FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots’ offense can be notoriously complex for newcomers to digest. But Mac Jones believes he’s making progress.
Asked Thursday whether he’s been able to quickly learn New England’s system since joining the team this spring, the rookie quarterback replied: “I think so.”
“I try to put time into it,” he said after the Patriots’ eighth training camp practice. “Whatever I can do to try and make it easier. … You’ve got to study it to learn it. It’s just like school. You’ve got to study hard for the test, so as long as you’re putting in the work, usually it’s fine.”
So far, Jones’ study methods have included watching practice film, hand-drawing plays from the Patriots’ playbook (“I’m a visual learner,” he said) and sending early-morning texts to third-string quarterback Brian Hoyer. His primary focus, he’s said, has been on identifying his inevitable mistakes and ensuring they do not become troublesome habits.
Jones has done a nice job of that this week. After struggling mightily during Tuesday’s practice, he looked good Wednesday and even better Thursday, outperforming incumbent starter Cam Newton in both sessions.
On Thursday, amid heavy rain, Jones completed 15 of 19 passes in competitive full-team drills and delivered the two best throws of the day, deep completions to running back James White and receiver Kristian Wilkerson. The first-round draft pick has seen a larger workload than Newton — who went 5-for-11 Thursday — in each of the last two practices and three of the last four.
Over the last four days of camp, Jones has attempted 64 passes in 11-on-11 drills to Newton’s 39, though the latter has led off nearly every period since the start of spring practice.
“I think that’s important, for the rookies especially, just when we get in there and get a chance to play … just do what you’re supposed to do,” Jones said of his high rep count. “Especially for me — I have a job to do, and if I don’t do it, the play is not successful. So I’ve got to be more consistent, more vocal, and learn from the older guys and kind of play to the standard.”
Jones has struggled with inconsistency in his first NFL training camp — Thursday broke a streak of three straight practices with at least one interception — but has shown improvement. He’s been more decisive with his reads and quicker on the trigger than Newton, who’s looking to maintain his grip on the Patriots’ starting job.
“I don’t get involved in the reps,” said Newton, who remains the favorite to start Week 1. “I just do what I’m asked and I just go from there. As far as trying to maximize as much as I possibly can when I’m in there, that’s the only thing I can control, and that’s what I will continue to do.”
Head coach Bill Belichick tempered expectations for Jones before Thursday’s practice, saying the first-round draft pick “has got a long way to go.” It remains to be seen how the Patriots will split their QB reps in their three preseason games, the first of which is next Thursday against Washington.
“He’s making progress, but it’s a lot to cover and a lot of things to understand,” Belichick said. “And we haven’t really got into situational football yet, at least not very much of it. There’s a lot of volume there. We’re working our way through it. That’s the process.”