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The Patriots Have 99 Problems Against the Eagles, But Matt Patricia (dot, dot, dot)

It should come as a surprise to no one that I share Mr. Kraft's optimistic outlook about the team he rescued from being moved to St. Louis Nearly 30 years ago. Yes, they're the prohibitive favorites to finish fourth in the AFC East. But I think that's partly due to the fact the football-consuming public is failing to recognize improvements they've made. But mostly because people are stupid. And have been counting this franchise out to one extent or another for as long as I can remember. But as my close pal RKK points out, they've added just the right coordinator, uniquely suited to running this particular offense and working with this exact quarterback. 

Which brings me to last year's coordinator, whom we all recognize was uniquely unsuited to running any offense and working with any quarterback. That much was obvious a year ago today and never improved as the season went on. And he was hired as a defensive assistant by this week's opponent:

Now I'm man enough to admit that it's entirely possible that the Eagles hired Matt Patricia not just because they feel like they owe him for the abysmal performance of his defense (10 Philadelphia possessions resulted in five touchdowns, three field goals, one interception and one punt), but perhaps because he's a brilliant mind with a wealth of football coaching experience and therefore is an asset. So I apologize for the snarky headline. But to be fair to me, that wound is still pretty raw. 

My reason for discussing this is that there's been a lot of consternation among Patriots fans and the anti-Patriots extremists in the local media that the Patriots are heading straight into a doom loop of failure and misery at the hands of an angry, bitter Patricia, hellbent on getting his vengeance against Mac Jones. In this life, or the next:

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Which strikes me as equal parts ironic and hilarious. Because these same people who are overcome with fear and dread at the thought of Jones being run over by the "Matty P.'s Revenge Tour '23" bus are the same ones who thought he was nothing but an incompetent fraud when he was the defensive coordinator here. A self-important blowhard when he was the head coach in Detroit. And an in-over-his-head nepotism hire when he was running the offense last year. Now that he's a paid consultant in the Eagles' coaching room (and an afterthought who wasn't even hired until mid-April), he's Buddy Ryan: The Next Generation. 

I mean, this little item has caused panic in the streets and yellow stains in the sheets:

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Look, I'm not going to dismiss altogether the benefit of having someone on your staff who's worked for your opponent. Bill Belichick has a bit of a history of adding players who've been released by teams coming up on his schedule. And I've celebrated his genius every time he's pulled that move. 

But where exactly is Patricia going to be a difference maker?

Offensively, all you have to do is throw on any portion of any game from last year selected at random, and you'll see all the proof you need he didn't grasp the concepts of the Erhardt-Perkins system Bill O'Brien has brought back this year. Either because of Patricia or in spite of him, everything was overhauled last year. Simplified. To the point his players didn't understand the concepts he was trying to explain. But opposing defenses understood them completely:

I mean, it's possible Patricia could break down the Patriots offensive tendencies, preferences, strengths and weaknesses in a way that Nick Sirianni might find useful. But the Eagles aren't playing the 2022 Patriots. So Patricia's knowledge, based on his one-year history of commanding the NFL's 26th-ranked offense, is sort of a moot point. 

What about defensively? It does make sense that Patricia would bring some utility to the table in this area. Until you realize he ;ast held the defensive play sheet over his mouth six seasons ago. That's an entire generations in pro football terms. (Two, really, if you take the length of the average NFL career.) The game has evolved. The scheme has evolved. The combination of Steve Belichick and Jerod Mayo aren't running the same system Brian Flores threw at the Rams in Super Bowl LIII (12 possessions, one field goal, one missed field goal, nine punts, one interception), never mind the one Patricia ran. It's more of a Base Nickel than it was then. With more of a reliance on Robber safeties and speed among the boundary corners. And the only defenders on the current roster who reported to 2017 DC Patricia are Lawrence Guy and Deatrich Wise, Jr. who was a rookie then and played all of six snaps against the Eagles.

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I can't imagine what incredible insights he's going to provide that Sirianni can't just get from game film. 

Getting back to the first part of my headline, the Pats are in for a major challenge Sunday. An epic and dangerous quest. Something out of a role-playing fantasy game, but where there could be actual deaths. RKK and my general sense of optimism aside, this is a brutal first game. Philly had 70 sacks last year. The next closest team had 55. They had a Pro Football Focus Pass Rush grade of 90.1. The next closest was 84.5. And Pats O-line coach Adrian Klemm is trying to beat them with this poker hand:

LT - Trent Brown, an inconsistent journeyman and a false start penalty waiting to happen

LG - Cole Strange, who missed most of camp with a knee injury

C - David Andrews

RG - Michael Onwenu, who missed most of camp with an ankle injury

RT - Calvin Anderson, a part timer in Denver who played almost exclusively at LT, and was on PUP until a few days ago

Good luck winning that stack of high society.

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Bottom-lining this: There's a very good reason the Patriots are getting 4.0 points at home. No one knows what they're capable of. Their offensive line hasn't been together long enough to establish any continuity, and it may take awhile. And the Eagles appear to be a wagon, having added 2/11ths of Georgia's starting National Championship defense to an already stacked unit. I won't sprinkle sugar on this and pretend it'll be easy to swallow. 

Just don't tell me Matt Patricia is going to be the deciding factor. Jones might struggle Sunday. But he can't look any worse than Patricia made him look last year.