NFL News & Analysis

NFL News Mailbag: Mac Jones' Week 5 chances, level of concern over Trevor Lawrence's play and more

Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) at the line of scrimmage against the Carolina Panthers in the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Mac Jones‘ Week 5 status: The Patriots quarterback at least has a better chance to play this week.

•What’s wrong with the Rams? LA’s offensive line has been a mess, but Matthew Stafford deserves some blame, as well.

•Level of concern over Trevor Lawrence’s most recent game: The Jaguars quarterback struggled, but people around the NFL still have faith in the 2021 No. 1 overall pick.

Estimated Reading Time: 8 minutes

We’re back on Mac Jones watch for the second straight week as the New England Patriots quarterback continues to recover from a high ankle sprain. We also try to answer questions about the NFL’s best division, Trevor Lawrence’s continued struggles, when Kansas City Chiefs rookie skill players will emerge and more.


@ashley1992__: Hi Doug, who do you think is the starting QB this week for the New England Patriots?

It’s still too early to wager a guess, though it appears Mac Jones is making a push to start after limited participation in practice Wednesday and Thursday. Jones didn’t appear to be moving great, and two weeks would be an early return from a high ankle sprain. 

Jones at least has a better chance of playing Sunday than he did last week, according to a source. Jones didn’t practice at all last week and was ruled out Friday.

The Patriots also had to travel last week to play the Packers in Green Bay, whereas they’ll be home Sunday against the Detroit Lions. So, while last week there was no shot of Jones being a game-time decision if he wasn’t going to make the trip to Green Bay, New England could push the decision this week if they so choose.

With Brian Hoyer on injured reserve after suffering a concussion in Week 4, rookie Bailey Zappe would be next in line to start. New England also has Garrett Gilbert back on its practice squad.

He certainly could have a more difficult matchup in his first NFL start. The Lions have allowed 141 points in four games, and their defense ranks 26th in expected points added (EPA) per passing play against. The Patriots could also lean on their running game since the Lions’ defense is a distant 32nd in EPA per running play against. I do wonder if the Patriots would open up their offense and allow Zappe to test the Lions downfield if he starts, however. They have played it safe with rookies put in difficult situations in the past.

I know the Patriots had some optimism in what they saw from Zappe in Week 4 against Packers, but he’ll need to play calmer in the pocket, go through his reads and get the ball out quicker. His average release time was 3.21 seconds for the game. That ranks 36th out of 46 quarterbacks this season and 29th out of 36 quarterbacks in Week 4.

Zappe was 5-of-5 for 22 yards when he got rid of the ball in less than 2.5 seconds and 5-of-10 for 77 yards with a touchdown when he held the ball for 2.5 seconds or more.

If by some chance Jones can play and looks relatively like himself, I think we could see an offensive explosion from the Patriots. This is a great rebound opportunity for an offense that currently ranks 24th in EPA per play.


@Rishuscold: Jedrick wills hate deserved or nah?

First of all, I’m not sure if any sports hate is actually deserved, but I can lay out the facts on Jedrick Wills’ performance as the Cleveland Browns’ starting left tackle since he came into the NFL as the 10th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

  • Wills currently ranks 20th out of 40 qualified left tackles with a 64.0 PFF grade this season.
  • He ranks 34th out of 43 qualified left tackles with a 66.1 PFF grade over the past two seasons.
  • He ranks 36th out of 43 qualified left tackles with a 65.0 PFF grade since being drafted.

Over the past two seasons, he’s graded out 32nd as a pass-blocker and 28th as a run-blocker.

Wills has been an average-to-below-average left tackle. You expect more out of a top-10 pick.


@Rhunter17: How close is Rhule to being fired ?

I wrote extensively about that situation earlier this week in our rumor roundup and spoke about it with Brad Spielberger on the PFF Wire podcast. You can subscribe here on Apple or Spotify.

 

I’d say that people around the league certainly wouldn’t be surprised if he was the first head coach fired. The Carolina Panthers are 1-3 and face a very difficult test against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 5. The Panthers have two former NFL head coaches on staff in Ben McAdoo and Steve Wilks.


@Rishuscold: Best division in football?

I would have told you it was the AFC West before the season, but I question that after watching the Los Angeles Chargers, Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders early this season.

It’s a really tough question. The AFC East has two of the best teams in the NFL in the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins. The New York Jets are a relatively surprising 2-2, and the Patriots are probably better than their 1-3 record indicates.

The Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals are all pretty good in the AFC North. And I’d toss in the NFC West, as well, even though the Los Angeles Rams have struggled a bit. Sure, it’s a bunch of 2-2 teams, but the Seattle Seahawks have been better than expected, the San Francisco 49ers looked great on Monday night and the Arizona Cardinals are the Arizona Cardinals.

I asked a pro scout for his take, and he still believes it's the AFC West.

“I guess I haven't seen enough from other divisions yet to take me off of my pre-season thought that the AFC West is the best,” he said. “Good QBs top to bottom. I think Vegas will rebound. And while I don't think Denver are true contenders, they're still a tough team to play against.”

Note: That was said before Denver's lifeless performance Thursday night in its loss to the Indianapolis Colts.


@Rishuscold: What happened to the rams

The offensive line is a major issue, and quarterback Matthew Stafford can’t do enough to overcome it. He’s been under pressure on 32.4%of dropbacks, which is the 13th-most among 35 qualified quarterbacks. He actually has the second-highest passing grade under pressure this season behind Patrick Mahomes. His 60.3 clean pocket grade is 33rd in the NFL, so some of the issues fall on Stafford, as well.

He’s 14th in big-time throw rate but has the 11th-highest rate of turnover-worthy plays despite an average depth of target of just 6.8 yards, which ranks 29th in the NFL.

Things aren’t getting better either, with center Coleman Shelton expected to miss time due to a high ankle sprain and Brian Allen not guaranteed to return this week against a feisty Dallas Cowboys defense featuring pass-rushers Micah Parsons and Demarcus Lawrence.


@Rishuscold: Top 5 o-lines this season

I’ll defer to my guy Sam Monson. Check out his offensive line rankings here.


@FutileSportsFan: What’s going on with KC’s skilled positions? Will the rookies emerge? Or will the vets maintain control over their respective positions?

Both wide receiver Skyy Moore and running back Isiah Pacheco got more work in the Kansas City Chiefs’ Week 4 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and it didn’t all come in the fourth quarter. So, we could start to see the rookies emerge.

One thing I did hear this week: “(Chiefs head coach) Andy Reid is old school. Rookies have to be patient in his program.”


@chuco_macko: Why are the Packers terrible without Davante but the Chiefs are fine without Tyreek?

Before the season, I asked sources around the NFL how they believed the Packers’ and Chiefs’ receiving corps ranked without Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill. They had the Chiefs above the Packers because of the varied skill sets of Moore, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Mecole Hardman. The Packers just had more question marks with age, inexperience and injury issues.

It helps, too, that the Chiefs still have Travis Kelce, of course.

@roblikessports: Should there be concern on how Lawrence played against the eagles? Especially with his low grade against them

I’m not sure if concern is the right word. The Philadelphia Eagles have a very good defense. You would like to see more consistency out of Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence in his second season, however. He received a 27.6 PFF grade for his performance against the Eagles last week in which he made four turnover-worthy plays.

He currently ranks 25th out of 33 qualified quarterbacks with a 59.8 PFF grade. He’s had one very bad game, one below-average game and two very good games so far this season.

I know people around the league still believe Lawrence can be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. But he has to show that on a week-to-week basis, and right now, that’s not happening.


@tom_duggen: Who’s the best offensive lineman in the nfl right now?

New York Giants left tackle Andrew Thomas currently is PFF’s highest-graded offensive lineman, sporting a 92.1 mark. A four-game sample size doesn’t tell the whole story there, though.

If we zoom out to a two-year span, then San Francisco 49ers left tackle Trent Williams leads all offensive linemen with a 96.2 PFF grade. Williams is also PFF’s highest-graded offensive lineman over the past three seasons. Williams currently is dealing with a high ankle sprain. He earned a 79.5 PFF grade in three games so far this season.

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