New England Patriots

Jul 28, 2021; Foxborough, MA, United States; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (50) during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Patriots quarterback Mac Jones struggled in the first padded practice of 2021 training camp, and the first of his NFL career. But the rookie out of Alabama bounced back well in padded practice No. 2, and he did it largely in a driving rainstorm.

Jones went 15-of-19 overall in 11-on-11 drills, and two of his incompletions were drops, one each for receivers Kendrick Bourne and Kristian Wilkerson. Another Jones incompletion, intended for Bourne, was tipped around the line of scrimmage by linebacker Josh Uche. The ball fluttered and Bourne nearly made a nice adjustment to catch it.

Comparatively, Cam Newton was 5-of-11 in the same drills, with a drop each for Bourne and James White.

Jones got an extended look in 11s, at one point getting 14 straight reps, which explains the higher pass attempt total. At one point, the skies really opened up to what felt like monsoon-levels, but Jones was able to complete a nice-looking touch pass over the middle to tight end Hunter Henry during that time. He then completed a pass to tight end Matt LaCosse as it continued to pour. Wilkerson had a drop on a very catchable ball on the following snap, and appeared to struggle to handle wet footballs all morning.

The rookie’s most impressive play came on a relatively simple pass. He recognized a blitz from linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley and brought in the running back to pick it up, then slid left in the pocket and delivered a strike over the middle to receiver N’Keal Harry. Jones will never wow people with his wheels, but his subtle footwork in the pocket has been better than expected.

Jones was then 5-of-5 in a two-minute drill near the end of practice. Newton was 3-of-5 in the same drill. This was run at half-speed with little resistance from the defense, since the idea is to prepare the offense for the various situations that arise driving down the field with limited time. But Jones was accurate and decisive in this period, completing passes to running back J.J. Taylor (2), and receivers Gunner Olszewski, Harry, and Bourne.

It seemed that head coach Bill Belichick wanted to put Jones’ mental toughness to the test by leaving him out there as it came down in buckets. Jones certainly handled the conditions as well as you can expect with a rookie.

“I think everybody, a lot of the guys who’ve been here, just said it’s a mindset thing,” Jones said. “The coaches said it’s a mindset, so you just gotta go out there and play, and everything’s not going to be perfect. But, you can’t really overdo it, or pay too much attention to it. It all just goes back to execution, and doing what you’re supposed to do on the play. And, sometimes in the rain, it’s a little harder.

“But at the end of the day, that’s just how it’s going to be here, and a lot of other places, too. You’re going to play in games where it’s windy, rainy, snowy, whatever, cold, you just gotta be ready for everything.”

Newton was notably less accurate during 11-on-11s. His first pass attempt landed at Harry’s feet. A deep ball to Bourne was slightly overthrown and forced a diving attempt. In the two-minute drill, he threw one ball behind Henry for an incompletion.

If Belichick didn’t decisively declare Newton the starting quarterback last weekend, the fact that Jones “won the day” on Thursday may carry more significance. But this may be little more than a step in the right direction for the rookie. He’s likely going to need to continue showing improvement, and for Newton to continue on a downward trend, to be considered for the Week 1 starting gig. Ups and downs won’t be good enough for Jones. As long as Newton continues to respond to his own off days, he’s not losing the job that Belichick has already handed to him any time soon.

But in the big picture, it was a promising development to watch Jones bounce back from the last padded practice, and to do it in the toughest of conditions.

MORE: Complete Patriots Training Camp Coverage

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 mdolloff@985thesportshub.com.