New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones is eager to begin his second year in the NFL.
Apparently, he has been hard at work preparing for the season — and his progress is being noticed by his teammates.
Mac Jones, Nelson Agholor share a handshake
Mac Jones (10), Nelson Agholor (15)
Mac Jones, Nelson Agholor in Week 1, 2021 season
Patriots wide receiver Nelson Agholor is no stranger to Jones’ capabilities. The soon-to-be 29-year-old holds the distinction of hauling in quarterback Jones’ first touchdown pass in a Patriots uniform. The scoring reception came in Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins, a game in which he compiled 72 yards receiving.
Despite a subpar statistical year overall, Agholor is entering 2022 with the intention of building a synergy with his quarterback. The former USC Trojan was among a contingent of pass catchers to join Jones for informal throwing sessions in Tampa, Florida, prior to the start of the team's offseason workout program.
Based on Agholor’s assessment, as offered by NFL Analysis Network, Jones has clearly put in the work required to take a major progressive step in 2022.
“He’s definitely trained his butt off, I can tell you that. I see it every day when he comes in here,” Agholor said, via Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald. “He works his butt off, he’s here every day putting the time in. And, obviously, when he throws the football, he throws the football well, really well. I’m impressed with what he does every day and how he works.”
Jones evidently realizes that there is much work to be done for the upcoming season. As a result, he is intent on increasing his strength and improving his diet, in hopes of avoiding the dreaded ‘one-hit-wonder’ moniker. During the aforementioned April throwing sessions, Agholor remarked that Jones looked considerably ‘leaner,’ following his adaptation of a stricter offseason workout regimen, incorporating a healthier diet in the process.
While some may argue the contrary, Jones is building from a position of strength when it comes to a stellar rookie season. Following the Patriots’ decision to release Cam Newton at the conclusion of training camp, Jones performed well at the team’s helm in his rookie season. He led all rookies with a 67.6 completion percentage and a 92.5 passer rating, while compiling 3,801 yards and 22 touchdowns. He completed at least 70 percent of his attempts in nine of New England’s games and twice threw for 300-plus yards through the air.
However, Jones 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 stretch, so did the Patriots. New England lost four of its final five games following the team’s Week Fourteen bye, as well as their lone playoff matchup with the Buffalo Bills.
Though he is motivated to improve on his late season showing, his task may be a bit tougher when factoring in the loss of former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Both Jones and McDaniels developed a strong connection in 2021, with each gaining a solid understanding of the capabilities of the Patriots offense.
With McDaniels now in Las Vegas, Jones will be working with his second offensive coaching regime in as many years. Recent reports indicate that Jones will be working with former Patriots special teams coordinator and New York Giants coach Joe Judge, who is expected to play a significant role in Jones’ continued development. The Patriots also re-signed quarterback Brian Hoyer earlier this month, who Jones’ has credited with helping him to grasp the nuances of the team’s often complex offense.
Mac Jones during Patriots practice
Joe Judge, Bill Belichick
Still, the conclusive responsibility for Jones’ progress rests on his own shoulders. Agholor’s comments prove that he is physically making the effort to improve his performance on the field. However, Jones is hoping that his experience will allow him to take on a greater leadership role with the team in 2022. This is an example he learned to set during his time as quarterback of the Crimson Tide.
“I think back to my freshman year at Alabama,” Jones told Patriots.com reporters during an interview in February . “You’re kind of figuring everything out. And then you get older, and you’re just more experienced with everything — the media, the games, everything.”
Though fans should prepare themselves for a continuation of some growing pains in 2022, there is hope for the future with Jones at the Patriots’ helm. Amidst his late season struggles, Jones regularly maintained his poise, his focus, and his drive to constantly improve. Those qualities will continue to make him the ideal steward of New England’s timing-based passing game, predicated on vertical routes and completions from quick, accurate throws.
Overall, his performance in 2021, a strong support system and his own determination provide palpable hope of a bright future for New England at the quarterback position.