NFL News & Analysis

Mac Jones passes Patriots' initial tests in 2021 NFL preseason debut

Aug 12, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones 10) throws the ball during a game against the Washington Football Team at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday night was an audition for Mac Jones to be the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots, and it was an audition he passed.

While Jones' box score production was nothing to write home about, he still earned an impressive 82.1 PFF grade across his 21 dropbacks against the Washington Football Team. He completed 8-of-13 passes for 87 yards, but his best throw of the night was a deep shot down the left sideline that was ultimately dropped in the end zone. He also missed out on a completion to second-year NC State product Jakobi Meyers earlier in the game that replays showed was a clear catch, but wasn’t challenged by the Patriots.

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Not challenging that play may have actually been part of a strategy that seemed to test Jones in varying different situations throughout the game and give him the platform to be able to execute in those situations. When Cam Newton’s day was done, the first-team offensive line stayed out with Jones to ensure that his pass blocking was solid and the Patriots would get a chance to evaluate him, not how bad the backup linemen are.

After half time, Jones executed a drive in the hurry-up offense, seemingly just to see how he would handle it. He played through to the end of the third quarter, giving the team a pretty good film reel to analyze going forward. 

The hallmark of Jones’ play at Alabama was a total command of the offense and the speed and precision with which he could work through his reads and deliver accurate passes to the correct targets. Jones had the fastest average time to throw (2.56 seconds) of the three Patriots quarterbacks to play in that game, something you typically don’t see from a rookie. It’s only a preseason debut, and it won’t be what determines who wins the starting job, but Mac Jones at least showed the Patriots that he won’t be overwhelmed by the mental demands of the game.

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