Can Patriots QB Mac Jones Rebound? One Analyst Believes He’s Got an Underrated Advantage
One of the biggest issues heading into the 2023 season is going to be the future of New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones, who will be looking to rebound after a tough 2022 campaign.
Last season was clearly a difficult one for the second-year quarterback. Jones regressed in nearly every category after what had been a promising rookie season, with the departure of Josh McDaniels clearly playing a big part in Jones’ struggles.
Instead of taking a step forward, Jones spent the season banging his head against the wall in an offense that never improved. To make things even more difficult, Jones also dealt with an ankle injury that cost him three games, which ultimately added to an already difficult situation.
One of the things we heard a lot about throughout last season was that New England’s offense was predictable and not overly creative. Despite what reports after the season revealed was a significant effort by the coaching staff and Jones to try and overcome those issues, not a lot of what they tried worked out too well.
With Matt Patricia as offensive coordinator and Joe Judge as quarterback coach, Jones was working with two people with no real offensive experience, which by late in the season seemed to wear on the former Alabama signal-caller, leading to the outbursts we saw on the field.
Jones, who on quite a few Wednesdays stood at the podium with bags under his eyes, likely due to the long hours he was putting in behind the scenes, downplayed his frustration in press conferences. However, we saw enough from his actions on the field to know there was an immense amount of friction.
Between the playcalling and the ridiculous number of penalties by the offensive line led by tackles Trent Brown and Isaiah Wynn, a lot of their drives last season ended before they even got started.
Third down was obviously a key issue for New England in 2022. They converted 34.9% of their third down attempts compared to 43.5% the previous season. But the number that sticks out the most is the fact they were in third-and-long the majority of the year.
The Patriots had 51 plays last season where they were in 3rd-and-over-10 yards, compared to just 35 plays in 2021.
But what also stood out was the fact that Patricia’s biggest struggles seem to be dealing with in-game adjustments, and Jones’ stats essentially told the story.
His completion percentages in the first and third quarter were both tops on the season for him, with Jones completing 73.8% of his passes in the first quarter, and 68.1% in the third quarter. Both of those were obviously with scripted plays and following an adjustment coming out of the locker room at the half.
However, in the second quarter, it dipped to 62.6%, and just 59.2% in the fourth quarter. That’s compared to 64.6% and 62.8%, respectively, in 2021.
Bailey Zappe also suffered a similar fate. Like Jones, Zappe also completed 68.1% of his third-quarter attempts, but dropped to 65.2% in the fourth quarter, including a 58.3% fourth-quarter performance against the Bears, including two interceptions, the worst finish by the rookie in his few appearances last season.
Clearly, Patricia had a tough time adjusting in-game and putting the offense in better situations to be successful, especially late.
That’s something that typically takes years of experience. It’s hard to know how to react in certain situations unless you’ve lived them, which is safe to say should be a big advantage that O’Brien has. Having also spent time at Alabama, he’s also a guy that Jones should have an easier time relating to, which should hopefully set him up for a better season heading into what is essentially a critical year that will ultimately decide if the Patriots pick up his fifth-year option after the season.
Jones did play better overall down the stretch compared to his rookie season, finishing the final four games throwing seven touchdowns compared to just three touchdowns over the same span in 2021. The question now is whether or not he can build on that with O’Brien in his corner, as well as whatever personnel changes they make this offseason.
Jones is already back at work preparing for 2023. (PHOTO: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports)
Cosell Confident in Jones’s Ability:
NBC Sports Boston’s Tom Curran sat down with Greg Cosell of NFL Films this week out in Arizona for the Super Bowl during his most recent Patriots Talk Podcast and talked at length about Jones. Cosell praised Jones’s intelligence, noting that having worked with Bill Walsh, one of the things Cosell said was critical of a quarterback who may not have the physical attributes of super stars is their ability to string plays together.
“Obviously they made some changes to their offense and did it play out the way they hoped? Clearly, not,” said Cosell. “Now, they brought back Bill O’Brien, who I personally have tremendous respect for as an offensive coach and an offensive mind, and I think you’ll see real positive changes.”
“But I think the first thing, I spend a lot of time evaluating quarterbacks and, fortunately, have been taught by people a lot smarter than I am. Now, I tell people all the time, the guy that really got me so enthusiastic about evaluating quarterbacks from kind of an intellectual and academic way was Bill Walsh. I was so fortunate to spend a lot of time with Bill Walsh. So when I evaluate a quarterback, I really evaluate a quarterback to play at a high level literally snap after snap after snap. Not to make a play that we see on SportsCenter twenty times, but to play the position the right way, snap after snap after snap. There’s been many others, but he was sort of the guidepost for me.”
“I think Mac Jones is ultimately that style of quarterback. In other words, people always ask me, ‘Well, make a list of quarterbacks.’ Well, you can’t compare Mac Jones and Josh Allen, that’s a pointless conversation. Mac Jones is a certain kind of player who is gifted in some ways, but if you’re talking about pure physical traits – which are different from playing the position, physical traits can obviously work, there are guys who are very physically gifted, like a Josh Allen, like a Justin Herbert, who are very good players, obviously – but that’s not the way Mac Jones can play. He can’t do that.”
2022 was a frustrating year for Mac Jones. (PHOTO: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports)
Cosell believes Mac’s Arm is Better than People Think
Cosell also talked about the fact that while Jones isn’t necessarily the biggest or strongest player, he’s got a key attribute necessary to be a successful player in this league, which he feels gives him an advantage even against some of the more gifted players.
“I would say that his arm is maybe a little better than maybe people think,” said Cosell. “It’s certainly by no means a big arm or a power arm, but he has a trait that I think is really, really good in that he can throw with bodies around him, which is really important for a pocket quarterback, because he does not have to stride to throw the football, and that’s really important. Because there are some quarterbacks that need space in front of them. As great as, for instance, someone like Matt Ryan has been in his career, probably a notch below a Hall of Fame player, he needed to stride. He was a strider.”
“One of the reasons this year that Trevor Lawrence took a step forward is because when you watched him coming out of Clemson, he was a strider, and if he had to hurry himself, he would end up throwing high, he’d become scattershot. They did such a great job, that staff in Jacksonville, of getting him to be less of a strider, and that becomes really important. Because in the NFL, you have to throw in what we call, contested or muddied pockets. That’s just part of playing quarterback in the NFL. This is not college football. And Mac Jones does have the ability to throw with people around him because he doesn’t have to stride to throw the ball.”
Another thing that Cosell believes makes Jones so unique is the fact he’s such a smart player. Despite not having the physical traits of some of the upper echelon quarterbacks, Cosell noted an instance where the ability to scramble and make plays with their feet isn’t always necessary, while bringing up a really great point about the fact Jones can indeed compensate for that.
“I think that’s a strength of Mac Jones,” said Cossell about the QB’s intelligence and his ability to read defenses. “I think Mac Jones is a cerebral type player at his best. I think he can figure all that stuff out. I think he’s smart. I think he’s accurate. You don’t need a hose [a strong arm] to be a great NFL quarterback, and people get caught up in this idea of ‘you need a great quarterback’, there’s not 20 transcendent quarterbacks. So you can’t say that, ‘well, you stink if you don’t have one of those guys.’ You still have to line up and play and now it comes to the structure of your pass game, the rest of your team, the structure of your whole offense, all those things now become factors. There’s so many variables.”
“Patrick Mahomes is in the Super Bowl, O.K.? Obviously, he’s a little bit of a transcendent talent. Josh Allen is on a team that, by the way, is not as good as people think, he’s a little bit of a transcendent talent. There’s not a lot of those guys. You still gotta line up and play, and you can still win. You certainly can.”
“Just throw out a totally abstract example. We know that a Mahomes can beat pressure by moving and making those special plays. What happens if, in that situation, Mac Jones comes to the line, and you know what, he sees that blitz, and he changes the play, and then he drills a 17-yard completion to a wide receiver, and you don’t even know what he did at the line – because no one really knows that – that prevented him from [having to run]? That’s the stuff that Mac Jones ultimately can do.”
That’s an edge that Jones has that can certainly make up for any physical shortcomings, and we did see enough potential over his final few weeks to believe that he’s got the ability to make the right plays in certain situations.
With O’Brien now in the fold, one big advantage is he’ll likely provide Jones with better options, protections, and additional X’s and O’s that he may not have had this year that might help avoid a lot of the problems they had last season.
As Cosell pointed out, with the right tools, Jones has the mental acuity to win in this league. How it all looks six months from now is obviously the key question as the team continues turning the page heading into 2023.
Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: 2023 Patriots Offseason Bill O'Brien Greg Cosell Mac Jones Tom Curran
Why would we want to spend a 1/3 of our FA cash on Myers, when Bourne is capable of replacing those numbers at a fraction of the cost (already spent)?
This draft is very heavy in slot WR’s. We can draft someone in the 3rd-5th round that can develop for ’24 and beyond as well.
Jakobi gets it, he deserves to get paid.