Should Mac Jones throw more downfield? Patriots QB shares his take

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Is Mac Jones playing too conservatively? Here's what Pats QB thinks originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Mac Jones has completed 73.9% of his passes through two games, good for sixth in the NFL among qualified quarterbacks. Pretty darn good for a rookie.

But Jones' critics would point out that the New England Patriots QB is averaging just 5.6 intended air yards per throw, the lowest of all QBs who have played two full games with the exception of Jimmy Garoppolo and Matt Ryan.

In short, it's easy to rack up completions when you're dinking and dunking. And while that strategy worked against a New York Jets team that turned the ball over four times Sunday, it may not against the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who come to town in two weeks.

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So, does Jones need to take more shots downfield, whether that's by offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels calling more aggressive plays or Jones taking more chances on the plays that are called?

"I wouldn't say that," Jones said Monday on WEEI's "Merloni & Fauria" when asked if he was passing up opportunities to throw more deep balls.

"... I feel like you take three or four plays or whatever it may be, whether it's in practice or a game, and you say, 'OK, I could have probably thrown that one.' But at the end of the day it's about taking what the defense gives you. If they give you the deep shot, then take it. If they give you the short, then take the short. It's kind of what the defense is doing, really."

Jones insisted he didn't feel New England's play calls are too conservative, noting the benefits of playing turnover-free football -- which bore out Sunday as Jets rookie Zach Wilson threw four interceptions in the Patriots' 25-6 win over New York.

"When you look at turnover statistics, the team that turns the ball over less usually wins," Jones said. "... As long as you're ending every possession in a kick, then things will be moving in the right direction. That's always what I've been taught.

"But I think there may be some things I can adjust, and I will do that and just listen to the feedback that I get. Obviously in college it's a completely different game. It's different here in the NFL, and you kind of just have to play possession football and try to stick to your rules and throw to the open guy. It shouldn't be that confusing or complicated."

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Jones understands he left plays on the table Sunday: He admitted to missing a wide-open Nelson Agholor deep on a trick play in the third quarter, instead throwing to tight end Jonnu Smith on a double pass. But the 23-year-old has no issue (publicly, anyway) with what McDaniels is dialing up for him so far.

"They’ve called good plays and Josh has done a good job preparing me in the red zone knowing what the other team is going to do," Jones said. "I definitely can just have those conversations with him to let him know that I can do better because I feel like it's more on me than anybody else."

With a deep running back group and a strong defense, it's no surprise the Patriots are taking a conservative approach with Jones early in his NFL career. Starting with the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, though, the No. 15 overall pick may be asked to push the ball downfield a bit more to keep pace with better NFL offenses.