The Patriots have a classic good-news-bad-news situation on their hands this week.
The good news? Rookie quarterback Mac Jones can take a hit.
And not only that. He can throw accurately, knowing he's about to be jolted. Against the Dolphins in Week 1, he went 9-for-13 when under pressure for 96 yards. Immediately after his fingertips left the football for his first-career touchdown pass, he was drilled by blitzing middle linebacker Elandon Roberts. Still, the throw was on the money.
Now for the bad news: Jones absorbed a whopping 11 hits on his 44 dropbacks (including penalties). Not all of those were logged on the official stat sheet, but Jones took two hits -- one from Roberts, one from Emmanuel Ogbah -- on penalties that struck those particular body blows from the record.
Thirteen pressures in one game isn't ideal. In 2020, the Jets allowed more quarterback pressures than any other team, per Pro Football Focus. They averaged 13.2 pressures allowed per game. But it's the 11 hits that are alarming.
Patriots offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo used a different word.
"We were disturbed by it," he said. "It's our job to keep him clean, and we need to do a better job of it. It comes down to individual fundamentals, and I'm certain myself and the rest of the guys are eager to get out there...and start working on these fundamentals so that we can try to alleviate that or minimize it happening in the future."
There might've been moments when Jones could've released the ball in a more timely fashion in order to avoid taking shots. But he averaged 2.39 seconds to throw, per PFF, which tied him for the third-quickest release time in the league Week 1. And his average depth of target, 6.5 yards, was short (25th).
The ball had to come out quickly. Miami blitzed him like crazy. He had no choice oftentimes but to get rid of the thing as soon as possible. And still he got croaked more often than anyone in the Patriots offensive huddle would've liked.
"I thought," David Andrews said, "Mac showed a lot of mental toughness... We gotta do a little better job protecting him at times. In my opinion, he took too many hits. But I thought he showed toughness. As a quarterback it's a little different, but I thought he showed some toughness, standing in there, making some big throws, taking the hits and keep moving."
On the positive end of the spectrum, Jones proved to his teammates and coaches that he could be knocked around, pick himself back up, and continue to perform.
"I was really proud of him and how he handled it," Hunter Henry said. "He had a lot of poise and obviously delivered the ball really well, sat in there in the pocket even when the pocket was coming down.
"He made some big-time throws that sometimes a lot of other guys aren’t going to make, just standing in the pocket and taking hits and different things like that. That shows a lot to us as guys, a guy that’s going to stand in there no matter what and deliver the ball."
They just don't want him to stand in and get rocked as often as he did in his professional debut.