The 2022 NFL Season is nearly upon us. As part of the run up to the season, we’re preview all the teams, culminating with our picks for who makes the playoffs and who wins the awards this season. Check back each day through September 5. Let’s get ready for some football!
After missing the playoffs in 2020 following Tom Brady’s exit, the Patriots rebounded in 2021. With new quarterback Mac Jones in town, the Patriots were a tough out. They went 10-7 and made the playoffs as a Wild Card. There, in the Wild Card Round, they ran into a buzz saw in the Buffalo Bills and the season ended. Still, it was a return to the post-season and now the question is if the team can run it back and do better in 2022.
The Patriots will have to make a run in 2022 without their long-time Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels, who took the post as Head Coach for the Las Vegas Raiders. In his stead Joe Judge and Matt Patricia—two former Patriots’ coaches who left to be Head Coaches elsewhere and are now back—will be charged with running the offense and helping Jones continue to develop. And they’ll be doing it without any significant upgrades on offense.
Veteran running back James White retired during Training Camp, but the Patriots drafted a pair of backs in Pierre Strong, Jr., and Kevin Harris that will add to the rotation group. In the passing game, the Patriots surprised many by drafting Tyquan Thornton in the Second Round. But the biggest addition was via trade, as the Patriots worked a deal with their division rivals—the Miami Dolphins—to acquire DeVante Parker at receiver. Parker has 338 receptions for 4,727 yards and 24 touchdowns in seven seasons with the Dolphins. He figures to give Jones’ passing game options a boost.
Defensively, the Patriots saw a several players depart. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy and cornerback J.C. Jackson left in free agency for the Chargers. The Patriots snagged cornerback Jack Jones in the draft and also added safety Jabril Peppers in free agency. On the line, the Patriots spent their First-Round pick on guard Cole Strange, hoping to boost the offensive line.
Jones arguably looked the best of the five quarterbacks taken in the First Round of the 2021 draft, finishing as QB18. He seems a solid bet to finish as a low-end QB2 again, even though I have some reservations about this Patriots’ offense. In the backfield, the top options are Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson. Harris finished as RB14 in 2021, largely thanks to a 15-touchdown season. I don’t know that he’s got as many TDs in 2022. I like him as a low-end RB2, while Stevenson could take on more work and finish as a solid RB3.
The passing game is equally murky. I’m not bullish on the Judge-Patricia offense, nor do I have a great deal of confidence in the passing game weapons. Despite the addition of Parker, Jacobi Myers still seems the best bet at receiver, and I like him as a WR3. Parker feels like a WR5. Last off-season the Patriots invested in Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith at tight end. Henry used great efficiency to catch 50 passes for 603 yards and nine touchdowns on just 75 targets. Smith was hardly a factor. Reports are he looks more involved in camp this year. His target increase would eat into Henry’s opportunities, likely, making Henry more of a mid-tier TE2. Smith is still a TE3 for me until I see proof of consistent production.
The Patriots were a pleasant surprise in 2021 but this off-season the AFC got better and the Patriots didn’t. It’s hard to rule anything out for a Bill Belichick-coached team but I think the Patriots struggle more. I see and eight- or nine-win season and the team missing out on the playoffs again.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.