The New England Patriots are on the verge of kicking off a difficult second half of their season with three tough games in a 12-day span, which begins the hardest final eight games of any team in the league. They return fresh off their bye week with an important question looming: Why is Mac Jones playing worse than he did as a rookie?
A year ago, Jones looked like the quarterback of the future in New England. Now, it’s fair to wonder if he’ll even be the quarterback come year’s end.
The change in statistics has been drastic. Jones was the NFL’s top rookie quarterback last season. He finished the campaign 16th in yards per attempt (7.0), 15th in touchdown percentage (4.2), 19th in interception percentage (2.5), 15th in expected points added (EPA) per play and eighth in completion percentage over expected. In short, he was an average to slightly above-average quarterback.
This season, Jones’ numbers have dropped in every one of those categories. He ranks 20th in yards per attempt (6.8), 32nd in touchdown percentage (2.4), 33rd in interception percentage (4.2), 26th in EPA per play and 16th in completion percentage over expected. In short, he has been a below-average quarterback — and is near the worst in the league in some categories.
How did it get to this point? Who is to blame? How did Jones go from the best rookie quarterback last season to one bad enough that he was briefly benched for Bailey Zappe? And how do the Patriots get Jones back on track amid a season in which they still carry playoff hopes?
With the help of our Ted Nguyen, Chad Graff breaks down what has happened to Jones, identifying his three key areas of struggle.
Play calling and coaching
Chad: Any discussion of Jones’ regression has to start here. From the outset, Bill Belichick’s decision to replace Josh McDaniels with Matt Patricia and Joe Judge seemed a curious one. Jones thrived with McDaniels, the team’s longtime offensive coordinator who left for the head coaching job with the Raiders.
But when Patricia and Judge arrived, they (along with Belichick) began changing the offensive playbook, including the verbiage that Jones had used. They did it, they said, to simplify things.