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New England Patriots tackle Trent Brown told Mac Jones “he’s not a rookie” during a recent practice session. Yes, Jones is literally an NFL rookie. He’ll make his debut on Sunday in Week 1 after winning the team’s starting quarterback job. From a mindset standpoint, however, Jones cannot and should not act like a rookie.
“This is his offense, and he can just lead it as such. We go as he goes,” Brown told reporters on Wednesday.
Jones seems to understand that. He has acted like a veteran quarterback since the early days of training camp when he would pull aside his teammates at practice after they had incorrectly run a route, whether it was second-year running back J.J. Taylor or veteran receiver Kendrick Bourne. Jones even lost his temper with receiver Gunner Olszewski on national TV after an error on third down in the preseason finale. Jones is uncharacteristically demanding of his teammates for a rookie.
“Yeah, I’ve been that way. I try to get it perfect. It’s not always going to be perfect,” Jones said on Wednesday.
That’s why Jones is occasionally the first person to call for the offense to redo a play when they make a mistake in practice. There are no redos in games, of course. So Jones figures he should take every opportunity in practice to execute the play as it should be.
“If the play doesn’t go exactly right or how we drew it up in the meeting room,” Brown told reporters, “ and we get out there and it doesn’t go exactly as planned, he’ll — on his own, without Coach (Bill Belichick) saying anything — he’ll say, ‘Do it over.’ And with some authority. As a young guy, that’s pretty cool to see.
“Him coming from (Alabama), it’s not really surprising, but him being a rookie in the huddle with guys that are much older than him, he just turned (23 years old) this week, it’s pretty cool. I’m excited to see him grow.”
Jones didn’t rise to the top of the Crimson Tide’s depth chart because of his physical tools. He’s not an outstanding runner and his arm strength is above-average but not in the same stratosphere as freaks like Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers and Josh Allen. Jones, instead, has built his career upon timing and accuracy, both largely a product of preparation and repetition. He wins games because he makes his teammates work through their errors with hope of eventually erasing them.
“Practice, especially, you have a picture of how things are going to go and you want it to be perfect,” Jones said. “And it’s not always going to be perfect, especially in the games. … In practice, you want to close the gap on being perfect.
“If something goes wrong in a drive, you can’t fix it in a game. But in practice, you can fix it. You just gotta identify what the problem was and talk it through. ‘Hey let’s get that again.’ Because you’re almost — you’re not mad — but you want to just do it right. It’s that muscle memory or whatever it may be.”
The Patriots offense won’t be perfect in Week 1. They won’t be perfect in Week 18. But as Jones said, they’ll work to “close the gap on perfect” over the course of the season. Jones’ effectiveness will depend upon the team’s willingness to support him through his errors, the moments where he will inevitably look like the 23-year-old that he is.