Patriots QB Mac Jones explains why he winked at Dolphins LB Elandon Roberts before play

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Mac Jones was under center when he was calling out the Patriots’ play call. That’s when people saw it. Before the snap, the rookie quarterback winked at Miami Dolphins linebacker Elandon Roberts.

The video clip made its rounds on social media following the Patriots' 17-16 loss to the Dolphins. On Wednesday evening, Jones confirmed that he was in fact winking at the former Patriots middle linebacker. Considering that Roberts played in New England for the first four years of his career, it's reasonable to expect that he’d know the Patriots offensive system well.

On that particular play, Jones explained that he heard Roberts call out what the Patriots were about to do.

“It was just kind of fun and games, but yeah,” said Jones when asked if he was winking at Roberts. “It was just in the middle of the play. They actually like called out our play, so I was like, 'ah. Nice catch.' You know. Anyways, it was just fun and games.”

The Dolphins defense starts three former Patriots – Robert, Jason McCourty and Eric Rowe. Their head coach, Brian Flores, and defensive coordinator, Josh Boyer, also came from New England, so it’s not a surprise that the group could predict some of what was going to happen in the regular-season opener.

After Jones heard Roberts and winked, he said he didn’t change the play call.

“No,” Jones said. “I mean, I just stuck to what I was supposed to do. Sometimes they don't know the answers either.”

New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones throws the ball against the Miami Dolphins during the second half at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro on Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021.
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones throws the ball against the Miami Dolphins during the second half at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro on Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021.

Patriots running backs are focused on ball security

When the Patriots kicked off practice on Wednesday, it wasn’t a surprise to see the offense’s first drill of the week.

It was all about ball security.

Running backs started by individually carrying the ball down the sideline. On one side, they had a coach (either Troy Brown or Mick Lombardi) and on the other they had another teammate. Both the coach and teammate would grab and attempt to punch the ball out of the ball carrier’s hands. Following Sunday’s loss where the Pats fumbled four times, losing two, the message this week has been about protecting the football.

“We’ve always done it. Even previously before last week, but obviously there’s even more of a sense of urgency now after the first game,” White said of the ball security drill. “I think everybody knows the importance of protecting the football so just got to improve on last week and be better. Those guys will learn from it and become better players.”

The two fumbles lost came from running backs Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris. The final one, from Harris, was a heartbreaker as the running back was nine yards away from the end zone with minutes left and the Pats down by one point.

This week, Patriots running back coach Ivan Fears said he was disappointed by the end result from his group.

"The one thing I preach about more than anything in the world is good ball-security,” Fears said. “It was the classic thing that you wouldn't expect to happen, and that was to give the ball away, give the (expletive) damn game away in the last few minutes of the game when we're in scoring position. That was a hard one. That was a hard one to accept. For Damien, that stings, man. That stings like a son of a gun. The whole team is sitting there -- everything is based -- all their faith is in you. And he's had to ride with that.”

Between the fumbles and penalties (eight), the Patriots have a lot to clean up this week. White said he feels that the errors have helped his teammates and he expects them to improve because of the mistakes.

“Obviously that’s not what we wanted to do, but it’ll make guys better and it’s going to be on the forefront of everybody’s mind when we’re all running with the football – just protect it,” White said. “That’s what all defensive coaches are going to be preaching now after seeing the film last week that they can get the ball off us. For us to come back we need to protect it.”

Sep 12, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA;  New England 
Patriots running back James White catches the ball in front of Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Jerome Baker during the second half at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro on Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021.
Sep 12, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots running back James White catches the ball in front of Miami Dolphins outside linebacker Jerome Baker during the second half at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro on Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021.

Patriots still without Trent Brown and Kyle Van Noy

It’s starting to look like the Patriots will be without two big pieces this weekend.

On Thursday, the Pats were without Trent Brown (calf) and Kyle Van Noy (throat) for their second-straight practice. The team has one more session on Friday before leaving for New Jersey on Saturday. If either player misses tomorrow’s practice, it’ll be a near certainty that they won’t play against the New York Jets.

With Brown potentially out, the question is who replaces him at right tackle. When he left last weekend’s game, he was initially replaced by Justin Herron. Herron, however, was taken out of the game in the late third quarter and replaced by Yasir Durant. Durant played the final three offensive series against Miami. The Pats traded for the 23-year-old this summer, sending a 2022 seventh rounder to Kansas City.

At Thursday’s practice, it did seem noteworthy that Durant was in the first drill at right tackle along with Mac Jones and the starting offensive linemen.

Van Noy played 66% of the Patriots defensive snaps against the Dolphins. If he can't play against the Jets, the Pats could rely on Josh Uche or Chase Winovich more on Sunday. Uche played 15 defensive snaps and Winovich played 12 defensive snaps against the Dolphins last weekend.

The Patriots added two new players to the injury report on Thursday - Jonnu Smith (hip) and Quinn Nordin (abdomen). They joined Yodny Cajuste (hamstring) and Ronnie Perkins (shoulder). Nelson Agholor (ankle), Jalen Mills (ankle) and Kyle Dugger (wrist) were listed on the injury report, but as full participants.

New England Patriots middle linebacker Kyle Van Noy, left, takes down Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, right, during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
New England Patriots middle linebacker Kyle Van Noy, left, takes down Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, right, during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Mac Jones: Patriots QB explains why he winked at Dolphins LB