Below are various advanced stats from the Patriots’ 25-6 victory over the Jets in Week 2.
MAC JONES’S PASSING METRICS
The panic meter on Mac Jones’s tentativeness pushing the ball downfield is nowhere near DEFCON levels after only two career starts in the NFL.
However, there were a few occasions in Sunday’s win over the Jets where Jones left bigger plays on the field because he wasn’t willing to pull the trigger on deeper throws.
#Patriots QB Mac Jones's ranks in the advanced metrics (out of 33 QBs)
– EPA/play: 19th (0.130)
– CPOE: 9th (+6.4)
– Air yards: 31st (5.1)
– Adj. comp pct: T-3 (84.4)
— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) September 20, 2021
Ultimately, that led to an average air yards per attempt of four against the Jets, and pending Monday Night Football’s results, Jones is 31st out of 33 quarterbacks in aDOT (5.1 yards).
On the one hand, Jets rookie Zach Wilson was a turnover machine, and all Jones had to do was play it safe to beat New York. Play within the system, don’t make mistakes, or unforced errors was probably the message from the Patriots’ coaching staff after Wilson imploded.
Still, if Jones’s gun-shy performance versus the Jets becomes a habit, then it’s more worrisome.
For example, Jones had wide receiver Nelson Agholor open behind the defense on the double pass in the first quarter. You can understand the thought proces2s of taking the easy completion underneath for 19 yards rather than throwing deep with Agholor’s defender retreating. But the Pats wideout is open for six regardless, and that should be a touchdown for an NFL QB.
On an intentional grounding call in the second half, Mac has a wide-open Hunter Henry (right sideline) for a touchdown on a busted coverage by the Jets but doesn’t hang on Henry’s route long enough to see it develop. Yes, Mike Onwenu gets beat which forces Jones to move in the pocket. But, again, Mac could let it fly while taking a hit or use a subtle movement then get back to Henry.
After standing and delivering against pressure on several occasions in Week 1, Jones wasn’t as willing to do the same against the Jets in Week 2, which he said after the game.
“It was just me,” Jones told CLNS Media. “I can push the ball downfield more. I can hold the ball in a good way. Maybe just move and try to make a better throw downfield.”
All these issues with throwing downfield are a part of the learning curve for Jones, who is figuring out the speed at which pro passing windows shrink compared to college.
Let’s show some patience with the Patriots’ rookie quarterback in his first NFL season.
Believe it or not, Jones was only under pressure on 21.2% of his drop-backs in the win over the Jets, with the Pats’ O-Line cleaning things up after a rocky start.
However, the pass blocking needs to improve if this offense is going to reach its potential, and Jones was under pressure on five of his nine third-down attempts, excluding screen passes.
Most of the issues for the Pats are with schemed pressures that take solid communication and chemistry. The one-on-one losses are happening as much as you’d expect, the other guys get paid too, but the schemed stuff is a problem right now.
Both the Jets and Dolphins got home on stunt schemes with delayed rushers coming from the second level or a chip then rushing from a DE.
Here, Jets defensive end John Franklin-Meyers chips Hunter Henry then joins the rush. The chip forced the Pats to play this straight up. But Franklin-Meyers wraps around on a T/E stunt, and Durant and Mason fail to pass it off.
The other pressure scheme that is giving the Patriots fits is loopers from the second level.
The defense uses penetrators on the line of scrimmage to set picks for a blitzing linebacker coming from the second level, and the Pats aren’t picking up those off-ball rushers.
New England’s offensive line saw some offseason turnover with new faces at left guard and right tackle. Plus, starting right tackle Trent Brown didn’t play in Sunday’s game.
These schemes take advantage of the guard-tackle tandems’ lack of playing time together.
Although it’s frustrating, the Pats’ O-Line is a work in progress, as is the quarterback.
On the defensive side of the ball, Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson was under pressure on 48.7% of his drop-backs on Sunday, which is an excellent number for the Patriots defense.
The only caveat was that some of those pressures came late when the Jets were in obvious passing situations.
With that said, pressures are pressures, and free-agent addition Matt Judon and second-year linebacker Josh Uche continued to star in New England’s front seven.
Judon led the team with seven quarterback pressures, including a fourth-quarter chase-down sack where he also drew a holding penalty. Judon tries to use a rip move to get around Jets right tackle Morgan Moses, but Moses grabs Judon to avoid getting beat. Judon still finishes the play by chasing down Wilson, and Moses is called for holding the Pats veteran.
As for Uche, both of his sacks came late in the fourth quarter but were flashes of his explosiveness. Uche beats Jets right guard Greg Van Roten clean with consecutive punch-dip moves to record two sacks in a three-play sequence.
The Patriots also got three quarterback hurries from second-round pick Christian Barmore, who had five hurries in his first two NFL games.
New England will take that production they’re getting from their core group of pass rushers.
The Patriots’ run defense had some issues defending the weak side of the formation with Kyle Van Noy out of the lineup but still made a handful of productive plays.
Most notably, linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley and defensive tackle Lawrence Guy had three run stops each, while Dont’a Hightower also had a pair of stops.
Bentley is having a solid start to the year and is playing much faster, likely indicating that his processing speed is improving in his fourth season. Bentley isn’t the best athlete in space, but clicking into blocking schemes more quickly allows him to flow to the ball quicker.
Guy also made a critical run stop near the goal-line to force an early Jets field goal with textbook stack and shed technique.
Surrendering 4.9 yards per rush means there is plenty of room for improvement, but the Patriots also made some plays in run defense.
Jets rookie Zach Wilson’s four interceptions were a combination of terrible decisions by the quarterback and good coverage by the Patriots’ secondary.
For instance, Wilson’s arm punt to Devin McCourty on his fourth pick was probably the easiest interception of McCourty’s career. And J.C. Jackson’s second INT was a gift as well.
However, the first pick by Jackson was great coverage on an over-the-ball route, where Jackson ran a better in-breaking route than Corey Davis on the play.
Along with the interceptions, third-year corner Joejuan Williams and newcomer Jalen Mills held up well in the win over the Jets, allowing just three catches for 16 yards into their coverage.
Williams had a textbook pass breakup where he stayed patient through the release, mirrored the fade route, and turned to find the ball with perfect timing to knock the pass away.
The Patriots won’t be gifted interceptions by a first-year quarterback every week, but their secondary is holding its own without Stephon Gilmore in the early going.