Patriots

After hiring Bill O’Brien, what else do Bill Belichick, Patriots need to do to fix this offense? Here are 3 offseason goals.

Bill Belichick and the Patriots have their work cut out for them this offseason.

Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots talks to Mac Jones #10 against the Philadelphia Eagles in the first half of the preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field on August 19, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Patriots defeated the Eagles 35-0.
Bill Belichick needs to surround Mac Jones with more talent in 2023. Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Bill Belichick and the Patriots have their work cut out for them this offseason.

But Tuesday represented a step in the right direction for a team whose 2022 season was toppled by a stagnant, underperforming offense.

New England’s search for a new offensive coordinator led to an unsurprising result, with Bill O’Brien taking the reins of a unit in need of a clean slate. 

But the addition of just O’Brien won’t be enough to orchestrate a rebound season for Mac Jones and the Pats’ offense.

Here are three more offseason moves that Belichick and the Patriots need to make in order to fix this sputtering offense.

Bring in a new offensive-line coach

With O’Brien taking over, Matt Patricia’s tenure as offensive play-caller is all but over.

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Based on some reports, Patricia might be out altogether in New England. 

Those sentiments might be validated by the latest reports regarding the Patriots’ coaching search.

According to Albert Breer of the MMQB, New England is expected to have another meeting with Adrian Klemm after interviewing him for the OC position. 

“Klemm interviewed for the Pats OC job last week and, with Bill O’Brien in place, New England could bring him in under O’Brien,” Breer wrote.

Klemm, a former offensive lineman with the Patriots, is serving as an offensive line coach and run game coordinator with the University of Oregon. He also coached for three seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, primarily working with the O-line.

With O’Brien in place, Klemm is an option for New England if the former Texans head coach wants to reshuffle the Patriots’ personnel to his own liking.

Given his expertise, Klemm might be a candidate for an offensive-line coaching role in New England. Patricia is the current offensive-line coach in New England, although that unit’s porous play was another area of weakness in 2022.

If Klemm isn’t a fit, the Patriots have other options in their search for a new O-line coach.

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Mike Devlin, the Ravens’ current assistant offensive-line coach, ran Houston’s offensive line during O’Brien’s tenure there. Doug Marrone, now running the Saints’ O-line, is close with O’Brien and is a respected figure in NFL coaching circles.

Even Billy Yates, an assistant under Patricia who took an active role all season long, might benefit from a promotion.

Add in the uncertainty surrounding tight ends coach Nick Caley, and New England has its hands full in terms of sorting out this entire coaching staff. 

But however the pieces fall into place, Belichick and the Patriots need to surround O’Brien with new blood.

Prioritize tackles in draft, free agency 

Whoever inherits the role of offensive-line coach in New England has plenty to work with on the interior. The trio of Mike Onwenu, David Andrews, and Cole Strange is a great foundation up front, with Strange making strides in the second half of his rookie season.

But at the tackle position, the Patriots were a turnstile. Things got so bad between Trent Brown and Isaiah Wynn that New England had to turn to Marcus Cannon and Conor McDermott (plucked from the Jets’ practice squad) for reinforcements.

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With Brown and 2022 seventh-round draft pick Andrew Stuebe the only two tackles signed through next season, the Patriots need to add at the position.

New England should have no shortage of appealing options with the No. 14 pick in the NFL Draft. Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski might be plucked in the top-10, but other imposing linemen like Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. and Georgia’s Broderick Jones should be available.

Allocating a first-round pick in search of a franchise left tackle is usually a worthwhile investment.

But with New England also entering the offseason with over $32 million in cap space (per OverTheCap.com), the Patriots might be serious players for a top free agent like San Francisco’s Mike McGlinchey.

Other options on the open market include Atlanta’s Kaleb McGary, Kansas City’s Orlando Brown Jr., and Chicago’s Riley Reiff.

Shelling out the big bucks for offensive linemen doesn’t steal headlines quite like signing a stud wideout or cornerback. But bolstering that unit is a critical step if New England wants to right the ship offensively.

Speaking of wideouts….

Bring in a true No. 1 option at the receiver position

Mac Jones will need more weapons at his disposal in 2023.

Jakobi Meyers is a trusted option for Jones, but the receiver is due for a major payday as an unrestricted free agent. Other targets like DeVante Parker and Tyquan Thornton popped at times, but the Patriots need to inject more talent into that unit.

Patriots great Ty Law concurred during a radio spot with WEEI Tuesday morning. 

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“They need someone to help Mac Jones on the outside, someone who can take the top off the defense,” Law said. “That’s what I see. There’s no one as far as a receiver is concerned that’s scaring anybody. They’re not putting the fear of God in no defensive backs, and that’s a problem.”

Enter DeAndre Hopkins. 

He might be 30 years old, but Hopkins still carved up defenses last season with Arizona, reeling in 64 catches for 717 yards and three touchdowns.

Hopkins averaged 79.7 yards per game in 2022, the 10th-highest mark among all NFL wide receivers in 2022. Meyers, the top Patriots receiving threat in 2022, ranked 32nd in that same field at 57.4 yards per game.

With a rebuilding Cardinals team reportedly looking to move Hopkins, the Patriots should be in hot pursuit.

O’Brien’s return to New England might complicate things. Hopkins played for him for six seasons in Houston, with the relationship between player and coaching not exactly flowery.

There was no relationship,” Hopkins told Sports Illustrated’s Greg Bishop back in 2020 about his time with O’Brien. “Make sure you put that in there. There’s not a lot to speak about.”

Still, one NFL executive told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler that O’Brien’s hiring may not deter a potential Hopkins trade.

“That would be interesting to pair Bill O’Brien with Hopkins if O’Brien ends up with the Patriots OC job,” Fowler wrote. “They might not be friendly. But they had success together with subpar quarterback play, so maybe it can work.”

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Even if a Hopkins deal isn’t in the cards, the Patriots have other contingency plans, especially if someone like Cincinnati’s Tee Higgins is put on the block ahead of a new contract in 2024.

Whatever option presents itself, the Patriots need to give this offense a new element with a deep-threat option for Jones.

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