FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — There’s no secret the Patriots had several issues on offense last season.
The unit went from ranking sixth in the NFL in points per game in 2021 under the direction of longtime offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to ranking 17th a season later after longtime defensive coach Matt Patricia became the offensive play caller in 2022.
New England also lagged near the bottom in several other categories, including yards per game (26th), third-down efficiency (27th) and red zone efficiency (32nd).
It led to noticeable division on the field between players and coaches, including a memorable, expletive-laced tirade by quarterback Mac Jones that was caught on camera during a lopsided late-season loss to the Buffalo Bills.
Rebuilding trust is a point of emphasis this preseason and the process started during the Patriots’ first training camp practice on Wednesday.
“That’s a big word here in this training camp is trust,” Jones said. “That’s going to come through trial and error. That’s going to come through good and bad. It’s not always going to be great.”
That was evident from Jones’ first pass of camp, when he misfired on a ball thrown during 7-on-7 drills intended for tight end Mike Gesicki and was intercepted by safety Kyle Dugger.
Jones clapped his hands in disgust after the pick, then quickly went back to the huddle to regroup.
He said he expects those kinds of mistakes will be part of the process as he works with several new faces including Gesicki and receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. Jones will be doing it while he also takes cues from his third offensive coordinator in three seasons following the hiring of Bill O’Brien.
On Wednesday, Jones spent a lot of time with not only O’Brien in his ear during breaks, but coach Bill Belichick also closely monitoring, along with assistant quarterbacks coach Evan Rothstein.
Jones said he feels he and Belichick are in a good place after some reported tensions arose between the two last season.
“I think we’re good. The biggest thing that we’ve all talked about is just having a fresh start,” Jones said. “I think there’s a lot of learning experiences in the last year that we’ve talked about. This year is just about working together, right? You’ve got to come up with a plan and then, obviously, talk about it and then execute it. … Hopefully everybody on our offense feels that, too.”
Center David Andrews said one thing that’s clear is that four straight seasons without a playoff victory is certainly not up to the Patriots’ standards.
“It’s not good enough. We know that. There’s guys here that have won championships and know what that looks like,” Andrews said. “We just have to figure out ways to win. It’s not one side of the ball. … You don’t want to just sit there watching people win.”
Jones wants his leadership to shine through.
“I hope my teammates can see that I’m just going to grind it out and hopefully I can bring a lot of people along with me,” Jones said. “You’re the quarterback. And at the end of the day when we’re on that field they need to feel confident in me and I need to feel confident in them.”
NOTES: Ty Montgomery, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in last season’s opener, made his return to the field. He was officially listed on the roster as a receiver after playing a hybrid running-back-receiver role last season. … Assistant head coach Joe Judge worked mainly with the special teams unit on Day 1. He served as quarterbacks coach in 2022.