Throughout the offseason, a major topic of discussion for the New England Patriots was the development of Mac Jones. Jones had a solid rookie season after being selected 15th overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, showing that he was at least capable of being a successful game manager.
He helped lead the Patriots back to the postseason with a 10-7 record last season, but if they wanted to return to the level of success they had with Tom Brady, Jones would need to elevate his game. The work that Jones put in during the summer was praised by head coach Bill Belichick and it looked like he was ready to take the Year 2 leap that so many quarterbacks do.
However, once the games got underway, it was evident that Jones had a ton of work left to do. He played okay football the first two games of the season against the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers, but the bottom fell out in Week 3 against the Baltimore Ravens.
Jones threw three interceptions in the game and was injured in the process. He missed three games with an ankle injury as Brian Hoyer didn’t make it through one half before getting injured himself, thrust Bailey Zappe into the starting role. Zappe went 2-0 as a starter and some believed he could overtake Jones as the starter.
Those opinions got stronger after Jones returned from injury and struggled mightily against the Chicago Bears. He was benched on Monday Night Football after going 3-for-6 for 13 yards and an interception in favor of Zappe.
It is easy to understand why the change was made as Jones has not been reliable this season when throwing the ball. Turnovers are a major area of concern as he currently has the second-worst touchdown-to-interception ratio in the NFL at 0.57, as he has only four touchdowns compared to seven interceptions.
Some of the names on that list aren’t surprising, such as Kenny Pickett, the Pittsburgh Steelers rookie playing behind a makeshift offensive line without a running game to speak of to take pressure off of him. Jones has neither of those issues to deal with, which makes his performance all the more concerning.
While it is a small sample size, Jones could be starting to turn a corner. He has not thrown an interception in his last two starts against formidable defenses in the Indianapolis Colts and New York Jets. His stat line against a stingy Jets secondary was especially encouraging as he completed 85.2 percent of his passes for 246 yards.
If he can put together more performances close to that level, with a little more scoring punch, the Patriots are going to win plenty of games down the stretch. With one of the best defenses in the NFL, New England doesn’t necessarily need Mac Jones to win games for them, they just need him to not lose any based on his performance.