The Las Vegas Raiders and New England Patriots have strong ties together with the Raiders hiring Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler a couple of offseasons ago. That heightens the stakes for this Week 6 matchup, and Taylor Kyles from Pats Pulpit was kind enough to answer a few questions about the Patriots to preview the game for Raider Nation.
1) What’s going on with Mac Jones? He’s gone from Rookie of the Year candidate to the scorching hot seat in less than two seasons. Is he missing Josh McDaniels?
Last season, Josh McDaniels’ loss left a gaping hole in the offense that was exacerbated by shaky offensive line play and a lack of dynamic talent.
This season, starting guards Mike Onwenu and Cole Strange have battled injuries and been in and out of the lineup, while right tackle has been a major weak spot. This instability up front has led to significant regression from Mac Jones in terms of his mechanics, internal clock, and seemingly his confidence.
There were bright spots earlier this season when Jones was the main reason the offense was competitive, and turnovers weren’t as abundant. But since his disastrous performance in Dallas, the quarterback has looked like a shell of himself.
It hasn’t helped that his receivers’ route precision has been lacking at times, and the group still lacks a big-play threat outside of undersized rookie Demario Douglas. So even if McDaniels were still in Foxborough, I don’t know how much he could do with the roster’s current offensive pieces.
2) Building on that, the Patriots’ offense has scored the fewest points in the league with just 55 in five games and only has three points over the last two weeks despite bringing in a new offensive coordinator in Bill O’Brien. Is Jones to blame for all of that or are there much larger issues at play?
As I alluded to in the previous section, a depleted offensive line has led to a ripple effect throughout the offense. Even Rhamondre Stevenson, who was a bell-cow as both a runner and receiver last season, hasn’t been as productive behind poor blocking. While Mac Jones deserves a large piece of the blame pie as someone who handles the ball every play and can’t stop committing turnovers, he’s far from the only reason the Patriots can’t move the ball or score points.
And here’s a fun fact for the readers: New England’s OFFENSE has given up 22 points over the past two weeks, including a fumble, two pick-sixes, and a surprise two-point conversion.
3) With Matthew Judon out for the foreseeable future, how has Josh Uche looked as New England’s top pass-rusher? Or has someone else emerged into that role?
Josh Uche has been shockingly quiet, considering how effective he was 1-on-1 against left tackles last season. Uche, rookie Keion White, and outside linebacker Anfernee Jennings also saw their highest snap totals of the season against New Orleans, but no one on the team recorded multiple pressures. White had some disruptive moments in the game but showed several times that he’s still raw. Jennings is more of a run-stopper than a pass-rusher, and in that respect, he filled in admirably for Judon.
The Patriots have relied far more heavily on zone blitzes without Judon, but they haven’t had much success with that strategy.
4) I know the Patriots have suffered some injuries at cornerback—most notably to first-round pick Christian Gonzalez—and they recently traded for/brought back J.C. Jackson. What role do you see Jackson playing this week and how has the team’s secondary looked overall so far this year?
J.C. Jackson is still working his way back from a knee injury that cut his 2022 campaign short, so he only played half of the defensive snaps. But he appeared to be Gonzalez’s primary replacement while in the game, serving as the team’s boundary corner. He was solid, all things considered, but got away with two plays that could’ve gone for big gains.
Jonathan Jones missed three games with an ankle injury, but returned in a similarly rotational role and looked like his old self; tough, smart, and reliable.
Slot corner Myles Bryant has been forced into some tough situations due to the secondary’s injuries, spending way more time outside than anyone anticipated, but he’s been solid and doesn’t give up many explosive gains when in the right role.
Jabrill Peppers and Kyle Dugger are a physical and athletic safety duo, but their aggressiveness leads to some missed tackles and poor angles at times.
5) Neither team has scored more than 20 points this season but DraftKings Sportsbook has the total for the game set at 41.5. How do you see this one playing out? Will the offenses break through and potentially hit the over, or do you think the under is a pretty safe bet?
The Patriots’ defense has had two of its worst performances of the season in back-to-back weeks due to a combination of being on the field far too long and poor tackling. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Vegas put up points in this game if the Patriots’ offense can’t sustain drives.
I’d been cautiously optimistic about Mac Jones being able to rally his guys and generate some positive offense, but the past two weeks have worn me down and it would be irresponsible to assume this week will be different than the recent precedent they’ve set.
I think the Patriot’s defense holds the Raiders under 30 points, but how much the offense allows is anyone’s guess. I can’t assume New England scores more than 17 points until they prove they’re capable, so hit that under!