Can the New England Patriots work their way out of the AFC East basement?
The Patriots are 0-2 to start the season for the first time since 2001 after back-to-back losses to the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins. While New England was competitive in both games, the reality is that Bill Belichick's club needs to start winning games ASAP to have any shot at reaching the postseason.
Quarterback Mac Jones hinted at that sense of urgency in his press conference after the Patriots' 24-17 loss to the Dolphins on Sunday night.
"Definitely got to play better and learn from it and be here early and leave late and do it together," Jones said. "I think that’s the biggest thing. If a couple guys are doing it, it’s not good enough, clearly."
MORE PATRIOTS COVERAGE
Was Jones specifically calling out his teammates with those comments, or speaking in more general terms about the need to put in quality work? During his weekly appearance on WEEI's "Jones and Mego" radio show Monday, the third-year QB suggested it was more the latter.
"I’m talking about being close. So, whatever you’re doing, just do more," Jones said.
"It’s not like it’s rocket science. If you watch 30 minutes of film, watch an hour. If you lift for 45 minutes, lift for an hour and a half. Just whatever you can do so what when we’re in this situation -- you know for me, that’s how I feel better about everything.
"You can only put in so much work. There’s 24 hours in a day, you have to sleep for 8-10 of them. All of the other hours have to be about work.
While Jones made sure not to single out any players or coaches, it's clear he wants members of the organization to raise their effort level entering a Week 3 matchup with the New York Jets. That's an admirable message for Jones to send as one of the Patriots' leaders, and it sounds like he's willing to lead by example.
The question is whether effort alone can help turn New England's season around. The Patriots made costly mistakes in each of their first two losses and have a minus-2 point differential, tied for 23rd in the NFL through Week 2. Their roster also lacks top-end talent, meaning the margin of victory is slimmer when they do make mistakes.
While effort will help, the Patriots' easiest path to victory might be simply playing smarter, more disciplined football.