FOXBORO -- Mac Jones worked with Joe Judge throughout the Patriots first practice of Phase 3 of the offseason, when teams are allowed to run periods where offensive and defensive players square off against one another. That was to be expected after Judge told reporters last week that he's been working with quarterbacks.
But there were moments when Jones appeared to be getting instruction from Matt Patricia -- who spent the vast majority of his day coaching the offensive line -- before heading into the offensive huddle for an 11-on-11 period. That appeared to be a point in the workout focused on the running game.
And there were moments at the tail end of the practice when Jones appeared to be getting plays from head coach Bill Belichick and then entering into the offensive huddle for 11-on-11 work. By the end of the practice, it was Belichick who appeared to be running the offense more often than either of his top two offensive lieutenants.
For months, Judge and Patricia have been identified as potential play-callers and de facto offensive coordinators. But after Monday's workout on the fields behind Gillette Stadium, it appears as though Belichick should be entered into that mix as well.
We still don't have titles for either Judge or Patricia that detail their responsibilities, but one way to describe what we saw Monday would be Judge looked like a quarterbacks coach and passing-game coordinator, Patricia looked like an offensive line coach and run-game coordinator, and Belichick looked like the one running the overall operation on that side of the ball.
With Josh McDaniels gone to coach the Raiders, it's a very different type of operation than what the Patriots are used to. But Belichick being more active on that side of the ball makes sense given the relative inexperience Judge and Patricia have as day-to-day offensive coaches in New England. (Judge coached Patriots receivers in 2019; Patricia was an assistant offensive line coach when he started his Patriots coaching career almost 20 years ago.)
"Obviously he's a great defensive mind but he also has great offensive knowledge," Jones said of Belichick. "They're all helping out and making things really easy for us and just teaching us what they know. It's been really good just to be able to stand up in meetings and talk through things with everybody.
"Everyone's on the same page regardless of who's talking or who's saying what. We have a very good group of guys. I think it's obviously all about the players. Having good coaches is obviously very beneficial, too. We have a great group of guys. Old guys, young guys, and we're excited to come together and work."
Judge appeared to be running things for the quarterbacks and some of the skill positions -- tight ends, receivers, backs -- during the drills portion at the start of the practice. He was vocal with all skill groups at various points, focusing specifically on the passers. The former Giants head coach and Patriots special teams coordinator hasn't coached quarterbacks previously, but he played the position at Mississippi State.
Jones explained that he and Judge are helping each other out through this early segment of the 2022 football calendar.
"He's done a great job coaching us and he's seen a lot of football," Jones said. "Obviously, he's been around football for a long time whether that be as a head coach, special teams, playing the position himself. He has a lot of knowledge that is very beneficial to me as a quarterback. Obviously, I'm going to learn with him. That's the goal is to kind of teach each other, move along and take what he knows, take the experiences that I have and combine them, (and) work together as a great team."
Belichick was asked if he might call offensive plays this year prior to Monday's on-the-field work.
"I've called them and I haven't called them," he said. "And other people have called them and they haven't called them. So, we'll see."
Belichick spent just about all his time on Monday with the offense. He may be sending Jones into the huddle during 11-on-11 periods, as he did during this practice, as a way to smooth things over early in the offseason as both Judge and Patricia get their bearings. Or maybe, as the one with the most experience in the Patriots offense, he's an option to be the team's play-caller.
Patriots receiver Kendrick Bourne made it sound as though it could be temporary to have the head coach spending so much time on the offensive side of things.
"He's been more present, helping us out," Bourne said. "It's new so he just wants it to go a certain way. It's just dope having his presence. It's like, 'Oh, he's watching so we gotta be perfect.' But that's just how he is. The discipline and who he is as a coach. It's special because you don't get that all the time. He's a defensive guy so it's almost just embracing it, and taking advantage of the time we're gonna get with him. It's new but I enjoy it, man. I love the challenge. I enjoy being challenged. And hopefully all the offense loves it, too."
How long the Patriots offense has Belichick as a hands-on general is anyone's guess. By training camp, Belichick said Monday morning, the play-caller decision would "of course" have to be made. But for now, after one May practice, it looks like he has the reins.