This is shaping up as a career-defining year for Patriots quarterback Mac Jones.

The 2021 first-round pick is still expected to be the team’s starter next season, with multiple people involved in the situation who were not authorized to speak publicly calling it Jones’ job to lose, but backup Bailey Zappe will at least have a chance to push Jones.

And frankly, that’s the way it should be.

Jones had a strong first season, finishing second in offensive rookie of the year voting, but he struggled along with the rest of the offense in 2022. While Jones isn’t wholly absolved of the blame for the offensive setback, the circumstances around him made it difficult for any quarterback to thrive.

That’s why Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft decided to overhaul the system, as Bill O’Brien was rehired in January as offensive coordinator. It is still undetermined whether Matt Patricia, who led the offense last season, will return to the Patriots in a different capacity or take a job with another organization.

As for Jones, there’s a level of disconnectedness that must be resolved.

Belichick instructed the coaching staff not to be too hard on Jones last season, according to the same sources. If Jones made a mistake or needed to be corrected, instead of yelling at him, the coaching staff generally took a more constructive approach.

That’s atypical. Belichick used to loudly chew out Tom Brady in an attempt to set the tone for the rest of the team. The rationale, Belichick believed, was that if the rest of the players knew Brady was in the coaching crosshairs, no one was untouchable. That ran counter to his approach with Jones.