With a rookie quarterback, it was no secret that the New England Patriots offense would take time to pick up. Over the course of two weeks this season, Mac Jones and New England have focused their attack on short passes instead of pushing the ball down.
The Patriots currently rank 29th in the NFL with just 180 aerial yards in their first two games. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Jones has an expected yardage average on throws of just 5.6 – the third-lowest in the league.
During his weekly radio appearance Monday on WEEI’s “Merloni & Fauria”, Jones denied that he did not pass up the opportunity to push the ball into the field.
“It wouldn’t say that,” Jones said. “I think it’s up to me to play by my rules and there are times when the defense takes plays and that’s why we play. I mean, they’re good at defense too. At the same time, I feel like you take the three or four games – or whatever – whether it’s in practice or a game, and you re-watch them and you’re like, “OK, j probably could have thrown that one away.
“But at the end of the day it’s about moving the ball and taking what the defense gives you. If they give you the deep blow, then take it. But if they give you the short, then take the short. That’s kind of what the defense does, really.
Taking what the defense gave him is exactly what Jones did for two weeks. In the Patriots’ double pass against the New York Jets on Sunday, Jones looked to have a potential deep touchdown against wide receiver Nelson Agholor. However, he settled for an easy checkdown, hitting tight end Jonnu Smith for 19 yards. Jones noted on WEEI that sometimes it’s best to be careful with football and limit turnovers.
“When you look at the turnover statistics, the team that returns the ball the least usually wins,” he said. “I don’t know what it is, but it’s a pretty high percentage. We’ve had fewer turnovers than the other team and we certainly could have capitalized more on the turnovers we got, but as long as you end each possession with a kick, then things will be going in the right direction. That’s kind of what I’ve always been taught.
“There may be some things I can adjust and I will. Just listen to the comments I get because in the past college is obviously a whole different game. Not to talk about it or anything, but it’s different here in the NFL and you kind of have to play possession football and try to stick to your rules and throw towards the open guy. It shouldn’t be that confusing or complicated.
With a rookie under center, some have questioned whether Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has limited his game calls to two weeks. Jones, however, did not consider this to be the case.
“I don’t think that’s it,” Jones said. “Like I said, whatever they call it, and they called good plays and Josh did a good job getting me ready in the red zone knowing what the other team is going to do and everything. I can definitely have these conversations with him to let him know I can do better because I feel like it’s more about me than anyone else. I can do these tight window throws – I’ve done this in the past – and we can be better. It is what it is. We can obviously work on it and maybe find different ways to have some creativity or whatever just to get the attack to come together in the red zone. “
Despite the lack of down shots, it’s important to note that Jones hasn’t cost the Patriots a game this season, unlike rookie opponent Zach Wilson last weekend. Jones played well for two weeks despite two aggressive defenses with a saggy offensive line.
New England will certainly have to start expanding the field against stronger competition, but it was a promising start for the 2021 overall No. 15 pick. Jones will look to continue his strong start against the New Orleans Saints in the third week.
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