It’s time for Mac Jones to take over New England

Last week, after a minicamp ahead of his third year with the New England Patriots — a season with no more clarity on how it will all turn out than his first — Mac Jones was asked if he’d like to tell his various reviews of just “shut the F.”

Jones just laughed.

“Yeah, we’ll see,” the quarterback said. “I mean, it’s a lot of emotion, isn’t it? I think everyone is entitled to an opinion. all i can do [is] I’m going to run my race, and I hope everyone runs right behind me. We can move this thing forward and learn from everything. I’m going to do everything I can to earn everyone’s respect in that building again, and from there go out there and win a few games.

The key word in all of this was “again”, the implication being that Jones is uncertain whether he has, or did not have at any time last season, the full respect of everyone at Foxborough. Or maybe it’s a reminder that he has to win it every season.

Whatever he specifically means, Jones will enter the fall with a lot to prove, inside and outside of Gillette Stadium.

In 2021, he was drafted 15th overall from the University of Alabama as a potential replacement for Tom Brady.

That first training camp he beat Cam Newton for the starting job in Week 1. He showed enough as a rookie that at least some fans, if not the Patriot coaches and executives, thought he had discovered another quarterback savior. No, not up to a Brady-esque six Super Bowls, but he looked like a franchise guy.

Then came an erratic and sometimes uncertain second year. Jones wasn’t terrible, but he wasn’t headed in the right direction either. Critics saw limits there. Supporters cited poor coaching with no named attacking coordinator.

Whatever the cause, numbers were numbers. Completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdowns, touchdown-to-interception ratio, passer rating… pretty much you name it, it was down. The Pats went just 8-9.

Beyond the stats, Jones looked stiff on the court at times and scripted his responses.

If nothing else in the past week, he was able to laugh at a few questions and answer a slew of them with some measure of comfort. Without meaning? Probably. It’s not going to help beat Buffalo. But in the desert days of spring, you are indignant at the progress you can achieve.

Mac Jones faces a lot of pressure in his third year as the New England Patriots & # 39;  starting quarterback.  (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Mac Jones faces a lot of pressure in his third year as the starting quarterback for the New England Patriots. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

“I think every year is a great year to stay positive and try to gain confidence,” Jones said. “Anyone I’ve spoken to who’s been in their third year or higher, they say, ‘Just keep working and build confidence through your reps. It’s not just the confidence of last year, the year before, college is my whole life. So just keep doing that and working, and doing all the right things.

He even tried to turn the difficulties of last season into a positive.

“Confidence comes from years of practice and doing well, and also not doing well,” Jones said. “Sometimes the most confident people come from a year where maybe they haven’t been at their best, and I feel like that’s where I’m at. We all feel like that, then we’re all hungry Trust comes with time, but it’s also something you can look back on, not just worrying about things that happened in the past, but also focusing on the future.

It’s unclear what Bill Belichick’s long-term plan for Jones is. It probably depends on that season. Even Belichick’s job security isn’t assured, at least if you listen to team owner Robert Kraft’s lingering frustrations.

To say that the Belichick empire (or when the end of the empire comes) rests on Jones’ crossing arm and decision-making may not be fair, but it could also be true.

It’s not just his viability as an NFL starter that’s at stake here.

“I think every year is a new year, don’t you?” said Jones. “It’s much easier to say that after a very good year. Obviously our goal is to win every game we play and learn how to do that. I think some of the learning experiences I had last year will really help me.

“There are a lot of things I could do better,” he continued. “I know as a person, as a player, there are things I could grow on. But, really, it’s about this year. … I’m going to run my own race, watch the end and see where I’m at. I think everyone should do it too.

He has a new offensive coordinator in Bill O’Brien, who returns to the Patriots after serving as head coach at Penn State, the Houston Texans and two years as an assistant at Alabama. The two didn’t cross paths in Tuscaloosa, but that doesn’t matter. O’Brien is a real OC. He worked with Brady and DeShaun Watson. He should be an upgrade from last year’s Matt Patricia experience, where a defensive-minded coach tried to lead the attack.

Really though, it has to be on Jones. The list is not perfect. Neither is the situation. That’s life in the NFL.

Here, in Year 3, the Patriots’ season will hinge on whether he finds a way to overcome the shortcomings of a brutally competitive AFC East or if his play contributes to the shortcomings.

It was a first round, not a 199th overall bet like Brady. He was named the immediate starter. Much is expected. Much was not produced consistently.

Now is the time for Mac Jones to tell everyone to shut up, whether it’s the specific language he wants to use or not. If nothing else, it seems he knows.

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