FOXBORO, Mass. — Mac Jones might not open his rookie season as the New England Patriots’ starting quarterback. But he’s done enough this summer to impress some of his longest-tenured teammates.
After Thursday’s joint practice with the New York Giants, Dont’a Hightower shared that he recently discovered Jones has been studying New England’s defense on his own time in order to better prepare himself for practice.
That revelation resonated with the veteran linebacker.
“He’s a terrific kid,” Hightower said. “He works hard. Real smart dude who is going to go over the edge. I’ve been impressed with him (since) OTAs with how hard he works. I actually found out yesterday he’s been looking at some of the defensive plays so he can kind of conceptually see how we work and stuff. I give him credit for that.
“Not a lot of young guys would see that as an opportunity to get that on his own. You can take that for what it?s worth. The kid works hard. I’ll leave it at that.”
Hightower isn’t the first established Patriot to speak this way about Jones. Earlier this week, special teams captain Matthew Slater called him a “great young man” and said “his family should be proud of the way that they raised him and the way he carries himself.” Offensive players Trent Brown, Jonnu Smith and Kendrick Bourne all have praised the first-round pick, as well.
Third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer, who works closely with Jones on a daily basis, had especially high praise for the rookie quarterback on Thursday. He raved about Jones’ work ethic, intelligence and ability to grasp new information.
“I’ve been very impressed with his mental capacity,” Hoyer said. “I’ve always said this every year I’ve talked to you guys, there’s a lot being thrown at the quarterback position in this offense. And my biggest advice is always take it one day at a time, digest it, retain it and then go back out. So he’s done a great job.
“Obviously, you see that works very hard at it. He’s always asking a lot of good questions. Sometimes I’ll say something, and he looks at me like, ‘Yeah, I got it, I got it.’ So, it’s like ‘OK man, you got it.’ And sure enough, he does. I go out there and he makes a call and I’m like, ‘Man, there?s no way I would have made that call as a rookie quarterback,’ just to have the confidence and the knowledge to go out there and execute it. So he’s done a great job.”
Jones looked phenomenal in Wednesday’s joint practice with the Giants, completing 34 of 40 passes while incumbent starter Cam Newton was sidelined due to a COVID-19 protocol mishap. He took a step back Thursday, going 10-for-21 with an interception in Newton’s first day back. Afterward, Jones acknowledged New York’s defense was able to throw him off with some of its looks and adjustments.
Hoyer said that’s just part of the acclimation process for a first-year QB.
“I think there’s always a long way to go because everything is constantly changing,” Hoyer said. “Like, you go last week against the Eagles, it’s a totally different defense. Now you have to go up against the Giants, and now it’s a different front that we haven’t studied. So there’s a lot of rules that you have to follow, and he’s definitely getting those down.
“You just see that desire from him to retain all that information. … They ask a lot of us in this offense, and to see someone young attack it the way he has, has impressed me.”
The Patriots will close out the preseason this Sunday against the Giants at MetLife Stadium. Jones saw extensive playing time in each of the team’s first two exhibition games, going 26-for-38 for 232 yards across nine possessions.