Charlie Weis believes Mac Jones, Patriots have a weapons issue

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Perry: Making sense of Charlie Weis' issue with Patriots' offense originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Patriots still have a weapons issue, according to their former offensive coordinator.

Even after trading for DeVante Parker and drafting Tyquan Thornton, even after spending record amounts in free agency last season on a group of players that included Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, dynamic play-making ability remains a problem for Bill Belichick's club, Charlie Weis told the Ringer's Off the Pike podcast.

“I really like Jakobi Meyers as a receiver, but realistically tell me who the No. 1 receiver is that you’re concerned with every time you go to play against New England," Weis said. "Therein lies the biggest problem.

"You can sit there and talk about Mac Jones and you can talk about Matt Patricia, but at the end of the day, when you watch the good teams play and you see who’s out there -- even the Jets now, you look at their receivers now, they have good receivers. They do. You go against Buffalo, they have good receivers. You go against Miami, they have good receivers. I’m not saying that the receivers from New England aren’t any good, but I’m saying I don’t think any of those teams are trading their receivers for the Patriots receivers.

"So you want Mac Jones to get better? Go get him a couple of those guys. Go get the Tyreek Hills and add him to your roster. Tell me how much better Mac Jones would be. You want me to give you the answer to that? You want me to give you the secret? He’d be a lot better, OK?"

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The Patriots have tried, though. Did they think Parker was a Hill type when they added him in the offseason? Of course not. Did they believe that Thornton would make the kind of impact Ja'Marr Chase did as a rookie in 2021? No.

But they really only added to a group of pass-catchers that was good enough to help the Patriots offense finish inside the top-10 in scoring in 2021. This year, with a more experienced quarterback and several highly-paid players who are in their second season in Foxboro, they have backslid to 20th.

Parker has been serviceable in his role as a downfield, contested-catch threat. He's made 23 catches on 38 targets for 436 yards. His 19.0 yards per catch is tied for his previous career high.

Thornton, meanwhile, has been quiet since catching four passes for 37 yards and a score in a Week 6 win over the Browns. Since then, he's caught just six passes for 73 yards. While he saw a bulk of the available reps soon after the Cleveland game (he played at least 40 snaps each of the next three weeks), he saw his playing time evaporate after the Week 10 bye. In the last three Patriots games, he's played 10, 13 and 16 total snaps.

Still, Belichick noted on Wednesday that Thornton's progress as a pro has been "consistent."

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"Ty was a little bit limited in the spring, got off to a good start in training camp, got injured in the Carolina game," Belichick explained. "Missed the rest of preseason. Missed part of the regular season. Worked back in. For several weeks now he's been out on a regular basis, practicing every day, playing.

"Again, taking the box score out of it, just in terms of assignments, execution, adjustments, playing multiple positions based on formation -- things like that -- all of those have been progress for him. The more he can be out there, the more he can have the opportunity to play and learn and get experience and improve, the better. He's done all that."

There are enough in the way of offensive issues in New England that an uptick in Thornton's production isn't all up to Thornton. The offensive line needs to protect Jones more effectively. Jones needs to find receivers down the field accurately. The plays themselves need to be designed in such a way that defenses are stressed.

But Thornton also needs to play more if he's going to impact defenses consistently with his speed and help the Patriots with what Weis believes is a lack of talent on the outside.

To this point, he appears to be more of a role player than a game-changer in the Patriots offense. He's 12th among rookie wideouts in terms of receiving yardage, behind George Pickens (third), Alec Pierce (fourth) and Skyy Moore (10th) -- all of whom were drafted soon after Thornton in the second round last spring.