New England Patriots: Mac Jones leads the pack for 2nd-year QBs

New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports /

The New England Patriots are beginning to gear up for the 2022 NFL season. After a quiet free-agent period and an interesting draft, the Patriots have been hitting the field for OTAs in recent days as they begin preparations for the upcoming season.

The Pats clearly exceeded expectations in 2021, as they managed to squeeze into the playoffs as the #6 seed after missing out on them entirely in 2020. A big reason for that quick turnaround was New England’s rookie quarterback, Mac Jones.

Jones now heads into the second season of his career, and there will be some expectations surrounding him and New England, despite their lackluster offseason. Jones had the Pats in the top seed in the AFC for a point in time, and ended up earning a Pro Bowl selection, both pretty impressive feats for a rookie quarterback.

Mac Jones of the New England Patriots is ahead of his second-year quarterback peers

Those accomplishments on their own are more than any other rookie quarterback accomplished in 2021. Among the players drafted before Jones were Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, and Justin Fields. Some of these guys played sparingly, but even when they did play, the results weren’t close to what Jones was doing.

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Jones finished his rookie season with 3801 yards, to go along with 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Now he’s back in the fold, along with most of the offense, for year two, and he will be looking to take the next step forward.

In a recent confidence-ranking of second year quarterbacks from Marcellus Wiley and Emmanuel Acho of Fox Sports, both gave Jones a nine, which the highest ranking either handed out in the discussion. Here’s what Acho had to say about Jones:

"“A quarterback is a reflection of his team, and a team is a reflection of its QB. He’s a nine. I don’t think he has much help either, but he knows what to do with the limited help that he has. He will find a way to make sure the Patriots stay up top in the AFC East. They were second last year, I anticipate them getting more wins. I judge my QB on wins, and I think he’ll have the most of the sophomore QBs.” – Emmanuel Acho, Fox Sports"

Acho is pretty spot on with his assessment here. Despite having a middling group of playmakers alongside him, Jones took New England to the playoffs, and for a point in time, made them look like legitimate Super Bowl contenders. It’s fair to anticipate them to pick up more wins in his second year considering it will be pretty much the same crew returning on offense for the Pats this season.

Did the New England Patriots land the best quarterback in Mac Jones from the 2021 draft class?

It may be a bit premature to declare Jones the best quarterback of the 2021 draft class (Lawrence did put together a legendary college career if you will recall), but he’s clearly got some momentum heading into his second season. Compared to a guy like Lance or Fields, Jones is clearly way ahead of them at this stage of the game.

Yet while these other teams are still wondering whether or not they have found their quarterback of the future, the answer is already set for New England. Jones proved last year that he was their guy, and he’s been hard at work to reinforce that status. His supporting cast isn’t much different than the one he had last season, but if he won 10 games last season, it’s reasonable to expect improvement in 2022.

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The New England Patriots had the best rookie quarterback last season, and heading into the 2022 season, they have the best second-year quarterback too. Whether someone like Lawrence can take that next step forward remains to be seen. What’s clear now though is that Jones is ahead of the pack, and the Patriots are in good hands for the future.