Mac Jones airs frustration over the continued struggles of his offense in Vegas

·6 min read

Perry: Jones clearly frustrated with a dud offensive performance in Vegas originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

LAS VEGAS -- That wasn't how the night was supposed to go.

Vegas planned on resting its top 30 or so players Friday night. The Patriots, meanwhile, wanted to get their starters a little bit of playing time in the preseason finale. But Bill Belichick indicated to his team's flagship radio station ahead of kickoff that his top players wouldn't be out there too long.

What happened was the Patriots first-team offense played the entire first quarter and into the second, struggling to build any rhythm or positive momentum despite playing Raiders reserves.

Patriots-Raiders takeaways: New England's offense struggles mightily again

"That wasn't one of our better halves of football," Belichick told Steve Burton of WBZ TV before the second half began.

Frustration set in for New England's second-year quarterback Mac Jones after his third and fourth series of the night.

His first two series ended with a three-and-out and an interception, respectively. After drive No. 3 (when the Patriots went three and out), Jones got to his seat on the sideline, grabbed his electronic tablet, and spiked it behind the bench. After drive No. 4 (a 10-play drive that resulted in a field goal), Jones paced on the sideline briefly and tossed his play-calling wristband aside once he got back to the bench. Eventually the wristband was returned to him and he returned it to his left arm. But Jones' night was done at that point.

He finished completing 9 of 13 passes for 71 yards and one interception. He was sacked twice for 19 yards. In all, the Patriots offense picked up 74 total yards on 24 plays, for an average of just over three yards per play. The first-teamers for the Patriots were flagged for two penalties -- a hold on Mike Onwenu and a pass interference call on DeVante Parker -- and on six run plays they gained a total of three yards.

Jones addressed those moments of frustration on the sidelines during his postgame press conference.

"I think I care a lot about this game," he said. "I sometimes get a little bit too passionate. But at the same time... don’t let it carry over. I don’t think I did that. After the interception and all that I just try to clean the plate and start fresh. Sometimes that’s getting the frustration out and moving on.

"Obviously I need to do a better job of just playing the next play. Don’t let one little play get frustrating. It’s the preseason. You don’t know how many plays you’re going to play. But it doesn’t really matter. Just go out there and give your best effort every play. Sometimes it’s hard to find a rhythm, but that’s what you've got to do regardless of how much you’re going to play. We can do better with that. And we will."

When Belichick was asked if he would preach patience to a player exhibiting frustration in a preseason game, understanding meaningful snaps are still two weeks away, Belichick didn't go into much detail.

"I don't know," he said. "I'm sure everybody has their emotions."

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It was a rough night for the offensive line, which allowed a sack on the first third-down of the game. Jones was also hit by a free runner on a corner blitz on New England's second drive. He was sacked again late in a down early in the second quarter. And on Jones' final third-down throw of the night -- a heave out of bounds toward the Raiders end zone -- he appeared not to trust his protection and scrambled behind the line when he may have had more time to work in the pocket.

"I just gotta do a better job stepping up and delivering the throws, too," Jones said. "It’s not all how it looks sometimes. Right now we’re just trying to run plays and see what we can do. It’s not like we’re trying to scheme everything up. Sometimes that plays a factor. You just gotta go out there and execute the plays that are called.

"We know what we’re trying to do. We’re just trying to run our base stuff and see what we can do with it. Sometimes it doesn’t look as good as you want. But at the end of the day we need to be able to execute base plays, scheme plays. All that stuff. It definitely needs to look better.

"I just gotta do a better job getting the ball out, stepping up in the pocket instead of running around, putting my line in a bad position. That’s something I always pride myself [in] is, 'Hey, I’m gonna be right here behind the center, and you guys block for me and do your thing.' We have good players up there."

The blocking in the running game might've been as big an issue. As the offensive line has adjusted to a new scheme and a new mode of communication this summer, yards in the running game have been hard to come by in practices. When tasked with running the wide-zone plays that have been emphasized in the new Patriots offense this offseason, the Patriots gained -12 yards -- including the Onwenu 10-yard holding penalty.

I care a lot about this game. ... I sometimes get a little bit too passionate.

Mac Jones

When the Patriots ran some of the types of runs that have been staples of theirs for years, they had more success. A "power" run with Onwenu as a pulling guard earned Rhamondre Stevenson six yards. What looked like "toss crack" -- the play that gave the Patriots a walk-off win in Super Bowl 51 -- ended with a Stevenson 13-yard gain.

Those were among the handful of positive plays for the Patriots offense. Jones also converted a fourth-and-three play with a 12-yard toss to Kendrick Bourne that helped keep their field-goal drive alive.

Otherwise, after four mucked-up drives against second- and third-stringers, the Patriots offense and its coaches have plenty of work to do. They have about two weeks before their regular-season opener in Miami on Sept. 11.

"It wasn’t very good out there," Jones said. "We’re all going to come together and be strong. I hate saying it’s the preseason, but there’s a lot you can learn from preseason games. It’s not like we are in the middle of the season here. you want to peak when you want to peak. Right now, we are where we are.

"We’re going to just keep growing and keep climbing the mountain. That starts with me, the players and obviously the coaches. The coaches are giving really good effort. They are doing everything they can to put us in position. We just got to do a better job of playing out there.

"Everybody’s working hard. But it doesn’t matter if you can’t perform on game day. We gotta put it on the field. Put the performance on the field and bring it all together.