Draft expert shares what Mac Jones needs to improve on in Year 2

Jones was arguably the best rookie quarterback last season, but he still has areas to grow on in his game.

Mac Jones still has room to grow entering Year 2. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

As with most teams in the NFL, the Patriots’ 2022 season will likely be determined by how well their quarterback plays.

Mac Jones gave New England steady play as a rookie in 2021. He threw for 3,801 yards with 22 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, and a 92.5 passer rating, leading all rookies in each stat outside of interceptions. Jones was also tied for first in interception percentage with Texans quarterback Davis Mills (2.5 percent), with his consistent play helping the Patriots go 10-7 and reach the playoffs.

ESPN NFL Draft expert Todd McShay ranked Jones as the fifth-best quarterback prospect ahead of the 2021 draft. McShay cited Jones’s pocket presence and “high-level ball placement” on shorter throws as pluses for the then-prospect, but was also concerned about Jones’s inability to connect on deeper passes.

A year later, McShay believes Jones was arguably the best quarterback from his draft class in his rookie season. He still liked Jones’s pocket presence and movement in the pocket, as well as his ability to get rid of the ball quickly (Jones’s 2.71 seconds before throwing the ball was the ninth-best in the league, per McShay).


McShay also liked another area in Jones’s game that he felt strongly about before he got drafted.

“Jones also took the wins where [Trevor] Lawrence and [Zach] Wilson didn’t, connecting on the short passes and getting the running backs involved out of the backfield,” McShay wrote. “Jones’ 83.5% completion percentage when targeting running backs was fourth in the NFL and more than 20% better than either of the class’ top two draft picks. And when targeting receivers under 20 yards downfield, his 12.4% off-target rate was 13th in the NFL.”

Entering Year 2, Jones is still definitely far from perfect. McShay believes the biggest area Jones can improve in is one of the things he was worried about the most for him entering the 2021 draft: his deep ball.

“The accuracy definitely still needs to improve when driving the ball down the field,” McShay wrote. “We saw Alabama’s talented receiver group make up for his inconsistent ball placement on deep shots and adjust to off-target vertical throws during his final college season, and it’s still a bit of an issue. Jones’ 37.3% completion percentage and 40.7% off-target rate when throwing at least 20 yards downfield each ranked 21st in the NFL last season. He also had a minus-2.2% completion percentage over expectation when throwing 20-plus yards downfield, per NFL Next Gen Stats (35th).”


Jones didn’t have the best receiving corps in the league in 2021, and certainly didn’t who could consistently help stretch the field. Nelson Agholor was considered to possibly be that kind of receiver for Jones. However, he finished with only 37 receptions for 473 yards and three touchdowns.

McShay still has concerns over the Patriots’ receiving corps, even after the additions of DeVante Parker and Tyquan Thornton. Jones has had some nice moments in camp with each receiver, connecting with Parker for a few touchdown throws in the red zone on outside passes. He also stepped up in the pocket and connected with Parker on a roughly 40-yard pass down the field in one practice.

Jones has gotten some work in the second-round rookie Thornton, with his pass deep down the sideline to him on a 1-on-1 drill being one of the highlights of Patriots camp so far. But Thronton’s mostly taken reps with the second unit during team drills.

McShay also shared some worry for Jones in regard to the Patriots’ lack of an offensive play-caller. Offensive line coach Matt Patricia and quarterbacks coach Joe Judge each called plays in the Patriots’ preseason-opening loss to the Giants on Thursday, in which Jones didn’t play.


The Patricia and Judge-led offense has been the storyline of camp so far, with the unit struggling in 11-on-11 sessions. While Jones has looked notably frustrated at points during practice, he expressed confidence to get past the problems facing him and the rest of the Patriots’ offense.

“I’m going to figure it out. I always have, and I always will,” Jones said Tuesday. “At the end of the day, you’re going to have your ups and downs with anything new. But, I’ve learned a lot of different systems, and the guys around me have, too.

“We know what football looks like. We know what a good play looks like, and the schematics behind it. It’s not just the result, it’s the process of how it looks.”

Jones and the Patriots hit the practice field again on Monday. They’ll host the Panthers for a pair of joint practices on Tuesday and Wednesday before facing them in a preseason game on Friday.


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