Mac Watch: Jones in command of Patriots offense on day 1 of training camp
Patriots quarterback Mac Jones and wide receiver Nelson Agholor during Patriots training camp at the Gillette Stadium practice field on July 27, 2022. (Syndication: Providence Journal)
One day into his sophomore training camp, Patriots quarterback Mac Jones looks like he has things under control.
There’s certainly not much you can glean from Jones or the Patriots’ performance after just one day of camp in Foxboro. They practiced in shells with little-to-no contact, with full pads expected to be strapped on for the first time next Monday, which will be day 5.
So, for Jones, the important thing is his overall command of the offense and on-field confidence. After one practice, those things look strong.
Jones completed 18-of-22 passes in team drills, most of which consisted of red zone work and shorter throws. He was mostly decisive with the ball and rarely held it. Only one of his incompletions was noticeably inaccurate, an overthrown corner fade intended for tight end Devin Asiasi.
It was in that same red zone session that Jones got on a roll. After the incompletion to Asiasi, he completed three straight “touchdowns,” two to newcomer DeVante Parker and one to Nelson Agholor.
Parker made arguably the most noise of any Patriots receiver. He repeatedly out-jumped and out-muscled defenders, at one point beating rookie cornerback Jack Jones for an end zone grab and pumping up the cheering crowd in celebration. Jones slipped out of the pocket and went to Parker for what looked like his second read, then delivered a strike.
Impressed by DeVante Parker today.
Maybe it’s because N’Keal Harry formerly wore No. 1…
Kendrick Bourne also had plenty of “juice,” as he likes to call it. He caught two straight passes during an early red zone drill, and on the second catch he spiked the ball with authority.
One of Jones’ incompletions appeared to be the result of indecisiveness. He held the ball seemingly a split second long, then targeted Jakobi Meyers in the back of the end zone, but defensive back Joshuah Bledsoe was all over him in coverage.
Jones finished the day strong – to the dismay of the Patriots defense. First he completed a ball to Ty Montgomery, who looks like he has a chance to be a factor as a running back-receiver hybrid. Then, Nelson Agholor made an impressive grab with Malcolm Butler between him and the ball, corralling it around Butler in the back corner.
To close out practice, the offense and defense squared off for one last play, with the loser having to do push-ups. Jones completed it to Damien Harris in the corner of the end zone, which drew a loud cheer from the well-represented crowd. So, in that sense, the offense “won the day.”
Mac Jones speaks to reporters after practice at Patriots training camp in Foxboro on July 27, 2022. (Matt Dolloff/98.5 The Sports Hub)
Jones worked closely with all of the principal Patriots coaches at times during practice. Bill Belichick, of course, but also quarterbacks coach Joe Judge and offensive assistant Evan Rothstein. Offensive line coach/senior adviser Matt Patricia called offensive plays during team drills, a strong indication that he’s in the lead to be the de facto offensive coordinator.
Belichick had uncommonly glowing praise for Jones in a recent Zoom conference, describing a “dramatic improvement” in multiple areas. Both he and Jones noted the quarterback’s footwork as a physical area he wanted to improve. Belichick certainly seems happy about the work Jones put in during the off-season, but the second-year pro acknowledged that day 1 of training camp is a far cry from a real game.
“The offseason’s great, but you want to take what you learned and apply it, and being able to use it in games is the reason you do it,” Jones told reporters after practice. “That’s the reason you work hard. And I know a lot of guys on our team have worked really hard, and just seeing that, you know, us growing together is going to be good. But you know, we have a long way to go. And today’s just the start.”
The start was a solid one, though. We’ll see how well it translates to actual games, but Jones looks confident and in command of the offense, certainly at a higher level than a year ago.
Click here for more Patriots training camp coverage at 985TheSportsHub.com. Be sure to check back after every camp practice for the newest Mac Watch, as we chronicle the starting quarterback’s pivotal second year.
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 @realmattdolloff. You can also email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patriots roster overview heading into 2022 training camp
Patriots football is finally right around the corner. Wednesday morning, the team will take the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium to begin training camp and their 2022 season.
As camp gets underway, it’s worth taking a step back and looking at the big picture of where the team sits heading into the season. To get ready, let’s take a position-by-position look at the full roster heading into camp – and the biggest question or questions for each position.
All players listed alphabetically by position. Rookies are in italtics.
Nov 14, 2021; New England Patriots quarterback Brian Hoyer (5) and quarterback Mac Jones (10) walk onto the field prior to a game against the Cleveland Browns at Gillette Stadium. Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Last year, the big question at the quarterback position was simply who would be the starter? There’s no position battle this year, but there will still be plenty of QB talk. As Mac Jones begins his sophomore season, his ‘second-year leap’ will be in focus. How much has his game improved with a full NFL offseason? How much more progress can he make as the unquestioned starter throughout camp? Those will be the questions on the table.
There will also be some intrigue in rookie Bailey Zappe, who is competing for the backup role with Brian Hoyer. The Patriots made a somewhat significant investment in taking Zappe in the fourth round this past spring.
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – NOVEMBER 28: Damien Harris #37 of the New England Patriots celebrates with Rhamondre Stevenson #38 after scoring a rushing touchdown against the Tennessee Titans in the fourth quarter at Gillette Stadium on November 28, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
—Pierre Strong Jr.
The early-down duo of Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson may be one of the best in football. Kevin Harris also fits the mold there, but could be looking at a redshirt season pending injuries.
It’s the third-down/pass catching role that is the real question. If James White isn’t ready to start the season, who will get those snaps? J.J. Taylor and rookie Pierre Strong Jr., should be in that conversation, as well as hybrid RB/WR Ty Montgomery.
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – JANUARY 02: Jakobi Meyers #16 of the New England Patriots celebrates after scoring a touchdown with teammate Kendrick Bourne #84 at Gillette Stadium on January 02, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
There’s storylines across the board here. First, how will things shape out at the top of the depth chart? The Patriots generally feature three receivers, but right now have four somewhat level players competing for those spots in DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers, and Nelson Agholor. Tyquan Thornton could insert himself into that conversation as well with a strong camp.
Bourne particularly stands out as a player worth watching. While he’s not a second-year player, he is now in his second year in the Patriots’ system. During camp last year, he talked about the process of picking up the playbook, but now he’s familiar. With that, plus the existing chemistry he’s built with Mac Jones, could he be due for a breakout year?
The five receiver above all feel like roster locks, but will any more make the roster? That’s the other big conversation at the position. As mentioned above, Montgomery presents value as a hybrid offensive weapon. Tre Nixon had a standout spring and could make a push as well.
Jonnu Smith #81 of the New England Patriots looks to avoid a tackleafter a catch during the first quarter against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on October 24, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Jonnu Smith is another player looking to show significant improvement with a full year in the Patriots’ system under his belt. Will his role change in 2022?
Smith and Henry appear to be roster locks, but what about beyond those two. It’s a contract year for Asiasi and Keene, who have both struggled to find playing time through their first three seasons.
Aug 19, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New England Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brown (77) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
–C David Andrews
–T Trent Brown
–T Yodny Cajuste
–G Drew Desjarlais
–T/G Yasir Durant
–C James Ferentz
–G Arlington Hambright
–T Justin Herron
–G Chasen Hines*
–G Michael Onwenu
–C Kody Russey
–T/G William Sherman
–G Cole Strange
–T Andrew Stueber*
–G/C Darryl Williams
–T Isaiah Wynn
For the second year in a row, the Patriots are undergoing major changes up front. Both starting tackles from last year are gone, with Michael Onwenu and Cole Strange the favorites to get those roles. On top of that, the tackles may be swapping spots as well, based on what we saw this spring. That all adds up to four starters in new spots to start the season, around center David Andrews.
There are some depth questions as well, especially at tackle. Isaiah Wynn is entering a contract year, and Trent Brown has struggled to consistently stay on the field the last few seasons. Who will step up as the third tackle? Justin Herron has held that job the last few years, but could he see pressure from Yodny Cajuste, Yasir Durant, or William Sherman?
Hines and Stueber were placed on the NFI list last week, which could delay their start to camp.
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 17: Christian Barmore #90 of the New England Patriots reacts after a play in the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at Gillette Stadium on October 17, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
–Jeremiah Pharms Jr.
–Deatrich Wise Jr.
One of the big questions here is what role will Davon Godchaux be in this season? He was signed last year as a nose tackle, but played his best as a three-tech and even a five-tech at times. Will he be featured in those spots more regularly in 2022? And if that’s the case, who steps up as the team’s nose tackle?
On passing downs, the defensive tackle spot appears locked up by Christian Barmore. Barmore was one of the best rookies in the NFL last season regardless of position, and is poised for a big jump in Year 2.
There’s also three rookies here that will be interesting to watch this summer. Sam Roberts is coming from Division-II Northwest Missouri State, so there’s not much film on him, but he has the build and explosiveness to potentially make an impact. Then there’s the two UDFAs in LaBryan Ray and DaMarcus Mitchell. Ray struggled to stay on the field at Alabama playing 36 games in five years, but looked the part when he did play. Mitchell, a JUCO transfer, had a breakout year for Purdue last season with 4.5 sacks and seven tackles for a loss in nine games, and could offer value as a situational pass rusher.
Josh Uche of the Patriots rushes Jets quarterback Zach Wilson in the second half as the New England Patriots defeated the NY Jets 25-6 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ on September 19, 2021. (Syndication: The Record)
The Patriots underwent a big reset at the linebacker position this offseason. Kyle Van Noy signed with the Chargers, and Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower remain unsigned. Those are significant snaps to replace.
Who will step up and replace them? At middle linebacker – specifically off-ball linebacker next to Ja’Whaun Bentley – there are three candidates leading the way in Cameron McGrone, Raekwon McMillan, and Mack Wilson. All three will likely make the team, but they’ll be battling this summer for distribution of reps.
Then there’s the matter of who will play the edge opposite Matthew Judon. That was a role Van Noy played last year and played well. The Patriots have invested heavily in edge rushers in the draft in recent years, so they have options in Josh Uche, Ronnie Perkins, and Anfernee Jennings.
Sep 12, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Jalen Mills (2) reacts after breaking up a pass during the first half against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
After Jalen Mills, the spots on the boundary are wide open. Malcolm Butler, Terrance Mitchell, and rookie Jack Jones are the favorites to get snaps opposite Mills, but the door could even be open for Joejuan Williams if he has a strong camp.
In the slot, the Patriots have plenty of depth. Jonathan Jones returns after missing most of last season with a shoulder injury. Behind him, the team has Myles Bryant and Marcus Jones. Shaun Wade is a versatile option to add depth both inside and outside.
Nov 28, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots safety Kyle Dugger (23) celebrates with safety Adrian Phillips (21) after recovering a fumble by the Tennessee Titans in the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
There’s a ton of talent and versatility here with Devin McCourty, Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips, and Jabrill Peppers at the top of the depth chart. All four should feature in some sort of role, the question is how will each player be used? McCourty should stick as the primary deep safety, but Dugger, Phillips, and Peppers can all play deep, in the box, and even as hybrid linebackers.
Joshuah Bledsoe missed last season, his rookie year, recovering from offseason wrist surgery. Now back in the fold, he’ll likely compete for a special teams role. That should also be the case for UDFA Brenden Schooler, whose background as both a safety and wide receiver makes him an interesting player to watch.
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 26: Jake Bailey #7 and Nick Folk #6 of the New England Patriots celebrate after a field goal by Folk in the third quarter of the game against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium on September 26, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
–K Nick Folk
–K Tristan Vizcaino
–K Quinn Nordin*
–P Jake Bailey
–P Jake Julien
–LS Joe Cardona
–Coverage specialist Matthew Slater
–Coverage specialist Cody Davis
The Patriots come into camp with depth at both kicking positions. Folk returns after an outstanding season in 2021, but will have 25-year-old Tristan Vizcaino – who was signed in early June – to contend with. Quinn Nordin is still on the team, but is on the NFI list after being waived with an injury designation during the spring.
Jake Bailey looked more like his 2020 self during the spring, after playing through an injury last year. Jake Julien, a rookie UDFA, does have a big leg but doesn’t look to be a threat to Bailey heading into camp.