Patriots

‘It’s hard to fool him’: What Josh McDaniels said of Mac Jones’s game ahead of Patriots-Raiders

"I mean, from his college career, what did there, to last year to this year, just has a knack for winning, making big plays."

Mac Jones and Josh McDaniels will go head-to-head on Sunday. Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff

There aren’t many coaches that know Mac Jones better than Josh McDaniels.

Of course, the Raiders coach was Jones’s offensive coordinator with the Patriots during the quarterback’s rookie season. Jones was by McDaniels’s side a lot and thrived in 2021, leading all rookies in passing yards (3,801), completion percentage (67.8), passing touchdowns (22) and passer rating (92.5).

McDaniels has praised Jones multiple times too since he took the Raiders coaching job in February. In March, McDaniels said Jones is a “great kid” who “works extremely hard” and that he “was really fortunate to have a chance to coach him.”

When the Patriots and Raiders held joint practices prior to their preseason game in August, McDaniels again praised Jones, saying he loves “that kid.”

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“Spent a lot of time with him, obviously, last year,” McDaniels said then. “Great human being, got a bright future.”

On Sunday, Jones and McDaniels will go head-to-head for the first time – at least for a game that matters. McDaniels gave a little bit of an insight as to what a scouting report might say on Jones as he prepares to take on the Patriots in Las Vegas.

“Mac’s very bright,” McDaniels said. “It’s hard to fool him. Very accurate, sees things very well. Plays with anticipation in the passing game. Has great touch and accuracy. I mean, from his college career, what did there, to last year to this year, just has a knack for winning, making big plays, and continues to fight and press on even when there’s some adversity. Very tough. Very tough, you know, stands in there and takes a shot in the mouth and keeps playing.

“So, got a lot of respect and admiration for him, what he did last year, what he did in college and then what he’s doing this year. Just a solid player in every way you want to look at it. He’s a solid player at that position and it’s hard to rattle that kind of a guy.”

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Jones hasn’t had the best season in Year 1 post-McDaniels. He’s thrown for 2,198 yards, seven touchdowns, and eight interceptions with an 85.7 passer rating in 10 games. Many have pointed to how the Patriots have replaced McDaniels as the reason for that as the Patriots’ offense has gone from being in the top 10 in many metrics from last season to the bottom 10 this season with Matt Patricia as the de facto offensive coordinator.

Jones said on Thursday that McDaniels “really prepared me really well last year” and despite his recent outbursts over some offensive situations, he believes in the coaches who replaced McDaniels.

“I think Josh was a great coach, and we’ve got great coaches here now too,” Jones said. “Just have to learn from everybody, whoever’s coaching you, just learn from them. Everybody’s a little different. That’s what I learned at Alabama, just had a bunch of different coordinators, but kind of ran the same system. That’s kind of where we’re at here. Just try to learn from everybody and take something away, the good stuff and add it to your bank of things you can do.

“Definitely really glad to get the experience with him.”

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Jones has played a bit better in recent weeks though. Since the Patriots returned from the bye in Week 11, Jones is fifth in passing yards (1,058) and third in completion percentage (70.8) and had the league’s longest active streak without throwing in interception prior to the one he threw against the Cardinals, per MassLive’s Mark Daniels.

McDaniels is preparing for that Jones and the one he coached last season to show up on Sunday.

“He’s just a competitive guy so we’re going to try to do the best we can to play our defense, whatever the call is, the best we can on that snap and continue to try to do that,” McDaniels. “Make it as hard as we can, tough as we can. We know there’s going to be some plays made on both sides of the ball, so we’re going to have to keep fighting and keep playing like he will.”

Sunday also marks the second time McDaniels will faceoff against Belichick and the Patriots. He actually got the better hand of the Patriots the first time, beating them in overtime in 2009 when he was the coach of the Broncos.

McDaniels lasted just two seasons in Denver though and made his way back to New England in 2012, serving as the offensive coordinator for 10 seasons after an eight-year stint on the staff from 2001-08.

McDaniels said that it’s “absolutely” fun to go up against people he used to work with, but that won’t take away his drive to win Sunday’s game.

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“That’s why we all do this,” McDaniels said. “Competing against people doesn’t mean you have a disdain for them and that kind of stuff. But you can certainly want to be them as bad or as worse as they want to beat you. I’m sure that’s the way they feel about us. It’s a football game on Sunday, not a reunion. That’s not what it’s all about.”

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