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Patriots QB Mac Jones at OTAs: Leaner, Meaner, Better?

New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones has spent significant time on improving his strength and conditioning in the offseason.

FOXBORO — New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones is not one to rest on his laurels.

During a statistically stellar rookie campaign in 2021, the Alabama product led the Pats back to the playoffs after a one year absence. For his efforts, Jones earned a Pro Bowl selection, as well as a spot on PFWA’s All-Rookie team.

Mac Jones
Patriots QB Mac Jones
Patriots QB Mac Jones

However, New England’s former first-round draft pick clearly had his struggles down the stretch. He was less accurate, made more rookie mistakes and had difficulty when defenses were able to adjust to take away his preferred routes and targets. As Jones struggled down the last month of the season, so did the Patriots. New England lost four of its final five games following the team’s Week 14 bye, as well as its Wild Card playoff game to the Buffalo Bills.

As a result, Jones is back to work for 2022; singularly focused on making improvements for the upcoming season. Along with several of his Patriots teammates, Jones returned to the practice field for day one of voluntary organized training activities (OTAs) on Monday.

The 23-year-old had a productive day, overall. He completed 11 of 14 passes in 7-on-7 drills, while connecting on 7 of 9 in full team drills. His synergy with receiver Kendrick Bourne was on full display during an enthusiastic celebration of the wideout’s one-handed catch. Jones and Bourne also hooked up on a well-placed deep shot during 11-on-11 drills.

While it may be early to make any meaningful evaluations, especially in non-contact drills, Jones seems intent on avoiding the dreaded ‘one-hit-wonder’ moniker, Jones has adapted a stricter offseason workout regimen, incorporating a healthier diet in the process. As a result, he has looked leaner and has impressed his teammates with his work ethic and leadership skills.

“I learned more this offseason than I probably ever have about nutrition, sleep and wellness,” Jones told reporters after practice. “I’m taking what I learned that I feel will help me and apply it ... maintaining my weight and being able to take hits.”

Despite a leaner, meaner physique, Jones is cognizant not to sacrifice too much weight for the sake of greater body toning.

“There’s a fine balance,” Jones said. “For me, I’ve definitely trimmed down on body fat a little bit and I’ll get a chance to bulk back up before the season starts to be able to absorb the hits.”

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Jones’ physical improvement has also not been lost on his teammates.

“Mac, he’s in the best shape of his life,” said Pats’ receiver Kendrick Bourne following Monday’s practice. ”His stomach is gone and he looks really good. He’s definitely a ‘pros-pro’ now. He’s just dominating the conditioning, which is dope to see. He’ll be able to endure more during the game and go through more.”

Although Jones seems to be more toned, he also appears to be keenly aware of the questions surrounding his ability to connect on the deep ball — something for which he was criticized by a ‘dream team’ of ‘qualified arm strength experts’ based in Western New York.

Patriots’ Coaches Matt Patricia (left), Bill Belichick
Patriots Mac Jones (10), Kendrick Bourne (84)

Accordingly, Jones has taken the proper steps not only to increase his velocity, but also to build upon his accuracy in various spots on the field. Those preparations involved his confirmation of working with noted quarterback optimization expert Tom House, with whom Jones had been rumored to have collaborated this offseason.

“I worked on throwing the ball,” Jones remarked. “Deep … short … intermediate … doesn’t matter. There are ways to improve. Fine-tuning each throw. I worked on throwing in all conditions and increasing my knowledge on that”

Ultimately, Jones’ journey towards self-improvement is designed with one goal in mind — to help the team move forward in 2022.

“My body feels good,” said Jones. “I feel a lot better. Just trying to work and be the best quarterback I can be right now.”

Exactly how far Jones has come will be determined in the coming days and weeks.