Bill Belichick: Patriots rookie QB Mac Jones has already 'earned a lot of respect'

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Last week, during reporters' first look at the 2021 New England Patriots, all eyes were on rookie quarterback Mac Jones. The first-round pick took reps behind Cam Newton and was on the field before Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer. On Thursday, Josh McDaniels detailed what he liked about Jones.

On Friday, it was Bill Belichick’s turn.

The Patriots coach talked about the rookie and how he’s progressed over these past two weeks. Belichick says Jones has earned respect for his work ethic so far.

“I think Mac, he has a pretty good understanding of the things that we do,” Belichick said. “He has to go out there and do them to get comfortable with them. It’s a process. We’ve had a number of other players at that quarterback position come in and go through that. Sometimes it starts a little slower and picks up. Sometimes it starts a little higher and slows down. We’ll just have to see how it goes.

New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones speaks with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels during NFL football practice in Foxborough on Thursday.
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones speaks with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels during NFL football practice in Foxborough on Thursday.

“But, you know, he’s working hard. He puts in a lot of time. Certainly giving his very best effort to do everything we’ve asked him to do and do it the way we’ve asked him to do it, which is a great place to start. He’s earned a lot of respect for that. But he’s got a long way to go. We’ll see how it goes.”

Belichick’s right – Jones has a lot to prove and it’s early in the process. However, this rookie seems to be off to a good start.

“Mac, he's won a lot of games in the last year-plus at Alabama," McDaniels said Thursday. "He's played in some big games – some pressure situations. He takes care of the football. He's demonstrated an ability to function at a pretty high level in their system, their terminology.

"And to play the position at quarterback, there's certainly not just one thing you need to do well.”

Leading up to the draft, coaches communicated with prospects via the phone and online with video chats. For McDaniels, this was a chance to get to know Jones – the person and the player. Sure, the Patriots coach dove into film, the Patriots' playbook and tested prospects' football knowledge, but he also got personal.

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“You're trying to get a feel for the human being, first of all,” McDaniels said. “Try to get to learn about him – about what his experience has been like wherever he's played. What’s his background? Where does he come from? You can learn a lot about somebody if you just are willing to have a good, honest dialogue and communication with them and not just run right into football.”

In his only season as a starter, Jones broke Alabama records with a completion percentage of 77.4% and 4,500 passing yards last season. When McDaniels met with him virtually, it gave him a look inside of Jones’ decision-making ability. The technology also gave McDaniels the ability to share film and then ask questions about the play clips. It included videos of Jones at Alabama but also clips from the Patriots' offense.

“Whether that be their film and have him talk to you or you show some film of something else, and you might be able to teach him something and see how well he receives it,” McDaniels said. “You’re just trying to gain as much information about how the player thinks and learns, what he knows, what he doesn't know, how does he process? You know, what's the the best way to communicate with him?”

After the draft, Jones said he felt a connection with McDaniels because of those sessions.

“What I love to do is just talk football,” Jones said. “So, to get a chance to do it with Coach McDaniels is just awesome. He’s a great football mind, and hopefully we can just continue to build a relationship that we started through the Zoom process.”

Clearly, McDaniels felt the same.

“He certainly stood out in certain, obvious ways relative to throwing the football and command and protecting the ball and not hurting his football team,” McDaniels said. “So, a lot to look at and digest as you studied him.”

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Patriots rookie Mac Jones already earning respect, per Bill Belichick