Mac Watch, Day 8: Still plenty of work to do, but a baby step in the right direction
August 4th, 2022
Mac Jones during Patriots training camp on July 28, 2022. (Syndication: The Providence Journal)
For one day, it feels like the Patriots’ “day of corrections” paid off a little bit. Call it 1 percent better.
Mac Jones and the Patriots’ passing offense looked and felt a baby-step closer to “on the same page” in team drills during the Patriots’ training camp practice on Thursday in sweltering Foxboro. They put the full pads back on and incorporated more in-game elements like down & distance and substitutions, a small indication that head coach Bill Belichick was relatively satisfied with Wednesday’s scaled back, non-padded session.
Overall, Jones was 17-of-22 throwing the ball in team drills, including 14-of-19 in 11-on-11. Against the starting defense, he went 6-of-10, but did throw a touchdown to receiver Tre Nixon in a red zone rep. Two of Jones’ incompletions were drops by the receiver, which we’ll get into later.
Jones completed passes to Jakobi Meyers (4), Jonnu Smith (4), J.J. Taylor (2), Nixon (2), Damien Harris, and Ty Montgomery in 11-on-11.
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Jones nearly went a perfect 9-of-9 in the first 11-on-11 session, which pitted the starting offense against the “2s” on defense. The lone blemish was a drop by Nelson Agholor, who bobbled a good over-the-shoulder drop in the bucket. Rookie cornerback Jack Jones was in coverage on the play, and didn’t look to get a hand on the ball.
In the next 11-on-11 period, Jones and the starting offense went up against the starting defense. This is where the offense has started to break down a bit in team drills. Jones completed his first four passes in a row in this session, but appeared to be out of sync with Smith on the fifth rep, as the ball sailed wide of the tight end near the right sideline.
The third 11-on-11 period featured loud music and repped closer to the red zone; Jones went 2-of-4 in this session, including a “touchdown” pass to Nixon in the back corner of the end zone. Nixon got big separation against cornerback Malcolm Butler, whose camp can be described as “up and down” at best.
Jones’ other completion in these reps was a short crosser over the middle to Smith, who’s certainly had his moments in camp so far. But the period ended with a bad drop by Taylor, who was wide open for what would be a touchdown in a real game. Taylor couldn’t hold on to the dump-off from Jones.
Jul 29, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) throws during training camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
The running game continues to be a work in progress, to put it nicely. Lot of stuffed runs out there. But passing-wise, the unit appeared to be one step closer to getting everyone on the proverbial #SamePage.
If you’re looking for #concerns in the passing game, well, Agholor apparently still lets one slip through his hands every now and then. Jones had to hold the ball and scramble on a couple of 11-on-11 plays, appearing to struggle to find open guys. One of his best throws, however, was a tight-window strike to Meyers down a seam over the middle. But if Agholor and rookie Tyquan Thornton aren’t on the field, it seems that their speed and separation are lacking.
The individual talent hasn’t really been the issue with the offense so far, though. It’s been the team chemistry. Most of the problems have started up front, where the Pats have shuffled around the personnel on the offensive line and are incorporating a rookie (guard Cole Strange) into some newer concepts, particularly in the run game.
So, if there’s one positional group one could pick as the furthest behind so far, it’s the big boys.
May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots offensive lineman Cole Strange works on a blocking drill with offensive tackle Trent Brown (77) (right) Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
It could be a little while before we get another strong indication of what direction the Patriots offense is heading in, with the start of the preseason a week away and practices expected to gear back down. The Patriots have their annual in-stadium practice for season ticket holders on Friday night at Gillette Stadium, which is typically a non-padded, walkthrough-type event.
As of Thursday, the Patriots are not scheduled to hold an open practice on Saturday or Sunday. Their first preseason game takes place next Thursday, Aug. 11, against the New York Giants at Gillette Stadium.
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