Through three weeks, Mac Jones has exclusively gone up against quarterbacks drafted higher than him in their respective classes.
Jones and the New England Patriots have faced Tua Tagovailoa (fifth overall, 2020) and the Miami Dolphins, Zach Wilson (second overall, 2021) and the New York Jets and Jameis Winston (first overall, 2015) and the New Orleans Saints.
Jones, the 15th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, finally gets a reprieve of sorts Sunday when he faces a quarterback drafted 199th overall.
Trouble is, that quarterback is Tom Brady, the seven-time Super Bowl champion making his return to Gillette Stadium.
Asked Wednesday if he'd given any thought to Sunday night being his first game going up against a start quarterback in the NFL, Jones said that it's really just the Patriots against the other team, and that's how it always will be.
"It's not like one person versus one person, so I think that a lot of it is 11 on 11, and that's what goes into it, and that's how they're going to look at it," Jones said. "That's how every team looks at it. It's just you're getting a chance to compete in a primetime game, and it just kind of is what it is."
But surely Jones must feel some kind of pressure going up against Brady, nearly 20 years after Brady himself made his primetime debut for the Patriots?
"I think it just goes back to really with pressure, you just got to focus on doing what you're supposed do, and people who have jobs in high pressure situations, that's what they do," Jones said. "They do their job really well, and they prepare really hard, so it's all you can control, and once the hay is in the barn, the hay is in the barn, and you just got to go play, and I think everyone will be excited, and we're just going to be ready to play when it happens."
Jones said that he's never had any interactions with Brady, 21 years his senior, in the past, though he tried to emulate the soon-to-be all-time leading passer in NFL history.
"I watched a lot of NFL football and college football growing up, so just watching teams that were good, like the Patriots, obviously, learning a lot from all the quarterbacks I got to see on TV and different things that they do," Jones said. "Just getting the ball out and moving the offense down the field, so nothing specific."
It's likely both the first, and last time that Jones will get to face off against Brady in his career.
Obviously, no other quarterback Jones will see on the opposite sideline this season will carry the stature of Brady. No other starter currently on New England's schedule has won so much as a single Super Bowl, let alone seven, and only two projected starters are even over 30 in Matt Ryan (36) and Ryan Tannehill (33).