Can Mac Jones succeed in Year 2? Julian Edelman makes Tom Brady comparison

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Edelman shares his biggest concern for Mac Jones in Year 2 with Pats originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The arrow is pointing up for Mac Jones. After a promising rookie campaign for the New England Patriots, the 23-year-old has by all accounts enjoyed a strong spring and appears well-positioned to make big strides in his second season.

But Julian Edelman would like to add a quick word of caution.

The former Patriots wide receiver has been watching Jones' development from afar and believes New England's first-round draft pick needs to stay focused on a few key areas to find success in 2022.

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"If he strengthens up, and he uses last year for the starting point, and he doesn’t smell his own roses and he goes out and he gets better this year – because we ultimately see our biggest leaps from that Year 1 to Year 2 for that quarterback, I think he could be a good quarterback," Edelman said Monday during an appearance on the "I AM ATHLETE" podcast. "He's not quite there yet."

Edelman told our Tom E. Curran in February that Jones needs to "physically get stronger" to be better-equipped for the rigors of a 17-game NFL season. Jones appears to have embraced that challenge, but there's also a factor out of Jones' control that has Edelman a bit concerned.

Edelman pointed out that Tom Brady was aided by an excellent defense and a strong running game during his first four seasons as New England's starter -- and noted Jones doesn't have nearly that same supporting cast entering the 2022 season.

"You've got to look at the Patriots back in 2001 to 2004, those first three Super Bowls. I mean, they weren’t tossing the ball out the stadium. It was a defensive-built team," Edelman said. "That’s the thing that I’m worried about with the Patriots: Is their defense gonna be there to allow Mac to have this slow progression into becoming what he becomes?"

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The Patriots actually ranked second in the NFL in points allowed last season (17.8 per game), but their defense failed them massively in the AFC Wild Card Round when the Buffalo Bills routed them 47-17.

New England has several relative newcomers on defense this season, including linebackers Raekwon McMillan and Cameron McGrone and cornerbacks Terrance Mitchell and Malcolm Butler. If that new-look defense can't hold up, Jones might have to carry too much on his shoulders to make the Patriots competitive in 2022.

Conversely, if the Patriots can hold it down on defense and lean on a strong running game led by Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson, that will set Jones up to succeed by allowing him to make high-percentage throws and "control the game" rather than force the issue like some of his fellow rookie QBs had to do in 2021.

Jones very well could be the Patriots' most important player in 2022, but football is still a team sport, and the young QB can only go so far as his supporting cast takes him.