Be Careful, Mac Jones: Why Patriots QB Should Take Time In Return From Injury

Jones, by all accounts, suffered a high ankle sprain in Sunday's loss


Sep 28, 2022

Year 2 in the NFL has been a bit of a bumpy ride so far for Mac Jones.

The Patriots quarterback is dealing with the first major injury issue of his young career right now, and the specifics are hard to come by. Jones, by all accounts, suffered a high ankle sprain in Sunday’s loss to Baltimore. How he and the Patriots medical staff go about addressing that issue is still seemingly up in the air.

That vague timeline might be frustrating for Patriots fans and perhaps even some in the organization, but Jones should make sure he investigates every available option and choose the best one for him — even if that means it takes him longer to get back on the field.

At this point, it sure feels like Jones wants to cross all his T’s and dot all his I’s before committing to a path to recovery. That it’s already been a few days and we don’t know for sure how this will be tackled seems to indicate as much. As do multiple reports from tapped-in media members like NFL Media’s Mike Giardi, who reported Tuesday that Jones wants at least a second opinion. Additionally, NFL Media reporters Tom Pelissero and Mike Garafolo indicated Jones prefers to rehab the injury over surgery. NBC Sports Boston’s Tom E. Curran thinks it might not be until November, at least, until we see Jones back under center for the Patriots.

Perhaps Jones changes his mind or fights his way back onto the field earlier than that. Maybe his competitive drive or a sense that he owes it to his teammates kicks in, and he takes a bit of a risk to return. But he shouldn’t. At this point in his career, and more importantly, with how this season has played out for Jones, he needs to put his own career first.

The Patriots haven’t done much to make him want to rush back. After looking like a capable game manager with flashes of excellence in his rookie season, he and the offense have backslid considerably so far in his sophomore campaign. That’s an assertion that’s not really even up for debate. Ultimately, the Patriots couldn’t convince Josh McDaniels to stay. But they could have and should have done better to replace the outgoing offensive coordinator. Instead, Bill Belichick threw coaching life rafts to Matt Patricia and Joe Judge … by tabbing them to oversee the offense and Jones.

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That has gone as well as everyone expected. For as impressive as Jones was in his rookie season, it was football malpractice to believe you could just hire two old pals, let them draw up some plays and roll the balls out. It’s not that Patricia and Judge are bad professional football coaches (at least not necessarily), but they literally don’t have any established success or experience in this very precarious situation. Jones obviously knows this as well as anyone. He’s been telling us for months in a relatively diplomatic fashion, like when he said he and Judge would teach other.

In a lot of ways, the second year is almost more important for a young quarterback than the rookie campaign, especially for someone like Jones whom the team drafted in the first round. The number of young quarterbacks who have been absolutely ruined early in their careers by poor coaching and ill-fitting schemes are too high to count.

And it’s not just the scheme, either. Jones and Kendrick Bourne clearly had something going last season. Now, Bourne’s looking for escape routes from Patricia’s doghouse, which is head-scratching for a multitude of reasons. That Jones’ radar squawks and he targets Bourne every time the coaches relent and give the veteran wideout permission to step on the field only highlights the befuddling personnel decision. That’s especially true given the lack of true game-changing talent on the New England offense. The playcalling otherwise has been unsurprisingly mundane and predictable at times. Jones still isn’t on the same page with all his receivers, and the results have been less than ideal for the better part of three weeks.

Oh, and then there’s the fact that in addition to apparently calling plays, Patricia also is tasked with coaching the offensive line. Jones has been pressured on 29 of his dropbacks, about 17% per Pro Football Focus, which is about league average. But those numbers don’t tell the entire story about the beating the QB has taken. After Jones almost broke his back in Week 1 against Miami, some sort of injury seemed inevitable. The Patriots are probably lucky it was “only” a high ankle sprain and not something like a torn ACL.

Again, literally none of this is a surprise. We’ve been saying this since February. One of the most frustrating things for Jones in all of this has to be how inevitable it all felt. This should be a wake-up call for the quarterback. If the Patriots aren’t going to put him in the absolute best position to succeed, then he has to make sure he controls what he can control, at least when it comes to his health. Chances are, the problems won’t be fixed when he’s ready to return, so he better be sure he’s 100% ready to go when that time comes.

Thumbnail photo via Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports Images
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