FOXBORO, Mass. — This week’s joint practices were an encouraging step forward for the New England Patriots’ much-maligned new offense.
Just ask Mac Jones.
After the second of two practices with the Carolina Panthers wrapped up Wednesday, Jones shared a positive review of his unit’s progress.
“I think we laid our foundation of what we want to do and what the coaches want to do,” the second-year quarterback said. “We’ve definitely bought into that. … I think the really good offenses in the NFL, you can tell that the play callers and the quarterback are on the same page. So I think we’re getting there, and that’s the progress we need. I’ve been really pleased with that.”
An unmitigated mess during several earlier training camp practices, the Patriots’ offense ran more smoothly and proficiently against the Panthers, cutting down on the communication errors and blatant breakdowns that had been plaguing them.
Jones, who last week admitted he was frustrated by New England’s frequent botched blocking assignments, completed 32 of 45 passes in 11-on-11 drills across the two joint practices (71.1%). He upped his aggressiveness in certain periods, connecting on contested downfield completions to DeVante Parker and Nelson Agholor. His lone interception came when he heaved a desperation pass into triple coverage on a gotta-have-it rep.
In 7-on-7s, Jones went 7-for-9 on Day 1 and 5-for-7 on Day 2, finding Jakobi Meyers and Tyquan Thornton for touchdowns on Wednesday.
He also noted Carolina’s defense was a top-five unit in the NFL last season.
“We’re getting there,” Jones said. “I think the coaches have done a good job just kind of listening to us, and if we don’t like something, it’s something that they’re going to listen to and tell us why we should do one thing or another. At the end of the day, they have a lot of experience and they know exactly how to attack a defense and that’s something that we’ve kind of bought into. There’s a lot of knowledge.
“A lot of it is just making sure we’re all on the same page. We’ve grown in that area, and we have to continue to do that.”
The Patriots’ first-team offense attempted just nine running plays over the two days and still has work to do in that area. Jones also did face pressure from Panthers defenders at times, with a sack, a scramble and two throwaways scattered among his 19 11-on-11 dropbacks Wednesday.
But Jones said he saw just “a handful of bad plays” over his team’s four-plus hours of practice against Carolina and believes the Patriots made the proper adjustments.
“If you really know football, you can see there was only a handful of bad plays out here,” the QB said. “So you take away those bad plays, whatever it is — four or five a day — and then everyone’s saying it’s a great day. So at the end of the day, we play each play as if it has a life of its own. Slot each play, and don’t look forward and don?t look back. But at the same time, you want to make the adjustments, and we definitely did that pretty well. You have to keep doing it and eliminate the really bad plays.”
He added: “The offensive line did a really good job at protecting me. Obviously, there’s no contact at practice but I do feel very comfortable back there. We just need to continue to grow in that area.”
Jones and most of the Patriots’ other starters sat out last week’s preseason opener against the New York Giants. Does the quarterback expect to play Friday night, when New England and Carolina finish their workweek with an exhibition game at Gillette Stadium?
“I hope so,” Jones replied.
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