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3 major fixes the Patriots must make this offseason to win Super Bowl 57 in 2023

patriots, mac jones, jc jackson, bill belichick

The New England Patriots were embarrassed Saturday night, losing 47-17 to the division rival Buffalo Bills in the AFC Wild Card game. It was a tough game for Patriots fans to watch, as the Bills historically crushed New England. Buffalo scored a touchdown on all seven of their drives during the game. The only drive that did not end in a touchdown for Buffalo was when the Bills took a knee to end the game.

That has never happened before in the regular season or playoffs. The fact that it came against a Bill Belichick coached defense is that much more confounding.

Yet, it was a mostly successful season for the Patriots. After their first losing season in 20 years in 2020, the team was right back in the playoffs, with a rookie quarterback no less.

Heading into 2022, there are some key adjustments and changes needed for New England to compete for a championship. Here are the 3 key adjustments the Patriots must make to reach Super Bowl LVII next year.

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Patriots Offseason Fixes Needed to Reach Super Bowl LVII

3. Wide receiving corps upgrade

It is no secret that the Patriots lacked playmakers on the outside this season. Their leading wide receivers were Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne. Neither player instills much fear in opposing secondaries. It’s not that they are not good players. They are definitely worth starting spots, but both are more like third wide receivers. They are good possession receivers who run solid routes and have decent hands. But they do not stretch the field.

New England lacks a receiver that can take the top off of the defense. That allows opposing secondaries to keep eight men in or near the box to stop the run, without worrying about Mac Jones going deep.

The combination of Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith at tight end is among the best in the league. The possession receivers are there, but Jones desperately needs someone to open up the offense.

2. Patriots need interior lineman to plug the gap

For years, Bill Belichick employed a 3-4 defensive scheme with a nose tackle like Vince Wilfork clogging the middle of the field. It was always difficult to move the ball on the ground against the Patriots. In 2021, New England took a big step back in that department.

New England finished the year with one of the best defenses in the league. They allowed the 2nd fewest points this season behind only the Bills. However, down the stretch, the defense looked worn out and could not stop the run. They consistently were losing the battle at the line of scrimmage. The Patriots finished the season allowing over 123 rushing yards per game, 22nd in the NFL. They were even worse than that toward the end of the season.

According to Pro Football Focus, Bills tailback Devin Singletary posted the highest rushing grade among all running backs in the Wild Card round.

As the young Patriots offense continues to grow, the defense needs to be the stronger, more consistent unit. It’s hard to do that if you can’t stop the run.

New England needs to revamp their defensive line.

1. Place the Franchise Tag on J.C. Jackson

New England has a number of unrestricted free agents that were pivotal to their success. None of them had a larger impact than Pro Bowl cornerback J.C. Jackson.

Jackson finished 2nd in the NFL with eight interceptions. He has the most picks in the league since he became a pro four years ago with 25 interceptions.

Shutdown cornerbacks do not grow on trees. It might cost a pretty penny to place the franchise tag on him. But if the Patriots let him hit the open market, the odds on retaining him for next season are significantly hindered.

There are a lot of key players on both sides of the ball that New England will have to answer questions on. Dont’a Hightower is also an unrestricted free agent. But he took a big step back this season and is 32 years old. Fellow linebackers Jamie Collins Sr. and Ja’Whaun Bentley are also unrestricted free agents.

That’s just the defense. The offense also has a few pivotal players on that list. Running backs James White and Brandon Bolden are unrestricted also. They are the two best pass catching tailbacks on the roster. With a young quarterback under center, it’s always helpful having a tailback that can bail you out.

White missed the season with injuries, and Bolden stepped in and produced his best season of his career. Knowing how important Bolden is to special teams, I would expect them to bring him back and let White go.

But J.C. Jackson is the most important player to retain heading into 2022.