Counting down the most important Patriots players heading into the 2022 NFL season.
Methodology: taking a concept from veteran NFL reporter Dave Dameshek, the most important Patriots series is like a giant game of Jenga. If we were to pull this player from New England’s lineup, who would cause the tower to fall completely or become unsteady the most?
Most Important Patriots: No. 1, QB Mac Jones
For an organization that’s still putting the finishing touches on its rebuild, the brightest light for the Patriots is their second-year quarterback.
As we know from two decades with Tom Brady at the helm, elite quarterback play makes you a contender to win a Super Bowl every season. Although Jones isn’t elite yet, there were signs from his rookie season that the 2021 first-rounder could develop into a top-tier QB.
Based on most metrics, Jones was already an above-average quarterback in his first season despite several new receivers to New England’s system and lacking a true number weapon.
New England’s quarterback was 11th in Pro Football Focus grading, 12th in Defense-adjusted yards over average (DYAR), 16th in ESPN’s QBR metric, and 14th in expected points added; regardless of your statistical preference, Jones ranked in the top half of the league’s regular starting quarterback as a rookie.
(via Ben Baldwin)
Furthermore, Mac Jones also had one of the best rookie seasons among first-year quarterbacks over the last decade, producing at a very similar rate on a per drop-back basis as Bengals star Joe Burrow. Burrow, of course, would lead Cincinnati to the Super Bowl in his second season.
From the very beginning in the season-opener against the Dolphins, Jones’s command of New England’s complex passing system, poise, and mental acumen was on full display.
Despite then-Dolphins head coach Brian Flores spinning the dial on the rookie, Mac read out post-snap coverage rotations and made great decisions with the football from the jump.
In the example above, Miami rotates from a post-safety man structure to a cover-two shell after the snap, trying to confuse the young QB in his first career start. Jones reads the rotation, pump fakes to the flat to get the boundary corner to fall off Nelson Agholor’s vertical, and throws into the rotating safeties along the sideline on a dart to Agholor, all while taking a huge hit as he throws.
At that point, it became clear that Jones had the physical and mental makeup to start at quarterback in the NFL. Now, the question is, how high can Mac build his proverbial ceiling?
This offseason, Jones has been laser-focused on improving his diet and maximizing his physical tools by getting himself into terrific shape. Plus, he is working with legendary throwing coach Tom House, who has worked with Tom Brady for over a decade, on fine-tuning his mechanics.
House works on creating as much force with sound footwork, hips, shoulders, and release to generate max velocity on a quarterback’s throws. Quarterbacks such as Brady, Burrow, and Drew Brees have significantly improved their arm strength using similar methods once they turned pro.
If Jones can maximize his physical tools and continue to load more information into the mental computer with each down he plays, he has the potential to become an elite pocket-passer.
As Tom Brady once said, the Patriots need a great quarterback to achieve their goals, and Jones appears to have the competitive drive necessary to improve his game.