Mac Jones Expectations in Year 2: Can the Patriots’ stripped-down QB churn out oversized production in 2022? – CBS sports | Hot Mobile Press

Mac Jones’ rookie season with the New England Patriots was successful in every respect, beating all freshman players in completion percentage (67.6%), passing yards (3,801), passing touchdowns (22), and passer rating (92.5) cited. The 15th overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft and fifth quarterback pick joined an elite club of rookies to have 3,500+ passing yards and 20+ passing touchdowns in their debut NFL season, only 10th in history the league.

Rookies with 3,500+ passing yards and 20+ passing TDs in NFL history

As the 2022 season begins, Jones has addressed the biggest criticism of him, his fitness. In Jones’ pre-draft ratings, a celebratory photo of Alabama’s winning the national championship in the 2017 season, when he was a freshman backup, didn’t project the most flattering fitness physique. Fast forward to this summer, and Jones has clearly made a lifestyle change.

“I think it’s important to evaluate everything and that was one of the things I want to improve. I’ve made significant progress,” Jones said on NBC Sports Boston a week ago. “Fixing my body, feeling good, feeling healthier and better. At the end of the day, you’re still human and you want to eat what you want to eat, but you need to be as disciplined as you can. It all goes back to trying to become a better player and person. That was my goal this off-season. I feel better, I feel more confident and that’s important. I’m just going to try to go in there and do my thing and lead everyone and help us come together as a unit. That’s what it’s about, and the off-season is a great time to sit back and relax a little bit, but also try to make progress where you want to make progress, so I feel like I’ve done that.”

His teammates have taken notice, calling the Pro Bowl quarterback a common NFL training camp trope, “in the best shape of his life.”

“Mac, he’s in the best shape of his life and I think he’s been here [New England] all low season with [strength and conditioning coach Moses Cabrera]’ said Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne during the team’s minicamp in May. “His stomach is gone and he looks really good. He’s definitely a pro now. If you’re a beginner, you just don’t know until you’ve been through it for a year. He’s definitely in much better shape than ever. He just dominates the conditioning, which is great to see. He’ll be able to endure more and go through more during the game.”

Accuracy was Jones’ greatest strength as a rookie, nearly setting the NFL rookie percentage record when he finished 0.2 percentage points behind Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott’s record of 67.8% set in the 2016 season.

Highest completion percentage by a rookie QB in NFL history

2016

Dak Prescott

67.8%

2021

MacJones

67.6%

2020

JustinHerbert

66.6%

2004

Ben Rothlisberger

66.4%

Like Prescott and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Jones made the playoffs in his freshman season, but it was a sour taster as his Patriots lost by 30 points to Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills. As for statistical success in a QB’s first two seasons, Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert is the standard. He holds the NFL records for most passing yards (9,350) and passing touchdowns (69) in a player’s first two years in the league. Roethlisberger is the record holder for team successes at a young age, winning the Super Bowl in his sophomore season in 2005 at age 23, making him the youngest starting quarterback in NFL history to win the Super Bowl.

A 70-year-old Bill Belichick, entering his 23rd season as the Patriots head coach, has gone all-in on Jones’ pass-catching unit to get maximum power out of the quarterback while playing off his rookie contract. The Patriots have allocated just over a third of their 2022 salary cap, just over 33%, to their tight ends and wide receivers, the highest percentage an NFL team has allocated to its receiving units, according to Spotrac data. For reference, in 2022 the Jaguars have the second-highest percentage of the salary cap in the league tied to their wide receivers and tight ends at 23.01%.

According to Spotrac, New England is the NFL’s biggest sponsor in the tight end position for the upcoming season, leading this group thanks to Hunter Henry’s three-year, $37.5 million deal (managed team with nine receiving 2021 TD) and Jonnu Smiths Four-year, $50 million contract, both signed during the 2021 offseason. No other team will pay more than $20 million in cap or spin out more than 10% over their cap on tight ends like New England.

As for their wide receiver group, the Patriots’ spending is also high — the top 3 in the NFL. The Patriots are said to currently have over $38 million tied up in their wide receivers, which is about 18% of their salary cap, both the third-highest in the NFL, according to Spotrac. The franchise signed Nelson Agholor (two years, $22 million) and Kendrick Bourne (three years, $15 million) in the 2021 offseason and acquired DeVante Parker (four years, $30.5 million) in one Trade with the Dolphins on April 5th. New England also put a second-round pick in this year’s draft to nab the fastest wide receiver available, Baylor’s Tyquan Thornton, who ran an unofficial 4.21-second, 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine that broke John’s record Ross would have beaten by 4.22 seconds. However, Thornton received an official time of 4.28 seconds after verification.

Two days after the Patriots took over Parker, Jones organized team training sessions in Florida to build on his chemistry with his high-priced compatriots.

Receivers walked away from this period with a renewed appreciation for “Mac and Cheese,” former Patriot Cam Newton’s nickname awarded on Jones as a freshman. Jones, of course, is expected to carry much more leadership in his second season with longtime Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, now in Las Vegas as the Raiders head coach.

“It’s just on a different level now,” Bourne said in early June. “He feels more comfortable, more confident. He knows what’s going on and the muscle memory is there (because he’s been through it) – OTAs, then camp and the season. He’s just stronger, more secure in his position. “

Bourne could be the go-to person to gauge Jones’ growth given how the two performed from Week 6 through the end of the 2021 season, with the former San Francisco 49er and first-year Patriot joining the team in the inclusion of shipyards (593). in this span of time.

“He gets along really well with all the players. I’m proud of this guy because it’s not easy,” Bourne said. “Going into his sophomore year after a year like that is going to be a challenge, but he’s a guy who likes a challenge, like all of us in this Patriot building.”

With his season ended by an offensive juggernaut in the Buffalo Bills, Jones is focused on what he believes is needed to take a potential top-five offense to the next level as the team averages 27 .2 points per game rookie season, sixth-highest in the NFL, with plenty of room to grow.

“I think it’s important to be with your teammates and build that relationship and build that camaraderie for your team,” Jones said last week. “We have a great group of guys. They’re all good guys and we’re just looking forward to getting back to work. We’ve put a lot of work into it and now it’s time to go, so we’re really looking forward to the season. … Every year is a new year. This year is different. It’s my sophomore year, it’s a lot of other guys’ sophomore years, and some guys have been in the league for more than five years. So everyone is in a different boat, but we are all working towards the same goal. Just being great teammates for each other and then going out and bringing the product to the pitch.”

In the Patriots’ 50-10 win in Week 17 last season over No. 1 draft pick quarterback Trevor Lawrence and his Jacksonville Jaguars, Jones’ performance (22-on-30, 227 passing yards, 3rd passing touchdowns) the notoriously emotionless Belichick Tearing jokes with him on the sidelines. Perhaps Jones’ advancement could see his head coach love his offensive product and show even more positive emotions in their second season together in 2022.

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