Next Pats: How the Patriots can set Mac Jones up for a Year 2 leap

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Next Pats: How the Patriots can set Mac up for a Year 2 leap originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Mac Jones enjoyed a solid rookie campaign, but the New England Patriots will hope their young quarterback takes a significant step forward in Year 2.

For that to happen, the Patriots will need to do their part. That means building around their 15th overall draft pick and potentially giving him another weapon or two to work with.

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So, where should New England start this offseason to set Jones up for success in 2022? USA TODAY's Mark Schofield joined Phil Perry on the latest episode of the Next Pats Podcast to share his thoughts.

Next Pats Podcast: How the Patriots can set up Mac Jones for a Year 2 leap | Listen & Follow | Watch on YouTube

Schofield believes the first step for a Mac Jones leap in Year 2 is for him to start throwing it more downfield, especially on play-action.

"When they go play-action, he's kind of throwing it underneath. He's not attacking downfield," Schofield said. "If you think back to when I was on with you earlier this year, right after they drafted him, I talked about the elements of the Alabama offense. When he went play-action, when he went RPO, he was attacking downfield. He's kind of flipped it this year.

"He's attacking downfield almost off of schemed shot plays where we're just going to go vertical. But when it's play-action, he's checking it down, he's throwing it underneath, he's throwing those crossers. Which are a core component of their offense, don't get me wrong, but I'd like to see him off of play-action in the year ahead be able to attack more downfield."

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To help Jones get more comfortable with making those types of throws, Schofield believes the 23-year-old needs another reliable weapon. He names one potential Patriots fit in the 2022 NFL Draft.

"I do think that's a critical component for any young quarterback," Schofield said. "I'm curious how they handle it. Do they look at say, a guy like Drake London from USC? A bigger-bodied, X-type receiver who can win on the boundary. There's going to be a lot of discussion about, 'Oh, he's a contested catch guy. Is he just N'Keal Harry again?' I think he can separate better than he's getting credit for right now.

"As the draft process goes along, people are going to see him beat impressive linemen at the line of scrimmage, winning on slant routes early in the down, not just a guy that you're throwing back-shoulder throws."

Also discussed in this episode: Schofield recaps why Mac Jones had a successful rookie season. In which area did Jones improve the most in Year 1? Jones has to get better at _______ this offseason. Miguel Benzan on the Patriots’ cap, and what it will take to keep J.C. Jackson.

Check out the latest episode of the Next Pats Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network, or watch on YouTube below: