Prior to coaching the Patriots’ first training camp, coach Bill Belichick had nothing but excessive praise for sophomore quarterback Mac Jones.
“I think Mac did a great job,” Belichick said Tuesday morning. “He’s worked very hard. He has a tremendous work ethic. Across the board, I think there’s been a huge improvement. His physical work and conditioning; he works on mechanics. Working on his feet. Working on his understanding of our offenses, opponent’s defenses, situations. All that stuff.”
Jones started 17 regular season games as a rookie last year, throwing for 3,801 yards and 22 touchdowns, with 13 interceptions. Both coaches and teammates have praised him throughout the season for his leadership and style of the game.
After New England lost to the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Cards round of playoffs, Jones has remained active and accessible during the holiday period, training individually and organizing throwing sessions with his teammates.
Now, with a year of experience under his belt, Jones is in a more advantageous position, according to Belichick.
“He’s made tremendous strides,” Belichick said. “He did a great job last year, but he started from a much higher point this year than when he started last year. His off-season work has been important. I think everyone realizes how well he is prepared and how much more advanced he was than a year ago.”
Belichick also said Jones will have a role in the new attack, which several coaches have lost this off season. Longtime offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Josh McDaniels, wide reception coach Mick Lombardi, offensive line coach Carmen Brisillo, and offensive assistant Bo Hardegre have all accepted jobs with the Las Vegas Raiders.
The Patriots have not formally appointed an offensive coordinator, but former Special Teams coordinator Joe Judge, now offensive assistant and former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, now senior football advisor, is expected to retain important roles on the offensive coaching staff. Belichick reiterated on Tuesday that the team is “not big on titles”.
Regardless of who works with Jones and the passing attack, Belichick noted that the unit is “a lot forward in conversations” at this point.
“The plays we’re talking about or the concepts we’re talking about, Mac has already done before,” he said. It’s easy for him to say, ‘Are we going to do this or that? or “Shall we do this in something else?” or “How about splitting it up a little bit wider? Divide them more tightly? You know, suggestions like that.
“This comes up all the time. Now, he comes with the experience of doing this. He may have had some of the same questions last year, but without the full knowledge he has this year.”
Belichick emphasized that the Patriots “are nowhere near” to being where they want to be, but Jones’ evolution has certainly progressed.
“It’s been a long time talking,” Belichick said. “We can all make improvements in the areas, so we identified some of them, he worked really hard with them, hopefully these are better, and I’m sure they will because he put the time and work into them.”