Mac Jones made a nice first impression on day 1 of Patriots training camp.
It’s hard to glean anything meaningful from the first practice of 2021 camp, since the team is waiting until the second week for full pads. Certainly can’t make any definitive judgments. But the quarterbacks aren’t getting hit either way. So it’s possible to evaluate their movement in the pocket, processing speed, and accuracy.
Jones mostly looked solid in all three areas during 11-on-11 drills, certainly for a rookie. The first-round pick out of Alabama didn’t force any unnecessary passes and surveyed the field reasonably well, and when the ball came out, it looked like an NFL pass.
All that would be an upgrade over the quarterback play the Patriots got in 2020.
It is, in the words of Bill Belichick, “way too early” to determine whether Jones’ practice performance would translate to the game field, especially early in his rookie season. But Jones passed the eye test when under center, particularly during team drills in the red zone.
His best play of the day highlighted the aforementioned three qualities of pocket presence, field reading, and actual throwing. Jones first looked right for Kendrick Bourne, but the receiver was well covered. Jones then slid left, keeping his eyes toward the end zone, and dropped one in the bucket to wideout Nelson Agholor for a “touchdown.”
Here’s the play in question, via “TCL” on Twitter:
Mac Jones going through his progressions here like a seasoned vet pic.twitter.com/OQXxutydqk— TCL (@TitleTalkTCL) July 28, 2021
Jones did have one notable blemish on the day: during one team drill, he fumbled the snap. He had to run a lap down and up the field for the mistake, and the fans in the bleachers picked him up with cheers. He also had a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage by defensive tackle Davon Godchaux, and in the same red zone session threw a little wide for running back J.J. Taylor.
But, also in the same late series, Jones sidestepped pressure and lofted a pass over the shoulders of Justin Bethel and into the hands of Gunner Olszewski in the right corner of the end zone. He then dropped a similar pass to N’Keal Harry in the left corner.
This was when Jones separated himself from Cam Newton. In the same practice period, Newton sailed three passes in a row, one of which was intended for a well-covered Hunter Henry. When Henry got open for a brief window on the following snap, Newton threw it behind him and safety Adrian Phillips made an interception.
Alllll of this can’t be hammered into the ground as any sort of conclusive truth. But we can only analyze what’s in front of us, especially after just one day. For one day, Jones mostly looks capable of running the Patriots’ offense, perhaps sooner rather than later.
It may still be weeks, even months, before we find out how Jones looks in a real game. And it may be hard for Jones to truly wow people with his play during camp. But, particularly for a rookie, what we saw on Wednesday was pretty good.
Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @mattydsays. You can also email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.