The second season for an NFL quarterback is a big one rife with clichés, as we’re about to find out with Mac Jones.
Can the second-year New England Patriots signal-caller make the leap? Or is he bound for a sophomore slump? We won’t be able to say for sure until Jones and the Patriots take the field for real in September.
The Alabama product certainly impressed in his first season, finishing second in offensive Rookie of the Year voting, leading the Patriots to a 10-7 record and a playoff appearance.
“He has so much ability,” Patriots tight end Jonnu Smith raved earlier this week on NFL Network. “There’s so much dog in him. Once he flips that switch, he’s just a whole different character. … He’s poised. He’s got a little swagger to him. I’m glad he’s throwing us passes. That’s my guy.”
That’s in line with what we’ve heard about Jones all spring at Patriots offseason workouts. The praise for the QB isn’t exclusive to Foxboro, though. NFL Media’s Peter Schrager went to the wall for Jones on Tuesday during “Good Morning Football.”
Schrager pointed to how Jones thrived during a Patriots seven-game winning streak between Weeks 7 and 14, a span in which Jones finished third in completion percentage and second in passer rating.
And then there’s the intangible thing.
“Mac, gosh, the players love him. You talk to a bunch of Patriots now. It’s not just Jonnu … (Nelson) Agholor, we talked to Kendrick Bourne, these guys love this dude. As much as we’re hyping Trey Lance and Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson and of course, Justin Fields, ‘In Year 2, what are they going to do?’ don’t take Mac for granted. This guy could take a major leap in Year 2.”
Schrager also talked about how he was laughed at on set for his take that Jones could be a dark horse MVP candidate.
But is it crazy talk? There are certainly some tantalizing payouts were you to place a midsummer MVP bet on Jones.
Mac Jones to win MVP
Is Jones a realistic option, though? We’ve certainly seen second-year QBs, especially high draft picks, take off in their second year. If Jones’ baseline is as good as Schrager or Jones’ teammates believe, a considerable jump would vault him into another echelon.
Buy the hype at your own risk, though. What the Weeks 7 through 14 numbers fail to consider, of course, is what Jones did in the first six weeks and the final four.
Twenty-one quarterbacks, including Derek Carr, Jared Goff and Davis Mills posted better passer ratings in those games. Only Matthew Stafford threw more interceptions. In that seven-game span Jones excelled, the Patriots played just two playoff teams. One of those games came against Buffalo, a Patriots win … in which Jones threw three passes total.
Any conversation about the 2022 Patriots offense also must include the uncertain situation surrounding Jones. Josh McDaniels is gone, replaced by Joe Judge and Matt Patricia. The training wheels are gone, replaced with donut spare tires.
That’s baked into the number, sure, as is the Patriots’ relative lack of weapons for Jones. But if you like the Jones numbers now, you might want to act fast. If the hype (or propaganda) continues, you might not get a better number on No. 10 in Foxboro.