All eyes were on Mac Jones when the New England Patriots rookie quarterback made his much-anticipated preseason debut Thursday night versus the Washington Football Team.
Jones was solid but not spectacular. After veteran Cam Newton started and played the first two drives, the rookie QB took over the offense for the next five series. He completed 13 of 19 pass attempts for 87 yards, although nearly all of his playing time came against backups on Washington's defense. Jones nearly connected on a few deep passes, including one on his first drive.
What did head coach Bill Belichick think of Jones' first taste of preseason action?
“I think really it’s pretty much the same for everybody,” Belichick said during his Friday morning press conference. “Some good things, so things that we need to -- just in general, we need to play faster and react faster. That’s every position across the board. Practice is practice, but things happen at game speed and that’s something that I would say everyone needs to improve on. Certainly at the quarterback position, but every other position, too.
“We haven’t had the live game exposure until (Thursday) night, so it’s a good opportunity for us to recognize how fast things are going to happen and have to match that speed. I think the speed of the game for all of the rookie players was a little bit different, certainly than anything we’ve been able to practice.”
Next week's joint practices with the Eagles before Thursday's second preseason game in Philadelphia will be a huge opportunity for Jones to establish himself as the top candidate to start Week 1 of the regular season. Joint practices allow Belichick to create all different situations (two-minute drill, red zone, etc.) versus another team's defense, thus creating quality reps for his players, especially the quarterbacks.
Jones didn't win the job Thursday night, but he definitely showed some of the qualities (poise, accuracy, etc.) that made him worthy of a first-round draft pick, which is encouraging for the Patriots.