In the Bill Belichick era, only two second-year players have been voted team captain of the New England Patriots: Jerod Mayo and Devin McCourty. Quarterback Mac Jones has a real shot at being the third.
At OTAs last week, Jones majorly impressed his teammates with his leadership and ability to take charge of the offense.
"It's just at another level now," wide receiver Kendrick Bourne told ESPN. "He's more comfortable, more confident. He knows what's going on, and the muscle memory is there [from having gone through it] — OTAs, then camp, and the season. He's just more locked in, more secure in his position."
This version of Jones is apparently different from the one teammates saw last year, when he was a rookie QB fresh out of college and likely to compete with Cam Newton for the starting job. Patriots owner Robert Kraft told ESPN in March that Jones had been "respectful" and very mindful of his position as a first-year player when he came to the team. But Kraft also felt that Jones "has a little more edge that we've seen."
Jones has an edge
It seems that Kraft was right: Jones does have more of an "edge" than he'd shown during his first year. Now with a full season as an NFL starting quarterback under his belt, Jones is beginning to truly lead the offense and shape it in a way that works for him.
ESPN's Mike Reiss caught a sequence on camera last week that shows just that.
Highlighting a top observation from Patriots practice: Mac Jones’ growing comfort level with WRs to express what he is looking for route-wise.
This video from Tuesday, after DeVante Parker takes a rep, shows one example.
Rolling the route, instead of a sharp cut, was emphasis. pic.twitter.com/miHqn728bH
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) June 1, 2022
Jones is now comfortable enough to tell his receivers what he prefers in their routes. And that kind of confidence couldn't come at a better time. Belichick has pulled a typical Belichick-ian move, bringing back both Joe Judge and Matt Patricia, his former assistants who have failed as head coaches, to work with the Patriots' offense.
Since former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is now the head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, either Judge or Patricia will likely end up as play-caller. With the team's offensive coaching still in transition, it's more important now than ever for Jones to have a handle on the offense and have good relationships with his receivers and other teammates.
Bourne says that's exactly what Jones is doing. He and Jones are friends — according to ESPN, Bourne is one of the people who attended a draft night hibachi party at Jones' home — and so Bourne is taking some pride in seeing Jones really grow into his role as quarterback and team leader.
"He connects with all the players really well. I'm proud of that dude, because it's not easy," Bourne told ESPN. "Going into his second year after having a year like that, it's going to be a challenge, but he's a guy that likes challenges, like all of us in that Patriot building."
Even newer players like DaVante Parker can see that Jones has grown and adapted into his role as team leader.
"He's a young guy but he's developed as a leader. That's what this team needs," Parker said to ESPN. "I've only been here a few weeks, but I still see it."