This offseason they invested a lot in pass-catchers, but the two biggest tickets were tight ends (after drafting 2 TE fairly high last year). It all points to the same thing to me: they want to run the ball up the gut a lot on early downs and in short yardage, and have the ability to pass out of run looks.

The interesting question to me is why: was it to make up for a declining Brady in his twilight years? Was it to ease the transition to a younger QB by putting him in an O where he wasn't asked to throw 35-40 times a game? Is it to take advantage of defenses going smaller personnel, 220-lb LBs and dime defenses? Is it because he sees RBs as undervalued by modern analytics and WRs as overpriced, and is trying to buck the market and build an effective offense cheaper? All of the above?
I don't think the specific Brandin Cooks --> Isaiah Wynn example really works as an example of this trend; exchanging a soon-to-be-UFA wide receiver for a cost controlled left tackle isn't exactly a move that signifies a shift away from the passing game, at least not in and of itself. Nor are the Smith-Henry signings of the last offseason, as they're both primarily receiving threats and could very well better represent a desire to recreate (a pale imitation of) the beautiful two-TE, 12 personnel offense of the early 2010s that was so dominant and very much pass-happy. (I think the premium they paid in the Agholor signing in particular supports this too; a serious burner threat like him should, at least theoretically, synergize well with two-TEs by putting the fear of God into safeties, forcing them to play more over the top and thus clearing up space for the tight ends to operate in the short to intermediate area. My hunch is that the duo of Waller and Agholor was greater than the sum of its parts last year, with no denigration intended towards either of them.)

All that having been said, it's absolutely justifiable to believe that the coaches actually do want to go extremely run-heavy, including on early downs, and I would replace the word "believe" with "fear," because there is not a single shred of evidence to suggest that that approach is halfway viable unless either A. you don't have Lamar Jackson or B. you are trying to imitate that Shanahan model from San Francisco. And I don't mean "a QB like Lamar Jackson," I mean literally just Lamar Jackson, the unicorn that he is. The run-heavy approach "worked" last year for the Pats because the roster was bad and, by minimizing the amount of possessions in the game, you maximize variance, which makes it more likely that the inferior team wins. But if the strategic goal is to actually win the championship rather than maybe fall forward into a wild card spot, constantly running the ball on first and ten and second and long is not going to get you there, at least not by itself.

However, I don't think they want to go particularly run heavy, not for its own sake. (Or, to use slightly different and more negative terminology, I don't think they want to shoot themselves in the foot by reverting to some sort of old school smashmouth football.) That's a viable conclusion to draw from the dataset of the last three or so years, but the track record of McDaniels and Belichick is so long and so far in the other direction that they at the very least deserve the benefit of the doubt. It strikes me as more likely, although this is what I hope to be the case and my optimism tends to spring eternal, that what they're trying to do is build on, or build something similar to, the SanFran Shanahan model, going heavy on manipulating opposing personnel and building the offense off of and around play action. There'd be definite differences in execution, like a lot less lateral movement from the offensive line (as much as it would be funny to see Trent Brown trying to do that) and I don't think Shanahan particularly frequently rolls with 12 personnel and rather does 21, but the fundamental philosophy is one of forcing the opposing defense into unfavorable matchups and then exploiting those matchups, not just taking advantage of mismatches when they happen to arise.

Let's say you're a defensive coordinator going against the Pats and they run out there with Agholor, Meyers, Jonnu, Henry, and White (or Stevenson, who I include here in the belief that he's a viable receiving back in addition to everything else; he was getting lined up outside the numbers in the game yesterday.) NFL teams revert into base personnel over half the time against 12 personnel, for generally obvious reasons, while practically never being in base against 11. NFL teams do better against 12 personnel when in base than they in nickel. With the way the roster's presently constructed, the Pats can force opposing defenses to stay in nickel against 12 personnel by having the ability to punish them should they revert to base. (How comfortable do you feel about covering Meyers, Smith, or Henry with a linebacker? How comfortable do you feel about not having a safety over the top of Agholor?)

Belichick and McDaniels absolutely might not be thinking this way, but these are the same motherfuckers who have engineered a variety of beautifully and historically effective offenses in the past, even though McDaniels wasn't here for the Gronk-Hernandez era. It seems probable that they're trying to craft an offense that's a incredibly versatile and unpredictable, an offense of matchup nightmares. I think a lot of the particular run-heaviness of the last few years has had to do with the absolute dearth of talent at the receiver position (and also at the poor quality of play at the QB position last season), rather than a philosophical movement away from passing the ball. It's not as though they didn't spend a 2nd rounder on Sanu, a 1st rounder on Harry, and weren't desperately trying to find viable weapons by trading for Josh Gordon and signing Antonio Brown. The only real data point against it was not drafting a WR in the 2020 draft, but that's undermined by the Harry selection the year before and the Sanu trade. I just don't think (or maybe I just hope) it's as much about "passing out of run looks" as it is about run looks and pass looks having the ability to be virtually indistinguishable from each other.

I agree with you that they seem to have been moving toward a more run-centric offense for a few years now. What I will say though, is that I don't know if it's a good thing. If you want to win with ground and pound in today's NFL, you better have a top 5 (probably top 3) defense who can keep the opponents offense off the field and limit them to about 23 points or less. A running offense has to be able to keep moving the chains, grinding out clock, because one or two bad drives against the KC's of the world, giving up a short field position, and you are doomed in today's game.
It's funny how much this statement (which you see in a lot of places not so much as a condemnation of running the ball but as an actual suggestion of a viable strategy) shows the problem with a run-centric offense. It's basically saying, "if you're going to run the ball a lot, you'll need a great defense too, because otherwise you aren't going to be scoring enough points to win football games." It's like trying to explain how to win a war with an Arab-style military.
 

DourDoerr

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I think at least part of the second quarter was with the O backups vs NYG's D starters (at least some of them), but Mac's two TD drives were both in the 3rd quarter when it was backups vs backups.
Thanks - that was my understanding too.

It's really not. He had a great matchup with Meyers vs a late-rotating linebacker who had to play with his back to the ball. Should he pass that up to see if there's an absolutely perfect matchup elsewhere? I also haven't seen a view that shows me where the safety is when Cam releases it; I suspect it looks wide open because the ball is already in the air and the FS is moving towards the throw.
My use of "damning" was over the top in retrospect, so I take your point. Without seeing the All-22 IDK where the safety is either, but he doesn't show up in the broadcast angle so there was some space. You're correct on Meyer's matchup - it's good - but the INT somewhat mitigates that, I think. Or at least Cam's accuracy/timing downgrades the value of that matchup given where the play occurred on the field. Does a QB lock onto a WR with such a matchup - or is there a quick scan for a better opportunity once the ball is snapped? Again, I don't know, but my guess would be that the QB's with quick processing might have that ability to jump on a fast-developing opportunity. Maybe that's wishful thinking, there are a lot of moving parts out there.
 
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DourDoerr

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I'd need to know how they calculate that, because sometimes an inaccurate/uncatchable throw is the right one. Brady for example has had high uncatchable pass ratings (last year depending which site's version you use he was worse than Cam Newton for example) but that's because he dumps the ball at guys' feet a lot in spots where there is good coverage. Other "uncatchable" balls can be things like high throws to the boundary where either your guy skies up and gets it or nobody gets it.
It's hard to quantify throws as catchable/uncatchable. And even within that, you have the previous issue of whether an innacurate/uncatchable pass is a bad thing.
In Mac's case I think it's mostly good, he's shown strong accuracy. On the flip side, I think he's had some throws where he made an accurate throw that was a bad decision, and some more where he didn't make a throw at all instead of dumping it.

Overall I don't love the stat. I think Mac has shown great accuracy, but i don't think the stat being used has much if any value.
All good points. It's PFF, so some credibility with me but YMMV. Taken as a quick and dirty stat, it backs up what my eyes are seeing, but I can't measure that relative to other QB's as I'm watching only Pats games for the most part.

I'm encouraged by the stong accuracy though and believe the bad decisions or taking a sack can be corrected through experience/good coaching. Some of the decisions to take the sack might be a good decision rather than an unacceptable risk on dumping it. Again, experience and coaching should help him to figure out that tipping point at the NFL level.
 

Super Nomario

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I don't think the specific Brandin Cooks --> Isaiah Wynn example really works as an example of this trend; exchanging a soon-to-be-UFA wide receiver for a cost controlled left tackle isn't exactly a move that signifies a shift away from the passing game, at least not in and of itself.
That's fair. It's not so much trading Cooks (or letting Amendola walk) - it's not replacing them with anybody.

Nor are the Smith-Henry signings of the last offseason, as they're both primarily receiving threats and could very well better represent a desire to recreate (a pale imitation of) the beautiful two-TE, 12 personnel offense of the early 2010s that was so dominant and very much pass-happy.

...

Let's say you're a defensive coordinator going against the Pats and they run out there with Agholor, Meyers, Jonnu, Henry, and White (or Stevenson, who I include here in the belief that he's a viable receiving back in addition to everything else; he was getting lined up outside the numbers in the game yesterday.) NFL teams revert into base personnel over half the time against 12 personnel, for generally obvious reasons, while practically never being in base against 11. NFL teams do better against 12 personnel when in base than they in nickel. With the way the roster's presently constructed, the Pats can force opposing defenses to stay in nickel against 12 personnel by having the ability to punish them should they revert to base. (How comfortable do you feel about covering Meyers, Smith, or Henry with a linebacker? How comfortable do you feel about not having a safety over the top of Agholor?)
I agree with this, though I wouldn't necessarily call those teams pass-happy, other than 2011 (3rd in pass attempts, just 17th in rushing attempts). In 2010 they finished 20th in pass attempts and 10th in rush attempts; in 2012 (peak no-huddle), they were 2nd in the league in rush attempts (4th in pass attempts also). I can't find situation-neutral numbers and see how game script affected things. But the threat of the run was pretty big. As you note, they loved catching teams in base and throwing against mismatches there, but they also loved catching teams in nickel and running the ball down their throats.

All that having been said, it's absolutely justifiable to believe that the coaches actually do want to go extremely run-heavy, including on early downs, and I would replace the word "believe" with "fear,"
I don't disagree.

Belichick and McDaniels absolutely might not be thinking this way, but these are the same motherfuckers who have engineered a variety of beautifully and historically effective offenses in the past, even though McDaniels wasn't here for the Gronk-Hernandez era.
FWIW, McDaniels returned late in 2011 and was the OC in 2012, so he was a part of that.

I think a lot of the particular run-heaviness of the last few years has had to do with the absolute dearth of talent at the receiver position (and also at the poor quality of play at the QB position last season), rather than a philosophical movement away from passing the ball.
It's hard to separate, because Belichick is the GM as well as the coach. So maybe it's a coaching adaptation to the lack of receiver talent, but also Belichick assembled those talentless groups.

It's not as though they didn't spend a 2nd rounder on Sanu, a 1st rounder on Harry, and weren't desperately trying to find viable weapons by trading for Josh Gordon and signing Antonio Brown. The only real data point against it was not drafting a WR in the 2020 draft, but that's undermined by the Harry selection the year before and the Sanu trade.
Sanu, Gordon, and Brown were all in-season desperation moves after the various low-budget additions (Dontrelle Inman? Maurice Harris? Eric Decker?) all failed to pan out. Gordon and Brown came at a discount for non-football reasons, which ultimately ended their tenures in NE.

My use of "damning" was over the top in retrospect, so I take your point. Without seeing the All-22 IDK where the safety is either, but he doesn't show up in the broadcast angle so there was some space. You're correct on Meyer's matchup - it's good - but the INT somewhat mitigates that, I think. Or at least Cam's accuracy/timing downgrades the value of that matchup given where the play occurred on the field.
Accuracy? The throw hit him in the hands. It was pretty similar to NYG's first TD last night. But Meyers didn't catch it cleanly and Martinez made a play. I don't think you can reasonably put it on Cam, at all.
 

EL Jeffe

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Yeah, Cam's throw was on target and on time. I chalk that up to a case of Meyers lacking in foot speed to separate from a true LB, and the LB making a helluva play at the catch point. Normally 40 yards times are SO overblown, but that really was close to a straight 40 yard dash and Jakobi's 4.63 speed (which was part of what made him a UDFA) showed up. You don't see a lot of deep verticals out of him, and that play was like Exhibit A as to why. Harry or Wilkerson probably would have gotten the required extra step(s) of separation on those routes and people would have loved the throw (who knows if those two would have secured their catches, though).
 

simplyeric

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Accuracy? The throw hit him in the hands. It was pretty similar to NYG's first TD last night. But Meyers didn't catch it cleanly and Martinez made a play. I don't think you can reasonably put it on Cam, at all.
From the camera angle it looked like the safety was coming up just downfield as well. If he throws and further and tries to lead Meyers, does the safety end up with it?
(I know the camera views can mess with depth, so I'm not sure if the safety was "right there" or ten yards away)
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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Yeah, Cam's throw was on target and on time. I chalk that up to a case of Meyers lacking in foot speed to separate from a true LB, and the LB making a helluva play at the catch point. Normally 40 yards times are SO overblown, but that really was close to a straight 40 yard dash and Jakobi's 4.63 speed (which was part of what made him a UDFA) showed up. You don't see a lot of deep verticals out of him, and that play was like Exhibit A as to why. Harry or Wilkerson probably would have gotten the required extra step(s) of separation on those routes and people would have loved the throw (who knows if those two would have secured their catches, though).
I'd be interested to know more about the play design. I agree that Meyers' inability to separate might be the issue and that the ball was right on target. But you don't see that many seam routes where the ball is going 40 yards downfield in the air. It would not surprise me if Cam threw this a beat or half-beat later than the design.
 

Bowhemian

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I thought that was a pretty good pass, and a nice play by Meyers to spin around and go up and get it.
Unfortunately, the LB made a play that I would guesstimate that 95% of the LB's in the league would not make. It was a GREAT play by him. He stole it right from Meyers.
 

Soxy

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Mac has been great, but I think there's some recency bias to the idea "he's far ahead of every other rookie QB":

View: https://twitter.com/McKennAnalysis/status/1432144335760498692


• Brian Hoyer: 29/44, 354 yards, 1 TD
• Jimmy Garoppolo: 46/79, 618 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT
• Jacoby Brissett: 38/55, 387 yards, 1 TD
• Jarrett Stidham: 61/90, 732 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT
• Mac Jones: 36/52, 389 yards, 1 TD

Sure, Mac played better than his numbers (given he had a drop on a deep ball every week), but a rookie QB having a great preseason is nothing new. We thought Stidham played well enough in the preseason that they could just hand the reins to a fourth-round pick who had barely played. Jimmy G was good enough that reporters were asking whether Brady's job was secure three games into the season.

Does that take anything away from his preseason? No, he's been great, and he's done everything he was supposed to do. But we should be careful about taking too much from the preseason. It's preseason.
To piggyback on this, I recall watching Cam Newton during his rookie preseason (I was living in South Carolina at the time) and remember him looking so bad that some Panthers fans were questioning whether he should be the opening day starter. Then he went and threw for 400+ yards in each of his first two games, something he still hasn't done since. I remember that opening day against the Cardinals fairly well, considering it was ten years ago. Took me a few hours to lift my jaw up off of the floor. I recall a rookie Pat Peterson winning it for the Cardinals with a late punt return TD.

It's hard to put too much weight on preseason performances. Obviously, you'd rather your rookie QB look more like Mac Jones has, and less like Cam did when he was a rookie, but it doesn't guarantee anything.
 

Deathofthebambino

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I'd be interested to know more about the play design. I agree that Meyers' inability to separate might be the issue and that the ball was right on target. But you don't see that many seam routes where the ball is going 40 yards downfield in the air. It would not surprise me if Cam threw this a beat or half-beat later than the design.
Cam was a half beat late, and/or threw it short. The replay is below. You see Meyers calling for it, and then he has to slow up and turn to catch it. Now, I'm not saying Meyers shouldn't have caught it, he should have, and I'm not saying the linebacker didn't make a great play, because he did. But Cam also was late on it and/or threw it short, allowing the LB to get back into the play. All 3 things can be true, and IMO, they are...


View: https://twitter.com/Giants/status/1432109757037522947?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1432109757037522947%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fboston.cbslocal.com%2F2021%2F08%2F29%2Fcam-newton-interception-patriots-preseason-finale-on-track-to-start-week-1%2F
 

DourDoerr

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Accuracy? The throw hit him in the hands. It was pretty similar to NYG's first TD last night. But Meyers didn't catch it cleanly and Martinez made a play. I don't think you can reasonably put it on Cam, at all.
I'm going by memory but I recall it was in line, but somewhat under thrown. Martinez made a nice play on a ball directly in his face. This doesn't happen though if Cam hits the receiver open near the sidelines (and, again, All-22 might prove this notion to be incorrect - until then though, I'm pressing on).
 

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Given where the deep safety was located, I cannot agree that Cam threw it short. He put it where it had to go.
 

DourDoerr

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Given where the deep safety was located, I cannot agree that Cam threw it short. He put it where it had to go.
I have to disagree - just rewatched DOTB's replay and it seems pretty clear the ball needs to be underthrown due to the timing. It's good placement with that factor in mind, but it shouldn't have to be that difficult to begin with. The second angle is great. If Cam has the ball in the air when JM's even with the LB, there's plenty of time to haul it down before the safety gets there. As it is, the ball's late relative to the matchup, and JM has to slow down and turn completely back. YAC are not even an option at this point.

Furthermore, that 2nd angle affords a view of the safety with regards to the WR on the sidelines. That WR was OPEN. I take it back - the film is damning. Jeez, JM bangs his head pretty hard on the field.
 
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PedroKsBambino

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So, been 20 years since we were here.

Does anyone recall whether Brady got a lot of run with the ones in 2001 preseason? We have plenty of reporting they thought about starting him but didn’t pull trigger.

My guess is that BB will view Cam starting and Jones developing as optimal starting point…and that he’s absolutely willing to cut Cam if he truly believes Jones is better way to win and Cam will be a distraction.
 

Morgan's Magic Snowplow

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Cam was a half beat late, and/or threw it short. The replay is below. You see Meyers calling for it, and then he has to slow up and turn to catch it. Now, I'm not saying Meyers shouldn't have caught it, he should have, and I'm not saying the linebacker didn't make a great play, because he did. But Cam also was late on it and/or threw it short, allowing the LB to get back into the play. All 3 things can be true, and IMO, they are...


View: https://twitter.com/Giants/status/1432109757037522947?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1432109757037522947%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fboston.cbslocal.com%2F2021%2F08%2F29%2Fcam-newton-interception-patriots-preseason-finale-on-track-to-start-week-1%2F
Yup, I tend to agree with you. I almost wonder whether the play was supposed to be even quicker hitting than that. You can see Myers first look back for the ball when he's only at like the 15 and he is wide open and running free at that point. The LB running with him has to come over almost from the opposite hash so there is a nice soft spot there in the coverage if the QB can get it over the underneath LB and down quickly enough so the safety behind can't make a play. Its almost unfair to say but I feel like if TB12 is playing QB that ball likely comes out really fast and its on Myers around the 20-25 yard line, not the 35-40 yard line. I wouldn't be surprised if that was the original design, but Cam just didn't process fast enough to see it and hit it.
 

Big McCorkle

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That's fair. It's not so much trading Cooks (or letting Amendola walk) - it's not replacing them with anybody.

...

It's hard to separate, because Belichick is the GM as well as the coach. So maybe it's a coaching adaptation to the lack of receiver talent, but also Belichick assembled those talentless groups.

...

Sanu, Gordon, and Brown were all in-season desperation moves after the various low-budget additions (Dontrelle Inman? Maurice Harris? Eric Decker?) all failed to pan out. Gordon and Brown came at a discount for non-football reasons, which ultimately ended their tenures in NE.
So, the thing at question is basically whether or not we've seen a real shift in Belichick's philosophy of roster construction over the last few years, and, if so, what that shift actually has been. As I start writing this, I don't actually know (but do have a guess at) what the numbers are going to say, so this could be interesting (numbers per OTC, graph is mine):

Capture.PNG

So, it seems fairly evident that there hasn't really been any substantial change in how the team has decided to allocate its financial resources regarding the two positional groups. The Michel pick is additionally the sole aberration in the realm of the allocation of non-financial resources, i.e. draft picks, as outside of him the Patriots draft (and FA) strategy regarding RBs has been pretty damn constant. And in the context of a potential shift away from wide receivers, in the year before (Cooks trade) and the year after (Harry) picking Michel, the team spent a first round pick to acquire a wide receiver. I don't think you can really find in this an effort to de-emphasize the passing game in favor of the rushing game, at least in the realm of roster construction. Investing in a quality offensive line benefits both aspects of offense greatly, and there hasn't been a meaningful shift in how the team invests resources at the WR and RB position. If anything, it has put more into the receiving group than it has into the running group, and a large portion of what's been given to the running backs has specifically been given to Jimmy Blanco, who does most of his best work in the passing game. In terms of not replacing Cooks and Amendola, well, see: Agholor and Bourne. Even if at the time they really didn't want to try to replace them, they do seem to have realized the error of their ways.

I think what we've seen transpire over the last few years is not a conscious decision to move away from throwing the ball, but rather the natural result of the team categorically failing to acquire and/or retain and/or develop talent at wide receiver (outside of Meyers) whilst consistently succeeding at finding good running backs. (To be fair, it's a lot easier to get 'good,' productive running backs than it is to get good, productive wide receivers. But on the other side of it, it's a lot more important to get good receivers, so...) In some alternate timeline where Josh Gordon is able to defeat his demons, Antonio Brown doesn't make a conscious decision to be the biggest dumbass imaginable, and N'Keal Harry is actually AJ Brown, or even one where just Harry is AJ Brown, this would probably not be a discussion.

I agree with this, though I wouldn't necessarily call those teams pass-happy, other than 2011 (3rd in pass attempts, just 17th in rushing attempts). In 2010 they finished 20th in pass attempts and 10th in rush attempts; in 2012 (peak no-huddle), they were 2nd in the league in rush attempts (4th in pass attempts also). I can't find situation-neutral numbers and see how game script affected things. But the threat of the run was pretty big. As you note, they loved catching teams in base and throwing against mismatches there, but they also loved catching teams in nickel and running the ball down their throats.

FWIW, McDaniels returned late in 2011 and was the OC in 2012, so he was a part of that.
"Pass happy" as in built around and extremely, incredible good at the passing game. Not necessarily that they played like the Chiefs do today. I think the causality was the other way around; the threat of the pass was gargantuan, which let them also run the ball down opposing team's throats. Like, the 2010 Patriots were incredibly efficient at running the ball in 2010, best in the NFL, in part because BGE just never fumbled the ball and would run the ball in on the goaline after Brady got the offense there; it's hard for me to believe that opposing defenses were just scared shitless of Woodhead and the Law Firm and as a result sold out to stop the run. And I have to imagine the difference in 2010 and 2011 was absolutely gamescript related (without having access to those numbers myself and apparently having a fuzzy memory about that time in general), given how much worse the defense was in '11 than '10. The 2010 team was just blowing practically everyone out for the second half of the season on both sides of the ball.

And honestly I was thinking that the Tebow playoff game, which is my mental benchmark for the return of McDaniels (because I remember stupid Broncos fans crying foul about how it was cheating or something for him to be allowed to help out against them), was in 2012 for whatever reason.
 

JM3

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I have to disagree - just rewatched DOTB's replay and it seems pretty clear the ball needs to be underthrown due to the timing. It's good placement with that factor in mind, but it shouldn't have to be that difficult to begin with. The second angle is great. If Cam has the ball in the air when JM's even with the LB, there's plenty of time to haul it down before the safety gets there. As it is, the ball's late relative to the matchup, and JM has to slow down and turn completely back. YAC are not even an option at this point.

Furthermore, that 2nd angle affords a view of the safety with regards to the WR on the sidelines. That WR was OPEN. I take it back - the film is damning. Jeez, JM bangs his head pretty hard on the field.
This post just made me realize the irony of my SN/avatar combo.

I think it was a fine throw, albeit a tad late.

In regard to the larger convo, I still don't have faith in Mac but think he should start from game 1 & keep playing as long as he stays healthy regardless of the results.

BB made this bed & he needs to get to seeing if it's a good bed. If Mac is too fragile to handle it, he wasn't the future anyway.
 

Super Nomario

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So, the thing at question is basically whether or not we've seen a real shift in Belichick's philosophy of roster construction over the last few years, and, if so, what that shift actually has been. As I start writing this, I don't actually know (but do have a guess at) what the numbers are going to say, so this could be interesting (numbers per OTC, graph is mine):
Thanks for putting that together. I think it's fair to say they have never invested a lot in WRs, but they were able to carve out effective passing attacks anyway, and that has dried up of late.

The Michel pick is additionally the sole aberration in the realm of the allocation of non-financial resources, i.e. draft picks, as outside of him the Patriots draft (and FA) strategy regarding RBs has been pretty damn constant.
I'm not sure I agree with this. After drafting Michel, they used a third the next year on Harris, then a fourth two years later on Stevenson. The emergence of those two let them get rid of Michel. There has been no similar effort to stock the receiving corps with mid-round picks - you've got Harry, Malcolm Mitchell in 2016, and then you have to go all the way back to 2013 to find a WR taken before the sixth round. That's even as though the passing game has gotten more prevalent league-wide, the free agent WR market has boomed in price, and the core receiving threats have gotten older.

I think what we've seen transpire over the last few years is not a conscious decision to move away from throwing the ball, but rather the natural result of the team categorically failing to acquire and/or retain and/or develop talent at wide receiver (outside of Meyers) whilst consistently succeeding at finding good running backs. (To be fair, it's a lot easier to get 'good,' productive running backs than it is to get good, productive wide receivers. But on the other side of it, it's a lot more important to get good receivers, so...) In some alternate timeline where Josh Gordon is able to defeat his demons, Antonio Brown doesn't make a conscious decision to be the biggest dumbass imaginable, and N'Keal Harry is actually AJ Brown, or even one where just Harry is AJ Brown, this would probably not be a discussion.
If Gordon could defeat his demons and Brown wasn't a dumbass, those guys wouldn't have been available. We were buying low because of the risk.

They definitely have done better with RBs than with WRs, but again, I think they're making their own luck to some degree. Harry looks like a bust, but the Michel pick doesn't look great either, and they're still fine at RB because they kept throwing picks at the problem. The draft is a crapshoot, but if you don't play, you can't win.

I would love to have AJ Brown instead of Harry, but the reason there's so much emphasis on that one decision is because it is the only time we dipped a toe in there. Look at the other teams that drafted receivers high in 2019: The Ravens took Marquise Brown (mildly disappointing) a few picks before Harry; they double-dipped with a third later in the draft, used a third last year, and used a first and a fourth this year. After Parris Campbell (looks like a bust) in 2019, the Colts used their first pick on another WR in Michael Pittman last year. The Eagles had a similar bust in JJAW, then took another (seeming) bust last year in Jalen Raegor, and now they used ANOTHER first in DeVonta Smith. OK, that seems like too much and dumb. The 49ers, Seahawks, and Cardinals, all of whom took a second-rounder in the same 2019 draft, have all picked WRs in the first or second round in one of the last two drafts. Only TEN hasn't drafted a WR high since, but they had taken Corey Davis 5th overall two years earlier and they traded for Julio when Davis left. But we took Harry and it's like, OK, that's our guy, no reason to draft any more WRs.
 

Mooch

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I have this really odd feeling that the Pats trade or release Cam this week. I know that this is a long-shot, but it would be the most dramatic way for Belichick and the staff to make the obvious choice to install Mac as the starter while eliminating the obvious distraction that Newton would be as a high-profile backup. I just find it difficult to believe that the offense the Pats want to run can work with two drastically different QB styles.

We've seen Belichick make these kind of surprise moves in the past. Wouldn't put it past him.
I KNEW IT.
 

JM3

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This post just made me realize the irony of my SN/avatar combo.

I think it was a fine throw, albeit a tad late.

In regard to the larger convo, I still don't have faith in Mac but think he should start from game 1 & keep playing as long as he stays healthy regardless of the results.

BB made this bed & he needs to get to seeing if it's a good bed. If Mac is too fragile to handle it, he wasn't the future anyway.
Time to test the bed!
 

Mooch

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Well done. I was hopeful for this move but never once thought we'd see it. I should know better by now.
Yeah, it was sort of the perfect storm of Belichick if you looked objectively:

Underperforming starter who has critical flaws in his game and a very easy contract to get out of
Said starter also is a lightning rod who could be a clubhouse distraction if things go poorly
An understudy who does all of the right things and fits like a puzzle piece into the gameplan and overall team philosophy
Teammates and coaches going out of their way to sing the praises of the backup along the way

We're heard this song before...
 

RG33

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The low risk play here is to let Cam start week 1 and see what happens from there. That way you don’t alienate Cam or anyone else in the locker room, and you don’t put that first week pressure on a rookie QB.

BB does not factor in low risk plays. It is all about competition and what is best for the football team.

I am leaning towards the belief that Mac Jones will be the starting QB for thr New England Patriots in week 1.
[patting self on back]
 

DourDoerr

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I think it was a fine throw, albeit a tad late.
Then that's a bad throw. Maybe you're looking for "pretty throw" or something, but a fine throw (and I'm assuming the objective is a completion) is one that arrives on target relative to the coverage and on time. Miss one of those prerequisites and it's a bad throw. Cam has been making bad throws and reads and that's why he's gone.
 

JM3

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Then that's a bad throw. Maybe you're looking for "pretty throw" or something, but a fine throw (and I'm assuming the objective is a completion) is one that arrives on target relative to the coverage and on time. Miss one of those prerequisites and it's a bad throw. Cam has been making bad throws and reads and that's why he's gone.
It still should have been caught not intercepted, & it was the right throw given the fact that he had already failed to throw it when he should have.

But yeah, cutting him is fine.
 

DourDoerr

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It still should have been caught not intercepted, & it was the right throw given the fact that he had already failed to throw it when he should have.

But yeah, cutting him is fine.
To be honest, I don't think it's fair to lay the blame on the WR for not making a catch of a bad throw. It'd be nice and, of course, great WR's have the ability to convert bad throws into completions (it's what makes them great), but JM laid out for it and smacked his head hard in his effort. That sequence - and INT - is on Cam.
 

DJnVa

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Should we transition over to a thread that's JUST about Mac Jones at this point?

 

Super Nomario

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"Pass happy" as in built around and extremely, incredible good at the passing game. Not necessarily that they played like the Chiefs do today. I think the causality was the other way around; the threat of the pass was gargantuan, which let them also run the ball down opposing team's throats. Like, the 2010 Patriots were incredibly efficient at running the ball in 2010, best in the NFL, in part because BGE just never fumbled the ball and would run the ball in on the goaline after Brady got the offense there; it's hard for me to believe that opposing defenses were just scared shitless of Woodhead and the Law Firm and as a result sold out to stop the run.
They weren't terrified of Woodhead and BJGE, but the run game is still vital to the 2 TE look, because if defenses are going to treat it as a nickel and just put a corner on one of your TEs, you have to make them pay on the ground. Even a really good tight end is not as productive a receiver as a third wideout unless he's getting a mismatch. If you can't run defenses out of nickel, you might as well just play 3 WRs, because your third WR is going to be a better receiving threat than your second tight end. You want to make the defense wrong no matter how they defend it; if they play base, exploit the LB/TE matchups in the passing game; if they play nickel, exploit the CB/TE matchups in the run game.
 

BusRaker

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Should we transition over to a thread that's JUST about Mac Jones at this point?
There's still a lot of discussion about who the back-up will be that is currently happening in the Cam Newton thread

edit:spelling
 

Big McCorkle

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Thanks for putting that together. I think it's fair to say they have never invested a lot in WRs, but they were able to carve out effective passing attacks anyway, and that has dried up of late.

I'm not sure I agree with this. After drafting Michel, they used a third the next year on Harris, then a fourth two years later on Stevenson. The emergence of those two let them get rid of Michel. There has been no similar effort to stock the receiving corps with mid-round picks - you've got Harry, Malcolm Mitchell in 2016, and then you have to go all the way back to 2013 to find a WR taken before the sixth round. That's even as though the passing game has gotten more prevalent league-wide, the free agent WR market has boomed in price, and the core receiving threats have gotten older.
Yeah, I think with wide receivers their strategy has generally been to rely upon Brady's superlative ability as a quarterback to be able to have an elite passing offense without having to invest a lot of cap space and picks into wide receivers. All in all, this strategy disappoints me as a fan because I enjoy watching Brady throw to great receivers, but it worked pretty well until the team hit an ungodly dry spell of almost every move failing and was unable to replace the aging and degrading bargain-bin acquisitions that had previously worked out. They played with fire, won three rings, and then got burnt.

I'm not sure if you disagree with the strategy or what I said, because I don't think you disagree with what you quoted, which is just that Michel is the sole aberration in what has otherwise been a consistent strategy at the RB position; WRs have nothing to do with it. Absolutely, what they've done with great success over the last decade is stack the running back room with mid-round picks and cheap FA signings. Stevenson in the 4th, Harris in the 3rd, White in the 4th, Vereen in the 2nd and Ridley in the 3rd, and then the cheap acquisitions of players like Lewis, Burkhead, Woodhead, and Blount. Bolden as a UDFA. The only 'high' pick here is Vereen, and that's if you consider the 56th pick to be a high one. So, the running back strategy--stock up with great depth at the RB position with midround picks and cheap free agents while never paying any of them a big contract--has been what it has been with the sole exception of Sony Michel. Outside of him, NE's approach to the RB position has been pure "analytics," so to speak.

If Gordon could defeat his demons and Brown wasn't a dumbass, those guys wouldn't have been available. We were buying low because of the risk.
Again, absolutely, but that's not the point. The Pats haven't shown a disregard for the position, they have consistently tried to get talent at the position, even elite talent, they've just always had a mind for trying to get it for cheap. They've made moves that had a chance of working out; they just didn't. Hell, Antonio Brown is still going strong down in Tompa Bay.

In 2019, I think it was pretty clear that they realized how badly they'd fucked up at the position. You don't sign AB (especially for as much as they did) or trade a 2nd for Sanu if you aren't desperate. They just failed to fix the issue.
They definitely have done better with RBs than with WRs, but again, I think they're making their own luck to some degree. Harry looks like a bust, but the Michel pick doesn't look great either, and they're still fine at RB because they kept throwing picks at the problem. The draft is a crapshoot, but if you don't play, you can't win.

I would love to have AJ Brown instead of Harry, but the reason there's so much emphasis on that one decision is because it is the only time we dipped a toe in there. Look at the other teams that drafted receivers high in 2019: The Ravens took Marquise Brown (mildly disappointing) a few picks before Harry; they double-dipped with a third later in the draft, used a third last year, and used a first and a fourth this year. After Parris Campbell (looks like a bust) in 2019, the Colts used their first pick on another WR in Michael Pittman last year. The Eagles had a similar bust in JJAW, then took another (seeming) bust last year in Jalen Raegor, and now they used ANOTHER first in DeVonta Smith. OK, that seems like too much and dumb. The 49ers, Seahawks, and Cardinals, all of whom took a second-rounder in the same 2019 draft, have all picked WRs in the first or second round in one of the last two drafts. Only TEN hasn't drafted a WR high since, but they had taken Corey Davis 5th overall two years earlier and they traded for Julio when Davis left. But we took Harry and it's like, OK, that's our guy, no reason to draft any more WRs.
If the question is if the team has been trying to shift over to a really run-heavy approach, I think there's very limited evidence for that. I'd say no. Especially since one of the real albatrosses hasn't been the opportunity cost of all the running backs they've gone for, but all the failed defensive backs they've routinely picked in the second round (Dugger might actually be good, but he still wasn't a good pick; JoeJuan, Dawson, Cyrus Jones, Jordan Richards... that's rough). If the question is whether or not the team has spent enough effort and resources towards acquiring wide receivers, the answer is a resounding "Hell no they haven't!" But that's a different question. And with this year, they didn't spend a high or mid-round pick on a WR, but they did drop a lot of money on free agent receivers and receiving tight ends, so given who they actually picked with those early picks, I'm not going to complain about 2021 specifically.

So, basically I don't disagree with a single word you've said here, except for the bit about the Eagles. The consistent failing to pick a WR in the first round warrants a reevaluation of your scouting process and the general process through which you decide which WR to pick; it shouldn't make you not pick any more. Those past picks are sunk costs and you still need receivers. Sure, if they'd hit on JJAW and Raegor, then it could be dumb to pick Smith (although, if you had two good wide receivers, but your third guy was trash, it'd still probably be a good idea to spend resources getting a third guy, especially if that third guy is someone like Devonta Smith, i.e. capable of being your best guy and making your 11 personnel sets into something scary.)
They weren't terrified of Woodhead and BJGE, but the run game is still vital to the 2 TE look, because if defenses are going to treat it as a nickel and just put a corner on one of your TEs, you have to make them pay on the ground. Even a really good tight end is not as productive a receiver as a third wideout unless he's getting a mismatch. If you can't run defenses out of nickel, you might as well just play 3 WRs, because your third WR is going to be a better receiving threat than your second tight end. You want to make the defense wrong no matter how they defend it; if they play base, exploit the LB/TE matchups in the passing game; if they play nickel, exploit the CB/TE matchups in the run game.
There's this thing that you and I do where we're never quite talking about exactly the same thing, lol. I don't think I was saying much more than that the 2010-2012 Patriots ran off the pass more than that passed off of the run (which is what you could say the current 49ers do.) I don't think it's necessarily guaranteed that your second TE is necessarily a worse receiving threat than your third WR; I'm seriously not sure who is the best receiving threat out of Henry, Smith, Meyers, and Bourne. Probably Meyers and then one of the tight ends? It's hard to say, and I don't want to discount Bourne. I would say that Hernandez was definitely better than (goddamn) Ochocinco and Tate, and probably better than Branch as well, though.

But your line that "you want to make the defense wrong no matter how they defend it," is a really good way to put it, and might well go to explain Michel's expendability, because he doesn't really contribute to that at all; eight targets last year and I don't remember him ever lining up outside. A really good receiving back like James White (and given that they had him lining up outside the numbers on Sunday, Stevenson potentially as well) means that you can go a step further and start making the defense think that maybe they need to start going out there in dime. Michel... doesn't do that. Harris doesn't either, really.
 

tims4wins

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But your line that "you want to make the defense wrong no matter how they defend it," is a really good way to put it, and might well go to explain Michel's expendability, because he doesn't really contribute to that at all; eight targets last year and I don't remember him ever lining up outside. A really good receiving back like James White (and given that they had him lining up outside the numbers on Sunday, Stevenson potentially as well) means that you can go a step further and start making the defense think that maybe they need to start going out there in dime. Michel... doesn't do that. Harris doesn't either, really.
I think - and I could be wrong here - that @Super Nomario 's point is that in 2010-2012, it didn't matter who the back was, because the talent was such at TE that the defense was always 'wrong'. Hence throwing when they went base, and running when they went nickel, and Lawfirm putting up a monster season.
 

Eddie Jurak

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This old article (Dec 2020) from Bedard talks about what Belichick wants in a QB.

https://www.bostonsportsjournal.com/2020/12/27/nfl-notebook-bill-belichick-really-want-next-quarterback

Former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah has shared the directives given to scouts by Belichick on what to look for and what he prioritizes.

On the QB:

#1 is to make good decisions — then arm, size, physically tough, leadership, guys look up to and have confidence in, a real competitor. Accurate rather than guy with a cannon. Emphasis on our game will be on decision, timing, accuracy — guy needs to be confident, intelligence is important but not as much so as field awareness & judgment. Can’t be sloppy fundamentally unsound guy with ball handling, [techniques] etc. Footwork, drops, release, etc. — QB has to be able to throw the ball with accuracy.
This is literally quoted from BB's book from his time as Cleveland coach.

View: https://twitter.com/MoveTheSticks/status/1245062206296690688?s=20

Mac was basically assembled in a lab somewere to Belichick's specs.

Edit: Also there's this:

View: https://twitter.com/MikeGiardi/status/1387953576815759364?s=20

Mike Giardi: The #Patriots draft the most accurate QB in the draft, Alabama's Mac Jones. Believed to be pro ready now. Incredible processor. As you probably know, has been teaching the 'Bama offense to new OC Bill O"Brien (former HC of the Texans and OC here in NE).
 
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