The Patriots’ offensive line will look different in 2022, but there’s reason to believe a potential step back might not completely stunt Mac Jones’ development.
How New England can protect Jones will be a massive storyline for the Patriots during the 2022 season. Shaq Mason and Ted Karras, who started at guard for New England last season, are gone. That adds a little more context to the Patriots’ otherwise surprising decision to draft offensive lineman Cole Strange in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Strange could ultimately be a stalwart for years to come. If he doesn’t hit the ground running, his growing pains — paired with the losses of veterans like Mason and Karras — could be an issue. Not to mention Matt Patricia, whose specialty is defense, is back in Foxboro overseeing that unit as part of his new offensive responsibilities.
In many cases, this uncertainty would be a huge concern with a second-year quarterback like Jones. The Alabama product certainly impressed in 2021, but that sort of change on the offensive line is noteworthy. However, the Patriots might feel confident about Jones’ ability to control the offense even if the heat gets turned up a bit.
Pro Football Focus on Friday ranked the quarterbacks who were most affected by pressure last season. PFF gives QBs grades for their clean-pocket passing as well as pressured-pocket passing. They simply subtracted the second from the first and ranked passers by the difference.
Jones had a PFF grade of 84.5 when clean last season, a number that dropped to 56.5 under pressure. That landed him at No. 23 on the list, a ranking that largely is good. He’s sandwiched between Taylor Heinicke and Patrick Mahomes on that list.
“Like Heinicke, Jones’ pressure performance was around average for the group. He went 66-for-123 with 730 yards, six touchdowns and four picks,” PFF’s Bryant Horn wrote. “His 40 first downs were slightly on the low end, but he tallied just six turnover-worthy plays, which was tied for the second-fewest.”
Jones ranks “better” than QBs like Aaron Rodgers, Justin Herbert, Russell Wilson and even Tom Brady. That’s slightly misleading, however. Take Brady, for instance: The Bucs QB had roughly the same pressured-pocket grade as Jones (55.4) but his clean grade was 93.3, so the difference is much bigger.
A Patriots optimist, however, might look at that and hypothesize Jones will improve across the board in his second season. Then again, Jones will be working with Joe Judge and not Josh McDaniels this season, and despite the addition of DeVante Parker, there are still question marks about the talent surrounding Jones.