Matt Patricia must get Patriots offense moving – literally – with Mac Jones out

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Matt Patricia has coached football for almost 20 years, has called Super Bowls (as he's been sure to remind people) and been an NFL head coach -- whatever you make of his actual tenure. So the thought of him essentially being a rookie offensive coach for the New England Patriots of all franchises feels…strange.

That's the hand he has to play, though, and his odds just got a whole lot worse.

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The Patriots' still-new (de facto) offensive coordinator now has to ride into battle with Brian Hoyer at the head of the army after Mac Jones' ankle nearly tore off during New England's loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Not ideal.

Naturally, you can probably expect a heavy dose of Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson to protect Hoyer (and maybe, possibly Bailey Zappe?) from having too rough a day at the office for as long as Jones is out. The other hope is that Hoyer's experience in the offense is enough to keep things from getting out of hand and forcing Zappe, whom I'm simply not convinced is ready to start an NFL game, into action.

But before we get to running versus passing and when it happens, let's talk about motion and why the Patriots don't use it enough -- and why they're giving away the game when they do.

It's not that New England never uses motion at all -- its offense ranked 19th in overall pre-snap motion rate (48.3 percent) through two weeks, according to ESPN's Seth Walder. Doing so helps make defenses give away their intentions -- if someone follows the motion man all the way across a formation, you know you're probably getting man coverage, for example. As defensive coaches, both Patricia and Bill Belichick know the value of getting that information.

What they apparently don't find overly important is having people in motion when the ball is actually snapped. As of Week 2, the Patriots were dead last in percentage of motion at the snap (4.3 percent).

That's a problem for two reasons: Patricia and Co. aren't giving their playmakers enough advantages, and defenses know exactly what's coming when the Patriots actually try.

Take New England's ill-fated fourth-down attempt to Kendrick Bourne, for example. If Bourne wasn't already a target for the Ravens' defense when the Patriots used him on a return motion before the snap, Baltimore almost certainly knew where the ball was going when he was still moving at the snap. Marlon Humphrey hit him before he ever had a chance to pick up a first.

The same problem happened on failed two-point conversion with Rhamondre Stevenson.

For one thing: why put a man in motion and then have him turn around and stop his momentum after getting the ball? Kind of negates the advantage, doesn't it?

Then, there's the fact that everyone and their mother was ready for Stevenson to get the football because he was the only man moving at the snap.

Running those types of plays aren't necessarily a bad idea in a vacuum: Andy Reid and the Chiefs have made tons of money off of motions at the snap for years now. It's a great tool to get playmakers into space with room to make a man miss and turn upfield.

You just can't be so horribly predictable when you're doing it. In Patricia and the Patriots' case, that means do it a whole lot more -- and build secondary plays off of those motions.

One (slightly) better design was one in which Jonnu Smith motioned into a split-back formation in the backfield and ran a swing route to the right while Stevenson swung out to the left. Arguably, Jones picked the wrong matchup to exploit there, tossing it to Stevenson for a loss on the play instead of trusting Smith 1-on-1 with a linebacker. Make those backfield routes more interesting, and you might have something.

It's no surprise it's taking a while for Patricia and Belichick to grasp the nuances of how to use motion when they haven't called plays on the offensive side of the football to this degree. To be fair to them, Josh McDaniels didn't do a much better job of using motion at the snap last year either -- his offense ranked just 25th (7.9 percent) in that category in 2021.

Perhaps it's just a matter of the Patriots needing to get with the times and find a way to throw defenses off in any way possible now that the greatest quarterback of all time is no longer there to simply slice and dice defenses through pure guile.

Whatever's going on, they need to figure out how to get their offense on the move -- smartly, of course. If they can't, better defenses than the Ravens will leave them stuck in neutral, especially with one of their backup quarterbacks at the helm.

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Bonus: Instant reaction after Patriots lose to Ravens
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