Mac Jones is the Patriots biggest question in race for the playoffs

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - NOVEMBER 06: Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots reacts before a game against the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium on November 06, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - NOVEMBER 06: Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots reacts before a game against the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium on November 06, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images) /

Can New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones finally get it right in his sophomore season in the NFL?

That is the biggest question going forward as Jones and the Patriots attempt to maintain their playoff spot in the AFC.  It will all start Sunday in an AFC East rematch vs the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium.

With a shot at winning the division, the Patriots must get this offense right and consistent.  The talent is there to be a solid offense.  They must get their young quarterback playing the type of smart football he played towards the beginning to middle part of his rookie season.

That may be easier said than done with the new offensive scheme he had to adjust to, but in all Mac Jones knows the biggest area of improvement is his pocket presence and pocket manipulation.  That has proved to be the biggest difference between Bailey Zappe and Jones.

Patriots quarterback Mac Jones must figure things out in his second season

Now one may argue that Jones hasn’t gotten the protection from his offensive line that Zappe did, but that pocket presence or lack thereof has been one of the reasons Jones has struggled. Is it something he can learn to do better?  Well, he knows part of it is the natural awareness of being an NFL quarterback.

"“Yeah, you can learn it,” Jones said in his press conference this week.  “I think there’s drills that will help anybody that needs that.  Obviously, every quarterback, you do have a timer in your head.  So you want to make sure that your drop matches up with the play, your eyes, all that stuff.  So that’s something that you’re constantly trying to work through.  Obviously in different offenses that applies in different ways.  But you always want to have your feet, kind of on that clock in your head matching up at the same time.  Then from there, you kind of feel everything else.  It’s second nature.  Hard focused on the stuff downfield and a soft focus on the rush.”"

It seems Mac Jones has been doing the opposite in his struggles.  He has allowed the rush to be the hard focus which has led to some of his erratic decision making, an area in his game that was considered a strength during his rookie season.

Mac Jones needs a Patriots offensive line he can trust

Besides being too predictable, what does Jones and the Patriots’ offense need to do?  It does start with more consistency out of the offensive line.  With David Andrews returning, that should solve some of the issues, but they need to give Jones time to throw and earn his trust.

"“Yeah, I think David’s [Andrews] a great leader on our team,” Jones said of Andrews returning. “He’s played against a lot of different defenses, played on some really good teams, so he provides that positive energy and obviously is a great football player, but it’s a lot of the other things too. He’s kind of the bell cow of that whole deal. He does a great job, really happy with him and everybody else too. They’re doing a really good job just trying to work together and get better at individual techniques. That’s what I even noticed today, is just the little things that guys are trying to work through and all that is really important.”"

Aside from more consistent offensive line play, Jones needs to get everyone involved including the tight ends.

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Jones has shown a tendency of locking in on either Jakobi Meyers or DeVante Parker.  He needs to take what the defense gives him and try to find ways to get Tyquan Thornton, Kendrick Bourne, Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith involved in of the offense.

Some of the reason why that hasn’t been the case with Jones under center may be due to the offensive play calling of Matt Patricia. Maybe it’s time to be a little more simplistic as they were with Zappe quarterbacking and then try to be more creative.  The Patriots have a good defense to lean on and a running game that can carry the offense, especially when both Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris are both running the rock well.

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But it all starts with the maturation of Mac Jones.  Can he reset and adjust to salvage what has thus far been a disappointing sophomore season?

Well, we will start to learn the answer to that question when the Jets invade Foxborough on Sunday afternoon.