FOXBORO — With longtime offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels now the head coach in Las Vegas, Bill Belichick made the decision to streamline the Patriots offensive system in 2022. The plays themselves aren’t completely changing, but the terminology in the playbook is different than it’s been for the last decade.
Simply put, what a certain play was called a year ago is now called something else.
That probably leads to some confusion for players who’ve been in the Patriots system a while, but the goal for Belichick is to simplify the offense so it’s easier for coaches to relay the calls to the players and easier for the players to learn the Patriots offence.
After going through OTAs, minicamp and the first few days of training, players say these changes have made it easier and theoretically should help them play faster in the regular season.
“It’s definitely simplified,” said tackle Trent Brown. “I feel like it’ll make it possible for the playmakers to play faster and allow us up front to play faster as well.”
“A lot of adjustments we made [are] to come off the ball faster. I think it’s working so just to get a head start off the ball is huge, not taking so long,” added receiver Kendrick Bourne. “It just goes faster. More speed. More urgency. It’s a better feeling just keeping the defense on their toes, not allowing them to be ready and kind of come off the ball.”
Why the Patriots playbook changed
Historically, the Patriots offense was considered difficult to learn for receivers and tight ends under McDaniels. When Tom Brady was here, there was another added layer of difficulty. Their knowledge of the playbook often made it difficult for newcomers to get on the same page as the veteran quarterback and offensive coordinator.
Of course, you’ll take that when you win six Super Bowl championships.
When Brady left, Cam Newton struggled to catch on to McDaniels’ system. Last year, however, Mac Jones seemed like a good fit for the complicated offensive system, which saw receivers run different routes depending on the opposing defensive play call. When McDaniels left, it was thought the Patriots would get someone to run the playbook the same exact way.
GAME CHANGER: Here’s why DeVante Parker looks like the Patriots’ next No.1 receiver
Instead of hiring one man, Belichick decided to take on more responsibility. This offseason, offensive meetings are run by the Patriots head coach, senior football advisor/offensive line coach Matt Patricia and offensive assistant/quarterbacks coach Joe Judge. By changing the play calls that McDaniels once used, the Patriots created a situation in which their new offensive coaches and players are learning this new terminology together.
The goal is to make it easier on everyone.
“I’d say it’s a little more simple. Easier to learn and we can play a lot faster,” said running back Rhamondre Stevenson. “I’d just say terminology. Simple as that. Just terminology got a little easier. A lot of things match up with one another, so it’s a lot easier to learn.”
All three coaches — Belichick, Patricia and Judge — have been hands-on during training camp. Judge has called plays during 7-on-7s, but Patricia has called more plays during full-team drills. On Thursday, however, it was Belichick who relayed offensive plays to quarterbacks.
Who’s calling the plays?: What Patriots players have to say about Matt Patricia as the front-runner
When asked about the new simplicity to the offense, players said coaches are focusing on players’ individual strengths on different play calls.
“Just the coaches breaking everything down for us. Not over complicating everything,” said receiver Jakobi Meyers. “Just telling us exactly what we got and exactly what they look for and when we find it just go make plays and execute.”
Challenges in changing the playbook
Although the Patriots are trying to make things easier on their players, this change has made it a little more difficult for veterans who learned the old playbook. Meyers is a good example. The receiver developed under McDaniels the last three seasons. Now, he finds himself having to learn the play calls all over again.
“It’s probably been tougher for me this year because being here with the old system and now that things are changing a little bit,” said Meyers. “I’ve got to find ways to remember the new terminology and remember what means what. I’m figuring it out.”
Patriots: 2022 success depends on the answers to these five training camp questions
We won’t find out how these changes impact the offense until the regular season starts, but players say the tweaks to the offensive system aren’t that big of a deal. As professional athletes, learning new terminology isn’t the biggest hurdle they face on a daily basis.
“Whenever things change, there’s always going to be some different things. None of that matters if you don’t execute,” said tight end Jonnu Smith. “You can go out there and there aren’t too many plays that can be drawn up in the NFL that nobody hasn’t seen already. It’s just about going out there, executing and doing that every day on a consistent basis.”
“It’s a work in progress,” added running back Damien Harris. “It’s all about trust. We trust the coaches to put us in the best position to go out there and have success.”
These changes are ultimately made to help Jones progress. The second-year quarterback has had a strong offseason. Belichick noted this week that he had a say in the offensive changes and even Jones has said he lets the coaches know what plays he prefers.
‘Dramatic improvement’: Bill Belichick is raving about Patriots quarterback Mac Jones
Ultimately, the goal is to get the offense to play faster and become more dynamic. If that happens, no one will care about the play calls changing.
“We want to be able to move the ball downfield in any way we want to — short, medium or long passes. It can be caught after run, it can be in the running game. So explosive plays and play within ourselves and use our strengths,” Jones said. “I think it’s all about the guys in the room and using those guys and using their strengths and me just distributing the ball to different people. … There’s elements to every offense and I think there’s a very clear layout this year.”
This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: With new play calls, Patriots are excited about a simplified offense