Bill Belichick’s Patriots are ‘inching along’ in training camp and that’s a problem

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Patriots head coach Bill Belichick had an interesting and potentially refreshingly honest description of his football team as it prepared for its eighth training camp practice of the summer on Thursday.

“We have miles to go, but we’re inching along,” Belichick said.

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Maybe it was just classic Belichickian cliché. A non-answer. A press conference filler to avoid actually talking about his team in any sort of specific, revealing way. Maybe he would have said it even if he was overseeing a roster like his 2004 Super Bowl-winning group or a retooled 2007 talent pool that nearly became the first 19-0 team in NFL history.

Maybe.

Or maybe it was actually Belichick’s assessment of what he’s seen from is 2022 squad more than a week into training camp action and less than a week before New England’s first preseason game next Thursday night against the Giants at Gillette Stadium.

Like all NFL teams right now, the Patriots are a work in progress. The problem, primarily on offense, is that they’ve put in a relatively significant amount of work and seemingly haven’t shown any significant progress.

The frustration Mac Jones has displayed on the practice field has been noted by all in attendance, from the most cynical media member to some of the most optimistic fans.

It just hasn’t looked good. Or right. Or even like it’s showing much improvement on a minute-by-minute basis. Or hour-by-hour. Or practice-to-practice. Or week-to-week.

So clearly, at least on offense, the first part of Belichick’s quote is true. New England very much looks like a team with “miles to go” before it is ready for regular season action. Before it will be ready for a Sept. 11 season-opening trip in Miami to take on the upstart, new-look, no-longer-trying-to-tank Dolphins.

The second part is the key to it all.

New England is better today than it was when camp opened on July 27. That’s how practice works. You build over time. Reps lead to, at the very least, experience and incremental improvement.

So the Patriots are indeed “inching along” through the summer.

But for a team with questionable overall talent, one absent of elite playmakers at pretty much all positions, inching along toward becoming a cohesive, effective, efficient offense probably isn’t good enough.

This isn’t that budding 2007 fantasy football lineup (Belichick probably didn’t care about it back then, either!) of future Hall of Famer Randy Moss and Wes Welker about to reimagine what the slot receiver position represents. It isn’t growing GOAT Tom Brady nearing a decade of starting QB experience working under offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ in a scheme that was both proven and filled with the potential to take it to the next level.

Nope. This is Jones trying to find his way in a “new offense.” This is Matt Patricia and Joe Judge rerouting their career paths like a GPS after a missed turn. This is a collective of good-but-far-from-great offensive talent that will need to out-scheme, out-team and out-work the opposition most weeks in order to find productive success.

And it’s a group that just hasn’t looked very good on the summer practice field, even against a defense with plenty to prove in its own right.

Sure, it’s only been eight practices. But how long to we keep saying “only” X number of practices before the realization that the treadmill of training camp is moving and the Patriots aren’t keeping up?

“Inching along” may be fine to a point.

But at some point Jones and the offense probably need to start crawling, walking and maybe even running at an NFL level.

Slow and steady may win some races. But inching along with miles to go may not be enough for this Patriots’ team.

It’s not time to push the panic button yet – and who actually has a panic button? – but it is about time for the Jones-led Patriots to start picking up the pace.

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