With a rookie quarterback, it was no secret that the New England Patriots’ offense would take some time to get in rhythm. Through two weeks this season, Mac Jones and New England have revolved their offense around short passes instead of pushing the ball downfield.
The Patriots currently rank 29th in the NFL with just 180 air yards through their first two contests. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Jones has an intended yards average on throws of just 5.6 — the third-lowest average in the league.
During his weekly radio appearance Monday on WEEI’s “Merloni & Fauria,” Jones denied that he hasn’t passed up chances to push the ball downfield.
“It wouldn’t say that,” Jones said. “I think it goes back to just me sticking to my rules and there’s some times when the defense takes plays away and that’s why we play. I mean, they are good on defense, too. At the same time, I feel like you take the three or four plays — or whatever it may be — whether it is in practice or a game, and you re-watch them and you’re like ‘OK, I probably could’ve thrown that one.’
“But, at the end of the day, it’s about moving the ball and taking what the defense gives you. If they give you the deep shot, then take it. But if they give you the short, then take the short. It’s kind of what the defense is doing, really.”
Taking what the defense has given him is exactly what Jones has done through two weeks. On the Patriots’ double-pass against the New York Jets on Sunday, Jones appeared to have a potential deep touchdown to wide receiver Nelson Agholor. However, he settled for the easy checkdown, hitting tight end Jonnu Smith for 19 yards. Jones noted on WEEI that sometimes it’s better to be careful with the football and limit turnovers.
“When you look at turnover statistics, the team that turns the ball over less usually wins,” he said. “I don’t know what it is, but it’s pretty high percentage-wise. We had less turnovers than the other team and we definitely could have capitalized more on the turnovers we got, but as long as you’re ending every possession with a kick, then things will be moving in the right direction. That’s kind of what I have always been taught.
“There may be some things I can adjust and I will do that. Just listen to the feedback that I get because in the past, obviously college is a completely different game. Not to bring that up or anything, but it is different here in the NFL and you kind of have to play possession football and try and stick to your rules and throw to the open guy. It shouldn’t be that confusing or complicated.”
With a rookie under center, some have questioned whether Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has limited his play-calling through two weeks. Jones, however, has not felt that to be the case.
“I don’t think it’s that,” Jones said. “Like I said, just whatever they call, and they’ve called good plays and Josh has done a good job preparing me in the red zone knowing what the other team is going to do and stuff. I definitely can just have those conversations with him to let him know that I can do better because I feel like it is more on me than anybody else. I can make those tight window throws — I have in the past — and we can be better. It is what what it is. We can obviously work on it and maybe come up with some different ways to have creativity or whatever just to get the offense to come together in the red zone.”
Despite the lack of downfield throws, it’s important to note that Jones has not cost the Patriots a game this season — unlike rookie opponent Zach Wilson last weekend. Jones has played well through two weeks despite playing two aggressive defenses with a banged up offensive line.
New England will certainly have to start stretching the field against stronger competition, but it has been a promising start for the 2021 No. 15 overall pick. Jones will look to continue his strong start against the New Orleans Saints in Week 3.
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