New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones began his NFL career a year ago completing 29 of 39 passes for 281 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. The Patriots lost their season opener 17-16 to the Miami Dolphins, but Jones set a franchise record for passing yards by a rookie in his first game.
His yardage total was the fifth-highest in a game for a New England rookie, and the former Alabama All-American surpassed him three times in his first season as the Patriots earned an AFC playoff berth.
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New England kicks off the 2022 season on Sept. 11, again against the Dolphins, but there may be more unknowns about the Patriots’ offense this year than last, when a rookie QB started.
That’s because New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels left in January to become the head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, and the Patriots’ first snaps without McDaniels’ hands on the wheel caused heartbreak. among fans of the NFL team.
During last year’s preseason, Jones completed 36 of 52 passes for 388 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions for a passing efficiency rating of 97.3 when he entered each of the three games after Cam Newton started at quarterback. .
This preseason, Jones played in New England’s last two games and went 13-for-21 for 132 yards with no touchdowns and one interception for a 60.0 passer rating.
Jones directed seven preseason possessions. Five drives ended in punts, including four 3-pointers and putouts, one interception stopped another and one ended with a field goal. In 40 snaps with Jones at quarterback in the preseason, New England gained 168 yards.
But Jones said the offense has progressed as game week has approached.
“Lots of learning experiences and always room for growth,” Jones said last week. “I think it has been good. I think we’ve worked out a lot of things, and it’s good that they’re happening now. I feel confident in what we are doing. We just have to go out there and do it for 60 minutes.”
Jones said he is more confident now because he has a better understanding of what is required of him in the offense without New England’s McDaniels.
“I just like to know why,” Jones said, “and when the coaches explain that to me, they’ve done a great job of explaining, ‘Hey, this is why we’re doing this.’ And from there, it’s my job to run it and do a great job. That’s one of the things I feel like we’ve sorted out.
“I’m very particular about what I’m supposed to do on each play, and we all are. And we want to know, as a catcher: Where do I line up and what do I do? As a quarterback: What are my reads on this specific play? Everybody has their own job, but it’s about what you do on that play to make it a better play.”
Jones hopes to put the installation and replay of the preseason behind him and dive into the game plan for the Dolphins in practice this week.
“I think it’s always fun,” Jones said. “That’s one of the best parts of football: getting into the X’s and the O’s and coming together and completing plays together and getting everybody on the same page, so when you see a play that you put on and it works, it’s really cool. feel during the game because it helps the team win, so I try to get there.”
It’s also that moment where Jones knowing “what I’m supposed to do on every play” can make the difference in a game that matters.
“I think by the time you get to game day. the goal is ‘Okay, this is exactly what I’m supposed to do. If this happens, what do I do? If this happens, what do I do?’” Jones said. “So you already have everything figured out in your head, so you just have to go out there and run it.
“I always enjoy that part. I always love to see how a game plan is formed, and that is an important part of football. They seem like good teams to me, they take the plays in training and execute them on Sundays. Other teams may not do as well on that. So we have to do that consistently, and when we get there, we’ll get there. But right now, it’s just about finding the plays that we can make better.”
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New England coach Bill Belichick doesn’t expect the Patriots to have gotten there when their season begins at noon CDT on Sept. 11 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.
“I think you don’t really know where your team is until you get to the middle of the season, in the middle of October,” Belichick said last week. “Play five, six, seven games, take on different teams, really see what your strengths and weaknesses are and what your opponents are as well. What it looks like on paper and what it is in the preseason and what it is in the regular season, I don’t think they’re all the same. People start attacking you, you start attacking other people, you get a much better idea of what your problems are, maybe what your strengths are, how good they really are.”
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Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1