Perry: Is Mac Jones' future still bright? Here's what the numbers say originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Mac Jones will have a chance to extend his season on Sunday in Buffalo. But the picture of his 2022 has been largely painted, and it looks like a Rorschach test.
Its meaning depends wholly on the eye of the beholder, especially if you start to squint hard at his numbers.
Before diving into the data, here's a quick summation of the last 17 weeks:
For three games Jones was among the deepest throwers in the league, a style that helped him become one of the most turnover-prone quarterbacks in the league. Then he got hurt and missed most of the next four weeks. Since his return he's led a conservative attack, cut back on his interceptions, and over the last two months is higher on the list of some rankings than you might expect.
To the statistics ...
Traditional numbers over the breadth of the season don't do Jones many favors, which makes sense given that the Patriots as a team are 17th in points scored (with a league-high seven defensive scores), 26th in third-down offense and 22nd in red-zone touchdown percentage.
Whether you like completion percentage (65.2, 18th out of 40 qualifiers), yards per attempt (6.8, 25th) or quarterback rating (85.8, 26th), there's nothing that screams above average.
The same is true of some of the more advanced statistics from which we can pluck.
Jones’ adjusted completion percentage (factoring in for drops, spikes and throwaways) is middling (74.3, 25th). His Pro Football Focus passing grade isn't strong (67.8, 23rd), nor is his expected points added (EPA) per play figure (-0.030, 26th of 33 qualifiers) or his completion percentage over expected (-0.6, 21st).
According to Sports Info Solutions' IQR metric -- a quarterback rating figure that accounts for dropped passes, dropped interceptions and other measures outside the quarterback's control -- Jones (89.0) is 23rd out of 40 qualifiers this season.
But there is a set of numbers that smiles on Jones' 2022 performance, indicating an ability to take care of the football while also effectively testing defenses down the field.
Per PFF, he's in the top 15 of quarterbacks in terms of his turnover-worthy play percentage (2.7, 13th). His big-time throw percentage is even better (5.0, 5th). (Big-time throws are defined by PFF as passes with "excellent ball location and timing, generally thrown further down the field and/or into a tighter window.")
For those wondering whether or not Jones is the future at the position in New England, those particular measurements represent real hope. The only other quarterbacks this season in the top 15 in both those categories? It's an impressive lineup: Aaron Rodgers, Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, Tom Brady and ... Andy Dalton.
OK. Maybe it's not a perfect cross-section of the best of the best in the NFL. But it's a pretty good indicator of effectiveness, it seems.
Given that this has been a year in which a great deal of attention has been trained on the coaching Jones has received, statistics like these may have added value when trying to project what he could be moving forward.
Phil Perry on Mac Jones
Checked out in 2021, too. The only qualifying passers in the top 15 in big-time throw percentage and turnover-worthy play percentage that year were Rodgers, Burrow, Brady, Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson and Kirk Cousins. Same for 2020, when Brady, Rodgers, Wilson, Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Matthew Stafford and Baker Mayfield landed in the top 15 in both categories.
What Jones has done over the last two months, specifically -- particularly in terms of some of the non-traditional box-score numbers -- may serve as another glimmer that the arrow is pointing up on him. Since re-taking the full-time quarterback gig in Week 8 upon his return from injury, Jones is PFF's No. 13 graded passer among those with at least 200 dropbacks. He's eighth in on-target percentage, per SIS, and 10th in the site's IQR metric.
Meanwhile, in that time, despite more screen attempts than any other quarterback (65), he hasn't been all dink-and-dunk in terms of his approach. His average depth of target in those nine games is 7.5 yards, which ranks in the middle of the pack in the NFL (17th). For reference, in the same period, Burrow's ADOT is 7.2 and Justin Herbert's is 7.1.
The reason some of those figures -- big-time throws, turnover-worthy plays, PFF grade, IQR -- are particularly interesting is because they try to isolate the play of the quarterback as an individual in a sport where it is extremely difficult (if not impossible) to divorce a passer from his coaching and the talent around him.
Given that this has been a year in which a great deal of attention has been trained on the coaching Jones has received, statistics like those may have added value when trying to project what he could be moving forward.
Of course, sometimes traditional stats do a pretty good job of telling us what we need to know about quarterbacks. The best (and healthiest) quarterbacks this year, the favorites for MVP -- Jalen Hurts, Mahomes, Burrow and Josh Allen -- are all inside the top five in yards per attempt. They're all in the top six in passer rating.
Jones isn't in that class. But lost in some of the devastating defeats the Patriots have suffered lately -- as well as some of Jones' emotional reactions in games -- is that it hasn't been all bad for the second-year quarterback. Especially over the last two months.
The picture painted by some of the numbers available to us suggests that Jones should get his job back in 2023, and that the Patriots should be willing to see how things transpire if the situation around him improves.