FOXBORO — Just one year ago, New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones was set to begin his rookie season in the NFL.
The 15th overall selection out of Alabama in the 2021 NFL Draft was the consensus ‘QB2’ behind expected starter Cam Newton heading into spring/summer preparatory team activities. Jones, however, ultimately emerged as the team’s top option at the position, earning the starting job at the conclusion of training camp.
Mac Jones, 2021 NFL Draft, New England Patriots
Mac Jones, Bill Belichick, New England Patriots
Mac Jones, Kendrick Bourne, New England Patriots
As a result, Jones parlayed a strong statistical season into leading New England back to the playoffs after a one year absence.
Fast forward to the present … and Jones is ready to lead his team into 2022 as the incumbent starter. The 23-year-old began that process on Monday, with the commencement of organized training activities (OTAs) at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.
Jones’ task may be a bit tougher when factoring in the loss of former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Earlier this offseason, McDaniels left New England to accept the head coaching job with the Las Vegas Raiders. Jones and McDaniels developed a strong connection in 2021, with each gaining a solid understanding of the other’s capabilities within the Patriots offense. Despite McDaniels’ loss - and amidst concerns from players about the team's coaching staff, Jones remains optimistic regarding the future.
Jones is accustomed to coaching-staff turnover, having playrd under three different offensive coordinators during his four-year career at Alabama.
“I think every season in football is a new season,” Jones said. “People come and go, it comes with the business. We have a good group of new players and coaches. I’m happy for Josh and his family and I’m excited to open up the next chapter.”
As indicated during a meeting with the media last week, Patriots offensive assistant coach Joe Judge is expected to work closely with Jones and the quarterbacks [including rookie Bailey Zappe and veteran Brian Hoyer] during New England’s offseason workout program. Jones’ progress from last season, as well as his relationship with Judge, will be among the most monitored storylines heading into training camp.
Jones will also be working with former Pats defensive coordinator-turned-offensive coach Matt Patricia. Though Patricia has closely been linked to working with the offensive line, the former Detroit Lions head coach is rumored to be in the running to be given New England’s offensive play-calling duties. Though neither coach is particularly known for their offensive prowess, Jones has been impressed with the team’s working environment thus far.
“They’re all helping out and making things really easy for us, and teaching us what they know,” Jones said of the offensive coaching staff. “It’s been really good to be able just to stand up in the meetings and talk through things with everybody. Everyone’s on the same page regardless of who’s talking or who’s saying what. We have a very good group of guys. It’s obviously always about the players, and having great coaches is obviously very beneficial too.”
As expected, Judge and Jones worked together with the offensive for most of Monday’s practice. In fact, Judge ran most of the offensive drills. However, Jones consulted Patricia before each play during the 11-on-11 series, which placed an emphasis on the run game. Lastly, head coach Bill Belichick ran a version of the 2-minute drill during the final moments of 11-on-11s.
Joe Judge, New England Patriots
Brian Hoyer, New England Patriots
Bill Belichick, Matt Patricia, New England Patriots
In short, Jones seems to be facing a tall task in getting acclimated to a new-look offensive coaching staff. Yet, he continues to see the value and opportunity in working with coaches, who can offer beneficial teaching moments from all three phases of the game.
“I think right now it’s all about learning.. They all have great knowledge of our offense and we’re all on the same page. We have plenty of time before all that. Right now it’s about all of the guys getting on the same page.”
With a willingness to lead, as well as collaborate, Jones provides palpable hope of a bright future for New England at the quarterback position in 2022.