New England Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones continues to enjoy a stellar season in 2021. The Alabama product has been one of the most consistent performers in the NFL at the position. Jones has thrown for 2540 yards with 14 touchdowns, as opposed to eight interceptions. Perhaps most impressive is that Jones has completed 70.2 percent of his passes, ranked second in the league to Arizona Cardinals’ quarterback Kyler Murray.
Though Jones continues to emerge as a well-rounded NFL quarterback, his versatility is what sets him apart from his peers. Though he possesses greater athleticism than he is given credit for, the 23-year-old’s true versatility lies within his mental toughness and on-field awareness. Simply put, Jones has routinely shown great instincts in knowing what is happening on the field at all times, whether he has the ball or not.
This type of utility has caught the eye of Jones’ teammates, as well as his coaches; most notably offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
When speaking with the media on Monday, McDaniels had high praise for his young quarterback’s performance to date. The Pats OC specifically mentioned Jones’ third-quarter interception by Atlanta Falcons’ cornerback A.J. Terrell in the team’s 25-0 victory on Thursday as a moment, which simultaneously scared and impressed him.
An interception? …impressing an offensive coordinator?
Believe it or not, there is a logical explanation.
While no coach, coordinator or quarterback will ever argue that interceptions are a good thing, McDaniels acknowledged that he was pleased with the matter in which Jones handled its aftermath. Terrell is one of the NFL’s best corners, and was in a position to gain a significant return on his pick of the Pats’ QB. Despite returning the pick for 35-yards, Terrell was tackled at the Falcons’ 48-yard line.
Who was his tackler? Patriots quarterback Mac Jones.
“You would like to never have your quarterback make a tackle,” McDaniels told reporters on Monday. “But I think that kind of speaks to one, his awareness of what is happening on the play, and then his competitiveness to do the right thing. Sometimes you throw an interception and you can recognize quickly that the play is not going to go very far. And you just try to protect yourself and protect the team and do it. And then there’s other times, where if you don’t make the tackle, this could change the game. I think that we saw that play had the potential to be a play that would affect the score, certainly. And maybe the momentum, for sure, in the game.”
While McDaniels and Jones will obviously review the mechanics of the interception in hopes of avoiding such errant throws in the future, New England’s offensive coordinator will likely have some words of praise for his quarterback’s awareness and fortitude in that situation.
“Give him a lot of credit. He’s a tough kid,” McDaniels said. “Obviously, you don’t want your quarterback to have to do much of that during the course of the year, but if it’s needed and required, that’s why we wear shoulder pads, that’s why we have a helmet on, and that’s why we lift weights. The credit goes to him for understanding the situation and then doing the right thing.”
Of course, McDaniels may also levy a word of caution on Jones, and understandably so. After all, his starting quarterback making a tackle in which he lowered his shoulder risks potential injury. Luckily, he was just fine after the play. Still, Jones helped to mitigate his error by saving a potential score. Not only did he save a potential pick-six, the Patriots defense made a crucial stop on fourth-and-1, helping to preserve the team’s 13-0 lead at the time.
All in all, Jones’s versatility in both skill and on-field savvy have put him in prime contention for Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. Still, the Alabama product is no longer flying under the radar. As defenses develop new techniques designed to both pressure and challenge Jones, McDaniels knows that he must pull upon his quarterback’s versatility to find success.
“We always try to look at the things that have given us some issues over the last month and few weeks," McDaniels remarked.
His ability to adapt to new situations makes it clear that New England made the right decision in making Mac Jones their quarterback ‘jack of all trades.’