By this point in the calendar year, a high school quarterback has packed up the cleats for the season and a college one is taking a break before the bowl game. But a professional is pushing for the postseason after a long string of games. And for some first-year leaders it might mean hitting the rookie wall.
New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels doesn't see that as the case for Mac Jones, who has struggled in the team's first back-to-back losses since late September.
“He’s doing fine,” McDaniels said Tuesday, via Steve Hewitt at the Boston Herald. “No concern on that. Each rookie kind of handles that differently. There’s always a stretch during the course of the middle of the season that’s a little bit new to him, because when you count the preseason games, preseason work, starting in July, usually that happens somewhere towards the end of October, middle of November, somewhere in there. But he’s gotten through that. He understands what he needs to do. He does a great job with his regimen, takes care of his body, his preparation. He’s learned how to manage his time and what he needs to allocate it towards, and I think that’s a really important thing for a young player.”
Jones has started all 15 games for the Patriots (9-6) so far, two more than the 13 total he played for Alabama his senior year. Add to that rookie minicamp, offseason workouts, mandatory minicamp, training camp and three preseason games and it's a lot of added work to adjust.
Jones in last two games
Jones did well in the seven-game win streak from Week 7-13 and put up three of his four best quarterback ratings in dominant wins over the New York Jets (111.7), Cleveland Browns (142.1) and Tennessee Titans (123.2). His completion percentage fell below 67% only twice in the course of the season until the last two games, both of which came after the team's off week.
In a 27-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, Jones was 26-for-45 (57.8%) for 299 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. His 74.2 quarterback rating was the second-lowest of his young career. In a 33-21 loss to the Buffalo Bills, he was 14-for-32 (43.8%) — the lowest of his year — for 145 yards and two interceptions with a career-worst quarterback rating of 31.4. The four interceptions were half of the eight he had coming into the pair of games.
McDaniels doesn't pin that on a singular player, but rather the team itself.
“Every positive pass play requires a lot of good things to be done, and so when you look at a singular event like Sunday’s game, there are definitely a handful of things that I think that we could have done better at the quarterback position,” McDaniels said, via Hewitt. “There were things where the protection wasn’t as good as we needed it to be and there were times when maybe we didn’t either read the coverage properly or get open with enough separation for us to be able to throw and catch the ball with the skill group.
It's a long season and there's now a lot of professional film to go over when teams come onto the New England part of the schedule. The Bills had also played the Patriots 22 days prior in a game they were bitter about and made the proper adjustments.
The Patriots host the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-13) with the perfect opportunity to get Jones back on track and close the season at the Miami Dolphins (8-7).