Quarterback Mac Jones played in just his second full game in over a month on Sunday, with the New England Patriots signal-caller trying to build on a lackluster performance against the Jets one week ago.
Jones finished Sunday’s contest against the Colts completing 20-of-30 for 147-yards along with a touchdown, but even more importantly, he ended up without an interception, marking the first time in 2022 he completed a game without getting picked off.
However, a lot of the issues that plagued him continued on Sunday. Jones was again nervous in the pocket and rushed through his progressions, likely due to the fact Indianapolis exploited a pretty porous Patriots offensive line and had success pressuring him in the pocket. David Andrews was again sidelined for the second straight week as he continues recovering from a concussion, which saw James Ferentz again start in his absence. The Patriots also continued trying to figure things out at right tackle, which had Yodney Cajuste get the start, with Isaiah Wynn also subbing in on offense.
As a result, there was again little continuity, and the protection was poor. That left Jones seemingly without much confidence as the Colts were able to get after him for most of the afternoon, with Jones ending up sacked four times and hit seven times. That followed another tough outing against the Jets where was sacked six times and hit eight times.
It’s definitely affecting him. The Patriots finally went up-tempo later in the game at one point, which helped get the Colts off balance and they started having a little more success, but the end result is still the same. What they’re doing overall isn’t putting Jones in a situation to be successful, and how things have gone to this point has to leave you wondering if what’s going on with him can be fixed because aside from the lack of turnovers, it’s not going to be good enough to get them where they need to be.
There were multiple times on Sunday when reporters on hand at Gillette Stadium Tweeted about guys who were open on certain plays where Jones just didn’t see them. However, one revelation from Jones’ press conference after the game was the fact there are other factors that affect how he’s able to operate. Jones pointed out that the design of certain plays has his eyes and his footwork aimed at particular players at the start of the play and it complicates the situation.
“Sometimes you miss things that people – you don’t know if you missed it or not on the field You walk off and are like, darn, I looked at the picture. Looked like it was there, but my eyes were starting where they were supposed to start,” explained Jones. “Sometimes that’s how it is. A lot of those sacks too, it’s just on me to get the ball out to the open guy. Doesn’t have to be an explosive play every time.”
“Like I said, I thought the guys stepped up with a lot of our – some of our starters out. That was really good. But got to watch the film and see how it really was. It’s all about timing and footwork. Does it match up to the play? Does your drop match up to the route to where your eyes are? Like I said, there’s good players on the other side of the ball. There’s a clock going on in your head. You’ve got to be ready for it. Can’t sit there and hold the ball all day.”
Jones’s explanation at least adds context to how things played out. If anything, it makes you wonder if he’s being forced to overthink things, which could be a reason why he’s not as quick getting the ball out as he was a year ago when he was among the top quarterbacks in the league in that category.
Still, it doesn’t change the fact that unless he’s able to regain some confidence and Matt Patricia starts calling plays similar to what we saw a year ago – or even a few weeks ago when Bailey Zappe was filling in – it’s likely going to be more of the same. Clearly, Jones isn’t playing at the level he was before all of the things that made him successful last year changed.
Last year, the offense had both Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers with close to 1,000-yards receiving thanks to a lot of the quick and intermediate throws where the ball came out and those two made plays after the catch. So far, Myers has remained a key target yet Bourne has essentially been eliminated from the offense in this scheme. It just doesn’t make any sense.
With Zappe under center, the offense was run similar to what we saw in Jones’ first season. Quick throws with guys able to make plays. The contrast in what was being called compared to now has been striking.
Now, it feels more complex and there just isn’t the time for Jones to wait for things to open up. Or if there is, Jones doesn’t seem to be comfortable enough to wait given how often he’s been hit this season. NBC Boston’s Tom Curran talked about it after the game last night, noting that there were moments where Jones had opportunities, and the fact he’s still struggling is definitely a concern.
“There were opportunities, it seemed, on a couple of those clips – and some, it collapsed down the middle – but there were opportunities to step up,” said Curran on the protection breakdowns up front. “But it is the jumpiness, and I believe, as Ted [Johnson] pointed out, that we’re not seeing a lot of crossers, we’re not having the overhead view, but I heard Adam Archuleta on the telecast say they ran three verticals there, it was a third down or something, you have to have crossers, you have to have crossers for a struggling offense.”
“But without a classic slot, or a James White, or a Julian Edelman, those of kind of underneath guys to hit who will make yards after the catch, Jakobi Meyers has improved at that, they are a little bit handcuffed.”
“But again, Mac Jones is regressing, and I don’t know if it’s a byproduct of the coaching decision to put those guys in place, whether it’s the coaching and the playcalling, whether it’s the offensive line, but in the end, the concern has to be how badly is Mac regressing and can he be dug out and rehabilitated?”
And that’s obviously going to be the biggest question on everyone’s mind heading into New England’s final eight games.
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