The New England Patriots drafted who they hope will be their quarterback of the future last Thursday. But when will that future arrive?
When will Mac Jones, the 15th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, be ready to start for New England?
Jones’ former offensive coordinator at Alabama, Steve Sarkisian, was asked Monday during an appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Zolak & Bertrand” whether the rookie QB would be capable of starting in Week 1.
“I’ve been on record saying this: I think he’s probably the most qualified rookie quarterback to start in Year 1,” said Sarkisian, now the head coach at Texas. “I think he’s been exposed to a lot. I think him being in school for four years and him putting in that time and having to persevere and wait his turn behind a Jalen Hurts, behind a Tua (Tagovailoa), and then (when) he got his opportunity, he made the most of it.
“I think he’s seen a lot from the defensive side of the ball, whether it was at practice or in games, and he had to compete at a really high level in the SEC. The one year he started, we played an all-SEC schedule with Notre Dame and with Ohio State (in the College Football Playoff) on top of that. So I think he’s in a great position to go and compete, and like I said earlier, now it’s time to perform. You’ve got to put in the work, and you’ve got to let your play speak for itself.”
Jones started just 17 games in college — the fewest by a Patriots-drafted quarterback since Matt Cassel in 2005 — but was phenomenally productive in his final season, leading the nation in completion percentage (77.4 percent) and yards per attempt (11.2) for the undefeated, national champion Crimson Tide. Running Sarkisian’s offensive system, Jones threw 41 touchdown passes with just four interceptions in 2020.
Still, Jones enters the NFL with concerns over his physical tools (arm strength, mobility) and how he’ll fare in an offense that isn’t as jam-packed with elite talent as Alabama’s was. Along with Jones, Bama had two receivers (Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith), one running back (Najee Harris) and one offensive lineman (Alex Leatherwood) selected in the first round last week.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Cam Newton will keep his job as the Patriots’ starter until either Jones or Jarrett Stidham outplays him. Jones said he plans to “support” Newton and Stidham as he begins his pro career.
?It?s (Newton?s) show,? Jones said in his introductory video conference. ?I?m just there to support him and help out the team in whatever way I can.”