Trent Brown used a strong word to describe Mac Jones. A word that’s safe for work, but not necessarily safe for the level of hype surrounding the Patriots’ rookie quarterback.
Well, what would that even mean? That question is going to follow Jones throughout his time as a Patriot, especially once he’s starting games. Jones may turn out to be a good signal-caller. He may be talented and productive enough to rescue the Patriots from their post-Tom Brady uncertainty at the position. But the S-word?
“I think [Jones] can be special,” Brown told reporters after Tuesday’s in-stadium practice. “There’s a lot going on for him right now – this is a different ballgame, and with Bill’s defense, there’s a lot of moving parts out there. He’s just got to settle down, and I think he’ll be all right.”
To Brown’s point, Jones actually does appear to be settling down in recent practices, as evidenced by his production and reps. Ironically, he’s doing it by asserting himself more, raising his voice calling plays and directing his receivers, even after the snap.
Jones has shown an impressive touch on the ball, dropping dimes over shoulders in the end zone and lofting passes over the middle to evade the coverage flooding that area. One of Jones’ most impressive throws in training camp came in a monsoon-level rainstorm, arcing a touch-pass over the outstretched arms of second-level defenders and into the hands of tight end Hunter Henry.
“To be so young, I think he makes some throws that not a lot of young guys can make,” added Brown, who projects as the starting right tackle, on Jones. “I think it’s all about settling down and knowing you can still play the game. It’s still football. Yeah, it’s a different level, but it’s still football. I think that goes for any rookie.”
The accuracy has looked nice, and Jones’ efficiency has continually improved as camp has gone along. But Jones still won’t dazzle anyone with his arm strength, velocity, or mobility, although his footwork in the pocket has been better than expected.
For Jones to become “special,” he’ll generally need to do what Brown also said about “settling down.” Meaning, he needs to make the kinds of plays he’s been making in camp when he’s in pressure situations, and consistently win games that way. His performance is always going to be predicated on field vision, timing, and accuracy, with the occasional dart after escaping the pocket.
He’s never going to be “special” in the way Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson showed early in their careers. That doesn’t mean he can’t reach their level of accomplishment. He just has to arrive there by a different avenue.
Jones may be ready to start games sooner than Cam Newton wants him to be. But “special?” It’s going to be much longer before he even has an opportunity to prove that.
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 email@example.com.