With his first NFL game now under his belt, New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones has now turned his attention to the New York Jets. In fact, Jones was reportedly quick to move on to his next opponent; beginning to watch film on his week two opponent just moments after the conclusion of the Pats’ season-opener.
Think that might be a bit early? Not for Mac Jones.
From his days at Alabama, the Pats rookie quarterback has exhibited a poise and resilience that will ultimately serve him well in the NFL. Christopher Walsh, publisher of SI’s Bama Central covered Jones during his time in college. As such, he has watched the 22-year-old evolve from a young prospect into the quarterback that led the Crimson Tide to the National Championship in 2020. Having covered Alabama football since 2004, Walsh saw pro-level type of potential in Jones as the Patriots quarterback of the future; in both on-field talent and leadership by example.
“He's a planner. He is very deliberate in how he goes about things,” Walsh said. “From the workouts, to preparation, he's going to take it very seriously. He's gonna be one of those guys who is really going to draw them in there.”
Walsh attributes Jones’ leadership ability to the example he sets with his teammates. He demonstrates a strong command of the playbook, but is also not afraid to mix it up, or even take a hit. While leadership and on-field prowess are essential parts of succeeding in New England (especially at the quarterback position), Jones also exhibits an ability to learn from his mistakes.
“He's very bright. He has a great football mind. '' Walsh said of Jones’ ability to quickly process his mistakes. “He seems to (when he makes a mistake) to shrug it off pretty quickly.”
Walsh’s point was exemplified by Jones’ first professional drop-back against the Dolphins last Sunday. In what would eventually be ruled as a “sack and fumble,” Jones immediately demonstrated the ability to quickly learn from his miscue, while not letting it impede him from the task at hand. He settled down and played with a confidence and command that culminated in a solid NFL debut. Jones completed 29 of his 39 pass attempts, compiling 280 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Jones’ play last Sunday was his ability to withstand pressure. He was 14-18 for 129 yards against the blitz. 9-12 for 89 yards on third-down and 7-10 with a touchdown when under pressure. Those numbers are impressive for any quarterback. However, when taking into account that Jones was a rookie, making his first career start, the stat line begins to put defensive coaching staff throughout the league on notice.
As expected, one such coaching staff just happens to reside in East Rutherford, New Jersey and belongs to the Patriots week two opponent, the New York Jets. Jones’ debut performance has caught the sharp eye of Jets’ head coach Robert Saleh, and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich. Apparently, they were impressed by what they saw. In fact, Ulbrich remarked on Jones’ prowess to New York reporters on Thursday:
“He was way better than I wanted him to be. You anticipate seeing a young, inexperienced quarterback making young, inexperienced quarterback-type of decisions. I didn’t see a whole lot of that.?I think the film tells the story. You see a young guy with really uncommon poise sitting in the pocket. You talk about getting thrown in the fire, that’s Miami. They’re not afraid of zero blitzing and they came after him. Three pressured him and they hit him. He got hit nine times. That’s unheard of and he still sat there in the pocket and delivered throws and made a lot of really good throws down the stretch. He’s going to be a difficult challenge. He definitely does not look like a rookie.”
While it may be easy for fans, media and even some players to become lost in the hype of an impressive performance, the moment seldom (if ever) becomes too big for Mac Jones. Instead of resting on his laurels, the Pats young quarterback quickly moved on to next week, learning both positives and negatives from certain plays. Whether it be exhibiting more patience from the snap or fundamental improvements such as bending his knees a bit more on his throws, Jones’ focus is razor sharp toward his next opponent. While he will continue to learn from the season-opener, the Alabama product knows that the Jets will present new challenges for which he must be ready.
“There's no need to compare anything,” Jones told reporters on Wednesday. “We're obviously playing the Jets [not the Dolphins.] They do a really good job running to the ball. They play really hard. We just got to be ready to go. Be ready for different looks. They are really good on third down. Their new coaches have done a good job installing the defense, So, it really comes back to us and just playing the best we can. They're going to play their best, too, at home, so we just got to be ready to go.”
While the outcome for Sunday’s game has yet to be determined, Jones seems intent on making sure that he puts his team in the best possible position to achieve victory.
In selecting Mac Jones as their starter, it seems likely that the Patriots may have taken a major step towards future success, simply by taking it one day at a time…in very ‘Patriot-like’ fashion.