What are reasonable expectations for Mac Jones in his second season with the Patriots?
The New England quarterback’s sophomore season is one of the most intriguing storylines of the upcoming NFL campaign. Jones’ debut was, by just about all accounts, a major success. He got the Patriots back to the playoffs, and he was in the running for Offensive Rookie of the Year for the entire season.
The Alabama product should feel quite comfortable entering Year 2 with one season under his belt. Whether he can show marked improvement will be a huge factor for New England’s potential success in 2022.
“I would imagine you’re gonna see significant improvement in strength and explosiveness that will translate into maybe making a few more plays down the field, being a little bit more dynamic, but then become a master and conductor of what they’re doing offensively and take that to the next level, as well,” former NFL quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan, who runs QBSchool.com, told Patriots.com recently.
As it pertains to Jones, the betting market actually gives us a pretty interesting way to think about the QB’s second season. DraftKings Sportsbook is currently offering a Patriots team special centered around Jones’ Year 2 production:
Mac Jones over 4,000.5 regular-season passing yards AND 25.5 passing touchdowns
Hitting “Yes” on that — at better than 2-1 odds — would require some modest statistical jumps from Jones. He finished his rookie season with 3,801 passing yards and 22 passing touchdowns. So, for both to hit, he’d need to add 200 passing yards and four touchdowns.
The passing yardage feels fairly easy to reach. Jones would need to average just about 12 more yards per game to get to the 4,000-yard mark. The touchdowns would require a little more work, but if you go back and look at his game logs from 2021, he had an understandably slow start to his first season. Jones had just two touchdown passes (and three interceptions) through the first three weeks of the season before posting a 20-10 ratio over the final 14 games.
But what makes Jones’ situation so fascinating, of course, is whether he’s set up for the sort of success needed to see the necessary improvements. He had the luxury of taking NFL Offense 101 with Josh McDaniels in his first season, seemingly attached at the hip with the former Patriots offensive coordinator.
Not only is McDaniels gone to Las Vegas, but there’s also no formal replacement for the offensive guru. Jones now is working closely with former Giants head coach Joe Judge, who’s getting his first real opportunity to coach the offensive side of the ball, with Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia also involved. Those are all well-respected coaches, Belichick especially, and everyone is saying the right things thus far. But Judge came up as a special teams coach, Patricia largely has been focused on defense in his career, and Belichick also is best known for flummoxing opposing offenses.
Maybe those perspectives help Jones see the field in a new and improved manner. But it’s also worth wondering whether the systemic offensive ingenuity is there.
It also remains to be seen whether there’s enough legitimate talent around Jones. The DeVante Parker trade in the offseason should improve New England’s deep-ball passing game. And perhaps Jonnu Smith puts a frustrating New England debut behind him and looks like the YAC monster he was in Tennessee.
Jones is dependable and has a high floor. He puts in the work, he prepares the right way and he’s smart. He’ll be ready every week. Just how high is the ceiling, though? In 2022, that’s quite difficult to predict.