Year 3 of the post-Tom Brady era in New England didn’t go according to plan. The Patriots never had more than a two-game win streak, and they suffered bad losses to non-playoff teams like Chicago, Las Vegas and Green Bay.
But the Pats brought back a familiar face to help resurrect the offense, and they kept defensive assistant Jerod Mayo from leaving for potentially larger roles with other teams.
Below are three reasons for the Patriots to be optimistic heading into 2023:
1. Bill O’Brien in, Matt Patricia out as offensive play caller
The last time O’Brien was the Patriots offensive coordinator, the team had the No. 2-ranked offense (428 yards per game) and No. 3-ranked scoring offense (32.1 points per game) in the NFL.
Quarterback Mac Jones regressed with Patricia calling plays. Under O’Brien’s tutelage, expect Jones’ production to match or exceed his rookie year when he threw for 3,801 yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions while completing 67.6 percent of his passes.
2. Emergence of RB Rhamondre Stevenson
Following the 2021 season in which he rushed for 929 yards and 15 touchdowns, it was all but expected that Damien Harris would establish himself as New England’s top tailback.
However, by Week 5 Harris was averaging just 13.2 carries and 61 yards rushing per game. That’s when Stevenson saw an uptick in his workload. He rushed for 161 yards on 25 carries in a 29-0 win over the Detroit Lions, and the 24-year-old tailback started getting the majority of the carries.
Stevenson ended the year with 1,040 yards rushing and five touchdowns while averaging five yards per carry. He was New England’s first 1,000-yard rusher since LeGarrette Blount in 2016 (1,161 yards).
3. The pass rush
Just one season after finishing 19th in sacks, the Patriots were tied for the third-most sacks in 2022 (54). Matthew Judon led the way with 15.5, followed by Josh Uche with 11.5 and Deatrich Wise Jr. with 7.5.
The Patriots registered the sixth-most hurries (332) and eighth-most pressures (334), according to Pro Football Focus, and they return four of their top five players in pressures generated next season.
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