‘This is his team’: Mac Jones emerges as star and leader of Patriots on Day 1 of training camp

Jones drew all the attention before, during, and after the Patriots' first practice.

Dozens of media members surrounded Mac Jones as he answered questions following the first day of training camp. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

FOXBOROUGH — Mac Jones enters his second training camp in a much different spot than his first.

A year ago as a rookie, Jones was taking second-team snaps and battling veteran Cam Newton for the starting job. A year later and with a playoff appearance under his belt, Jones is the star of the show as the Patriots begin training camp.

Jones was among the first players to take the field Wednesday, and once he entered, the Patriots’ crowd that was relatively silent gave the second-year quarterback a loud applause.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick helped set the tone for Jones’s second season on Tuesday, saying his quarterback “made tremendous strides” this offseason.


“He did a great job last year, but he’s starting from a much, much higher point this year from where he started last year,” Belichick said. “His offseason work has been significant, and I think everyone recognizes how well he prepares and how much further along he was than a year ago.”

Jones shared the changes he’s made.

“I think just evaluating what I wanted to get better at, whether it be footwork, where the ball location is on certain throws, just trying to learn how to hit every throw in different ways,” Jones said. “And then obviously, have to apply it during the season.

“The offseason’s great but you want to take what you learned and apply it and being able to use it in games is the reason you do it. That’s the reason you work hard.”

Wednesday was a soft opening to show the changes Jones made and Belichick’s comments seemed valid. The quarterback looked impressive in team drills, completing 13-of-16 passes (5-for-6 in 7-on-7’s, 8-for-10 on 11-on-11’s, by my count).

While Jones had a solid day throwing the ball, he also looked in control of the team. With the team drills being held in the red zone, he threw three touchdown passes to DeVante Parker, and some more to others, celebrating a good deal after each one.


“It feels good. It’s another year playing football,” Jones said about his second year in the league. “There’s guys on our team that have played for 15 years, there’s guys that are rookies, so I’m not a rookie anymore. I just have to go out there and kind of do what I’ve always done in fall camp and just compete and compete against myself, get the guys around me better.

“It’s Year 2 but at the same time it’s still football and that’s the important part to realize. We’re all in this together. How old you are doesn’t really matter. You’re here in this together and that’s the whole point.”

Even though Jones downplayed being more comfortable with a year under his belt, his teammates said they feel it.

“I think he feels more comfortable,” left tackle Trent Brown said of Jones. “He understands that this is his team. He commands the locker room in such a manner.”

Brown also agreed with Belichick’s assessment of Jones’s offseason improvement, and joked that “maybe he’s getting a little bit soft in his old age.”

As Jones celebrated with each touchdown pass on Wednesday, Brown couldn’t help but enjoy it.

“He definitely brings a lot of swagger to the table, and we love it,” Brown said. “It definitely spreads throughout the whole team.”


One of the possible beneficiaries of Jones’s comfort is Kendrick Bourne. The wide receiver, who also joined the Patriots in 2021, had a career-year playing with Jones, catching 55 passes for 800 yards and five touchdowns.

Bourne noted that the “ice is already broken” between him and Jones, sharing that the quarterback has emerged as a leader.

“Mac looks very, very good, very comfortable,” Bourne said when asked about Jones’s improved leadership skills. “He’s always had that leadership quality. Each year, every player grows. So, he’s just embracing that role.”

On the defensive side, linebacker Matthew Judon admitted that he isn’t sure how to rate Jones as a quarterback. But he has confidence in him.

“[He’s] throwing good, throwing the ball very well,” Judon said when asked about Belichick’s comment on Jones. “But that’s up to those coaches, man. I think Mac’s going to be a great player for us, for a very long time. As far as how he’s doing, I have no clue. As long as he’s completing passes, he’s straight with me.”

Patriots fans in attendance at Wednesday’s practice were excited about Jones. They were several rounds of applause after his touchdown passes during the team drills, and when his group moved to a certain area, the closest section cheered their arrival.

The admiration for Jones continued when he answered questions from the media, with fans chanting his name in hopes of an autograph 30 minutes after practice ended. One fan even yelled, “We love you, Mac!”

“Thank you,” Jones responded with a laugh, perhaps realizing his new status in New England.


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