“He made tremendous strides,” Belichick said Tuesday morning, the day before the Patriots’ first official practice for boot camp.
“He did a great job last year, but he started from a much higher point this year than he started last year. His off-season work has been important, and I think everyone realizes how well he prepared and how far he has come a year ago.”
Belichick cited Jones’s work ethic and noted that he noticed significant improvements in his “physical work and conditioning, mechanics, foot movement, and understanding our insult.” [and] opponent’s defences.
Jones made camp Thursday, along with fellow quarterback Brian Hoyer, so he had a head start over the majority of his teammates, who reported on Tuesday for their conditioning test.
This time last year, Jones was racing against Cam Newton at the start. Jones eventually captured the turn, starting all 17 games and helping the Patriots to a 10-7 record and a playoff berth (a 47-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills).
He finished his rookie season with 3,801 yards in 352 from 521 passes, with 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
“We are way ahead of the conversation [offensively]Belichick said. “The plays we’re talking about, or the concepts we’re talking about, Mac has actually done before. It’s easy for him to say, ‘Are we going to do this in this regard?'” Are we going to do this in something else? How about splitting it a little wider? Divide them a little more tightly. Suggestions like that.
“And we have a much better sense of what he can do, what his strengths are, how to try to play in them. He’s self-aware too. He knows what he’s doing well. We want to try to highlight it.”
Coaches play an important role in doing that, and it continues to be a notable story after Jones’ offensive coordinator left last year, Josh McDaniels, to become the head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders. Former Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia (chief football advisor/offensive line) and former New York Giants coach Joe Judge (offensive assistant/quarterback players) have played leadership roles in the Patriots’ spring practices, with Belichick also notably involved.
“I think I’ve said many times, Matt and Joe are great coaches, in every sense of the word,” Belichick said. “Whatever those duties are, they are very good, and exceptional in the entire series. I’m glad we have them together.”
Belichick did not name an official offensive coordinator, saying on Thursday, “We’re not really big on titles and all that. It’s important that we all work together and make a good end product. That’s what we’re going to try to do. That’s what we’ve always done.”
In the end, it will become clear which coach calls offensive plays, but Belichick veered when asked when it would be important to make that accountable.
“Look, I’m a head coach,” he said. “In the end I am responsible for everything. So leave it at that.”