Takeaways: Mac Jones dominates first joint practice with Giants

Jones looked like an NFL starter against the Giants defense, and the Patriots' own defense stood out from top to bottom.

Mac Jones Patriots
Patriots quarterback Mac Jones. Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

If Cam Newton isn’t familiar with the stories of Wally Pipp or Drew Bledsoe, he might want to read up before he returns to Patriots practice Thursday.

Because after what Mac Jones did to the New York Giants during Wednesday’s joint practice, Newton might be about to get the same treatment.

The first-round rookie seized his golden opportunity to assert himself in the Patriots’ quarterback competition with both hands as Newton sat out a third-straight practice due to the NFL’s COVID-19 protocol.

Jones took nearly every rep of competitive drills in practice — including every rep with the starting offensive line and receivers — and played lights out, showing everyone a glimpse of what the offense could look like with him driving the car full-time.


On the other side of the ball, the Patriots defense made sure their own quarterback won The Battle of the Joneses, stifling Daniel Jones and the Giants offense in an overpowering performance.

Here are some observations from Wednesday’s practice.

Mac Jones owns his opportunity.

From start to finish of Wednesday’s practice, there was absolutely no doubt who the best quarterback on the football field was.

The simplest way to describe the Patriots rookie’s performance: in command.

Nothing the Giants defense did, whether in 7-on-7s or in 11-on-11s, seemed to trouble him as he swiftly diagnosed coverages and flowed smoothly through his progressions.

Faced with a defense that, much like last week, was content to force him to throw underneath, Jones took what the defense gave him. At one point, he had completed 18 straight passes sandwiched around a coverage “sack” in 7-on-7s. The only poor throw he has was an underthrown deep crossing route to Nelson Agholor in the first 7-on-7 period that was nearly intercepted but dropped by the defender. Aside from that, he was on point on almost every dropback.

But he wasn’t just throwing check-downs to running backs. He found holes in zones and showed the confidence to fit the ball into extremely tight windows. Two throws in particular stood out in that regard: one to Gunner Olszewski in 7-on-7s on a deep curl and one to Kendrick Bourne on a crossing route during team drills.


Both passes looked at first to be ill-advised with defenders bearing down to make plays on the football. The Bourne throw even looked like it had been intercepted by a linebacker cutting across from the left. But the ball ended up in his receivers’ hands for two reasons: he knew those receivers would have a sliver of space in which they’d be open — not “wide open” but “NFL open” — and he put the football in the only place it could go.

His best throws of the day were tight-window throws as well: a deep corner route down the left sideline that he threaded to Jakobi Meyers just over two defenders in the last two-minute drill of practice and a gorgeous wheel route to James White down the right side thrown with perfect anticipation against a closing linebacker.

But Jones’s arm wasn’t the only thing that stood out.

His authority at the line of scrimmage continues to grow, his voice ringing out during walkthroughs from the far end of the practice field. He consistently knows which checks to make at the line of scrimmage, including correctly alerting man coverage on his throw to White down the sideline.

The first-round pick even played the part of team leader. When the Patriots offensive line had to run a lap as punishment for fighting with the Giants defensive line during an early 1-on-1 drill, Jones ran with them even though he wasn’t involved in the segment.


Jones didn’t need to sling 50-yard darts all over the field to be impressive Wednesday. He just had to operate the offense efficiently and prove he could run the show like an NFL starting quarterback.

He passed that test with flying colors. Though Cam Newton should be in line to return to Thursday’s practice, it feels like a corner may have been turned Wednesday.

Even if Newton somehow remained the Patriots starter after his COVID-protocol saga, Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels have seen, at least for a day, how good things can look with Mac Jones at the helm. At some point, whether it’s Week 1 or soon after, the quarterback job will be his.

Patriots defense throttles Giants.

Things did not go nearly as smoothly for the other Jones throwing passes at Gillette Stadium Wednesday.

The surface numbers show that the Giants’ Jones completed plenty of passes against the Patriots’ top defense, but that doesn’t tell close to the whole story.

New York’s starting quarterback was frustrated and under attack all morning long. The Patriots’ swarming secondary repeatedly forced the third-year quarterback to check the ball down or tuck the ball and scramble after finding no one open down the field.

At one point, he threw a ghastly interception in which he appeared to be targeting a short sideline route but didn’t see Kyle Dugger standing directly in the throwing lane. That might be the easiest interception Dugger ever has.

The Patriots’ pressure presented a problem for the Giants as well.

On the Giants’ final two-minute drill alone, Kyle Van Noy racked up two quarterback pressures, one of which drew a holding penalty. Then, Adrian Phillips came storming off the edge for what probably would have been a sack.


Whereas the Patriots offense was able to find the end zone on their final drive of the day, the defense never let the Giants close, forcing a long field goal attempt to close practice.

The Giants, of course, were missing a few key pieces on offense, including electric running back Saquon Barkley and wide receiver Kenny Golladay.

But a good day of practice is a good day regardless. If nothing else, it continues to show that the Patriots defense has already improved markedly over it what it was last year and will only get better with Stephon Gilmore back in the fold.

Jakobi Meyers can’t be stopped.

Meyers has been more open than 7-Eleven all training camp and preseason, regardless of who he’s been working against. Wednesday was no exception.

The third-year receiver looks like the best wideout on the team right now, routinely losing cornerbacks on every route with impressive short-area quickness and shift route-running.

Mac Jones targeted Meyers three times on the first five snaps of the teams’ first hurry-up segment, and the Giants didn’t have an answer for him. He caught the first two — a deep crosser, then a shallow in-breaking route in which he accelerated suddenly at the last second to separate from his defender — then drew a holding penalty on the next snap.

On one of the offense’s last plays of the day, he made a fantastic adjustment on a deep corner route from Jones that may have been slightly underthrown, tracking the ball over his shoulder and jumping up to snag the ball over two defenders.


He came down hard on the play and had to sit out the final snaps of the two-minute drill, but he stayed on the practice field and appeared to be in good spirits. Good thing, too, because the Patriots don’t want to be without arguably their best pass-catcher for any length of time.

It’s increasingly looking like 2020 won’t be a fluke season for the former undrafted free agent. Meyers looks like the real deal.

Quick Hits

-The 90-degree heat and sweltering humidity seemed to be a problem for a number of players Wednesday. Both Agholor and starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn departed practice around the same time, though neither appeared to be nursing a specific injury.

Later in the day, Giants defensive back Jabrill Peppers also left the field, with several Giants reporters remarking he’s been struggling with cramps this offseason.

While their injury status isn’t known yet, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the conditions played a role in their inability to finish practice.

-The Patriots’ running backs had their way with Giants linebackers all day in the open field.

During early 1-on-1 drills, James White had Blake Martinez spinning in circles trying to find him on an option route, and Damien Harris and J.J. Taylor similarly embarrassed other defenders in the same drill.

During a pursuit drill, big running back Rhamondre Stevenson, who repeatedly spelled Harris on early downs in practice Wednesday, juked two Giants linebackers so hard they couldn’t lay a hand on him on consecutive reps.

White even reprised his abuse of Martinez on the Patriots offensive’s final play, leaving him in the dust to catch a wide-open touchdown from Jones in the left corner of the end zone.


With Sony Michel now out of the picture after his trade to the Los Angeles Rams, all five running backs still on the roster — Harris, Stevenson, White, Taylor and Brandon Bolden (who was back at practice wearing a red non-contact jersey) — all stand a strong chance of making the team.

Every single one of them looks to be a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield and terrorize defenders when they wind up in space.

It’s not an exaggeration to say running back looks like one of the strongest position groups on the team so far in camp.


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