New England Patriots

  • Mac Jones during Patriots training camp on July 28, 2022. (Syndication: The Providence Journal)

    Mac Jones during Patriots training camp on July 28, 2022. (Syndication: The Providence Journal)

    Mac Jones and the Patriots offense has looked borderline unstoppable in training camp … in non-competitive 7-on-7 drills. Once it turns to 11-on-11, it’s become much more of a challenge.

    Jones rolled for most of Thursday’s practice in Foxboro, the second day of 2022 training camp. But that was mostly in lighter 7-on-7 sessions that were barely more physical than a walkthrough.

    While Jones has generally looked confident, which is important in early non-padded practices, the offense crashed hard in a more physical 11-on-11 session to close out Thursday.

    The second-year quarterback started red-hot, completing 16 of his first 17 passes in a mix of 7-on-7 and 11-on-11. Most drills, like Wednesday, focused on red zone work. One early highlight was a Hunter Henry catch on a corner fade from Jones, which was well-placed over safety Kyle Dugger in coverage.

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  • Jones completed his first 12 passes in a row to start team drills, but it can’t be stressed enough that it was basically a glorified walkthrough. The speed was there, but the physicality was not. His first incompletion came on a pass intended for tight end Jonnu Smith, which was broken up by second-year defensive back Joshuah Bledsoe.

    Up until the final red zone session, the offense controlled most of the action in team drills, with Jones in command and spreading the ball around. Newcomer DeVante Parker made a bunch of plays, and even did on Thursday, when he reeled in a back-shoulder throw against cornerback Jalen Mills for a “touchdown.”

  • The offense would make no such plays at the end of practice. Jones and rookie Bailey Zappe combined to go 1-for-11 in the final 11-on-11 red zone drills, which featured about as much contact and physical play that you can get without pads. They also cranked the music – which included Guns ‘n’ Roses and Drake, if you’re curious – to simulate crowd noise. That ostensibly had an effect on the offensive communication.

    Jones himself went 1-for-7 in this session. Four of his incompletions could be counted as overthrows. One simply sailed out of reach from Parker, another from tight end Hunter Henry. A third was caught by Nelson Agholor, but he was clearly out of bounds. The fourth looked catchable for Kendrick Bourne, who was mad at himself after he couldn’t finish the play, but it was too far to drop in the bucket.

    A Gross Injustice

    Mac Jones during Patriots training camp on July 28, 2022. (Syndication: The Providence Journal)

    Mac Jones during Patriots training camp on July 28, 2022. (Syndication: The Providence Journal)

  • But wait, what about the one completion? That happened to come on the final play, a “touchdown” from Jones to Henry on a throw Jones made while running to his left. The final play was the one that determined who had to do push-ups afterward, so when the defense had to drop and give ’em 20, it didn’t exactly feel like justice was served.

    After one day of practice, Jones looked way more self-assured in the pocket than he did a year ago. On Thursday, he held the ball too long on some plays, and wasn’t accurate on others. If Jones is going to play at a high level this season, his pocket presence, timing, and accuracy are going to have to be on-point, because he’s not going to make many plays off pure athleticism.

  • Play-Calling

    Mar 16, 2022; Atlanta, GA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and senior advisor Matt Patricia watch during Georgia Pro Day at William Porter Payne and Porter Otis Payne Indoor Athletic Facility. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

    Mar 16, 2022; Atlanta, GA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and senior advisor Matt Patricia watch during Georgia Pro Day at William Porter Payne and Porter Otis Payne Indoor Athletic Facility. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

    For the second straight day, senior adviser/offensive line coach Matt Patricia appeared to be the one acting as the team’s offensive coordinator. He called most of the plays, while it appeared Jones took a few play-calls from Belichick himself late in practice. Steve Belichick appears to be the play-caller on defense. Give the checkmark to Bill Jr. on that last session.

  • Jones continues to work closely with Belichick, Patricia, quarterbacks coach Joe Judge, and offensive assistant Evan Rothstein. It’s certainly a collaborative effort orchestrating the offense as it stands two days into camp. But Patricia looks like he’s in the lead to coordinate the offense when the real games start.

  • Leftover Notes…

    Targets: Henry, Jakobi Meyers, and Damien Harris tied for the team lead with three catches from Jones in team drills. Henry had the most targets with four.

    Pass Breakups: Jalen Mills and Joshuah Bledsoe each broke up a pass. Mills is off to a strong start and feels entrenched as the team’s No. 1 outside cornerback, while Bledsoe has played well and looks like a candidate for a spot at the end of the 53-man roster.

    Offensive Line: The projected starters seem to be Trent Brown at left tackle, rookie Cole Strange at left guard, David Andrews at center, Michael Onwenu at right guard, and Isaiah Wynn at right tackle. James Ferentz has been filling in at center for Andrews, who has started camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.

    — Mac’s Second Job: Jones and the other quarterbacks got a chance to hold during a kicking drill, which didn’t include actual kicking, just snapping and holding. Jones bumbled one of his holds. It was Tony Romo-esque. Maybe stick to throwing.

    — Quirks: Patriots linebackers and safeties participated in a drill appearing to work on tipping passes, using what looked like a volleyball. No sense in using a real football. It’s more about hand-eye coordination. Gotta protect those hands. But that was a fun drill to watch.