- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones showed promise in 2021. But how quickly can he develop into an elite pocket passer?
That’s one of the many questions the Patriots must consider as they prepare for the 2022 season. On paper, New England looks outmatched by a number of teams around the AFC. But that’s, in part, because Jones looked like a competent but quiet rookie in 2021. He was not outright winning games for the Patriots. If that changes — and Jones develops into the type of quarterback who can elevate his team and take charge of a game — then perhaps the Patriots will be better than everyone anticipates. So that begs the question: Will Jones be elite in 2022.
Let’s discuss that — and so much more — in this week’s Sunday Twitter Mailbag.
From what you’ve seen and heard, what should we expect to see from Mac Jones? Where will he rank vs. other QBs? Top 10 or 15?
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Let’s say, for the sake of simplicity, that Mac Jones left the 2021 season as the NFL’s 21st-best quarterback. (That is probably where I’d rank him, at least.) It’s not going to be hard for him to jump into the top 15. He was on cruise control, allowing the running game and the defense help carry the team to a postseason appearance. If Jones’ processing power and deep-ball accuracy kick in — like they should — he will probably naturally elevate himself in the rankings to roughly 15th-best.
Getting into the top 10 would be a massive leap for Jones. Let’s say the top nine quarterbacks in the NFL are Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Matthew Stafford, Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow, Dak Prescott, and Russell Wilson. When making the case for the 10th-best, I’d look at Kirk Cousins, Lamar Jackson, Derek Carr and Matt Ryan. That’s a crowded group, right? I think Jones could make better use of his supporting cast than he did in 2021. The Patriots have also added more weapons: receivers DeVante Parker and Tyquan Thornton and running back Pierre Strong. So it will be fascinating to see if Jones can leap past the Cousins-Jackson-Carr-Ryan tier.
It would certainly be a substantial leap. Is it possible? Absolutely, especially when considering how impressive Jones performed at minicamp.
What are your thoughts on Wynn moving to RT?
“I’m fine with keeping Wynn at LT for $11 million, but putting him at RT, where he hasn’t played, would make him the 6th highest paid at the position. Seems like the best option is to keep him at LT or trade him? Thanks!” -@_JakeTHamilton
I’ll be honest: I’m surprised. The Patriots drafted Wynn to play left tackle. He has been in that spot for the last four seasons. And for some reason, the Patriots aren’t happy with him there. Ultimately, they probably feel that his inconsistent play and his inconsistent injury status has necessitated a move. The other option, Trent Brown, has performed at a higher level, even if he is also regularly dealing with injuries. So perhaps it’s that simple.
The other factor that comes from this decision is the one you’re mentioning: right tackles make less money than left tackles. I think, at this point, they consider Wynn’s contract a sunk cost. They are tied to that sum for 2022. They might as well get the best version of him at right tackle. As they look to 2023, they will have more leverage to extend him because he’s suddenly a right tackle. Maybe with that in mind, they have a chance of locking him up with a multi-year deal.
Why do the Pats have so many open roster spots?
Three years ago when Jared Veldheer retired, they told Gunner Olszewski “get here tomorrow.” Right now, they have about 5 open roster spots. -@STIsmail
That’s a great question. Perhaps they’re unwilling to add more players because of the salary cap constraints. They haven’t even signed their rookie draft picks. Perhaps they don’t want to add more players because it means teaching more players — and they’re already swamped with the teaching process with the players on the roster. They’re teaching a new offense system with new verbiage, according to the players.
Ultimately, the Patriots probably feel like they have the players they need. And it’s that simple. They’ll add if they have to.
How has the CB group looked? Do you think they will be able to manage without JC Jackson?
They will manage, yes. But things have certainly changed. When a defense loses its top cornerback, that unit has to operate differently. Their safeties have to be more attuned to the top receiver. And the defense is more likely to use zone schemes to help mask the absence of a top-flight cornerback.
So that’s the big picture of how things are changing.
The actual players who will replace Jackson include some mix of Malcolm Butler, Jalen Mills, Terrance Mitchell and Jack Jones. Those four outside cornerbacks are going to fight for snaps while Jonathan Jones and Marcus Jones fight for snaps in the slot. Jones looked like a player with plenty of upside during minicamp. Butler was limited with an injury during minicamp. And Mills remains a steady presence. I’d bet those three will rotate on the outside.
What's status of Hightower? What are odds he comes back?
I would say there is a 30% chance he makes it back on the field. He is mulling retirement. And the Patriots seem to be embracing the youth movement they have at linebacker. They might see more of those youngsters and decide they’re not ready. But for now, Hightower seems like something of a long shot to play for the Patriots in 2022.
Who’s been the standout player at Corner so far at practice?
It has to be Jack Jones. At minicamp, he made a handful of rookie mistakes — and played victim to a beautiful deep ball to Nelson Agholor, who made an impressive leaping catch. But before anyone gets too excited about his offseason, let’s see how he plays in training camp when the pads go on and he faces contact against bigger, stronger receivers. He weighs in at just 175 pounds.
The Patriots offense used to use the power run to set up the pass? Might they now use their speed in the passing game to set up the power run game?
I’m not sure these things are mutually exclusive. The Patriots will use their power run game to complement their recent injection of speed by way of Tyquan Thornton, the fastest receiver prospect at the 2022 NFL combine, and Pierre Strong, the fastest running back prospect at the 2022 NFL combine.
I think Belichick ultimately will want to build this offense through his run game — because that’s still where the strength lies on offense. But as Jones improves and his supporting cast meshes around him, the passing game should come into greater focus.
Is Cam McGrone is a stud? Or a hope and a dream?
The only true answer is that he’s a hope and a dream. I say that because I have not seen the young linebacker play any contact football for the New England Patriots. So it’s impossible to have too much faith in a fifth-round draft choice who is returning from a severe injury.
I’m not saying he can’t someday be a stud. I’m just saying I’m skeptical of all the hype about a guy who hasn’t played a lot of gameday football over the last two years.
What’re the chances of more than 1 undrafted free agent making the team?
Very, very, very … very low.
As the roster is currently constructed, the Patriots don’t have space for any of their undrafted free agents. But I suppose that’s how it always goes when training camp begins. And somehow, a few undrafted players stand out.