When mandatory minicamp gets underway in Foxboro later this week, New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones will have one significant advantage that he didn't have this time last summer.
Following a promising rookie season which saw him finish second in Offensive Rookie of the Year voting, Jones enters minicamp with a full year of NFL experience under his belt -- experience which comes with "a little more edge," Robert Kraft said in March.
That edge has translated into increased leadership from Jones, according to one of his teammates.
"It's just at another level now," Kendrick Bourne told Mike Reiss of ESPN last week. "He's more comfortable, more confident. He knows what's going on, and the muscle memory is there -- OTAs, then camp, and the season. He's just more locked in, more secure in his position."
Jones enters his second NFL season knowing that he's atop New England's depth chart at quarterback, unlike last year, when he still had to beat out incumbent Cam Newton for the job.
Reiss noted that Jones could be on track to become a team captain, something exceedingly rare in Foxboro for second-year players under Bill Belichick. An offensive player has never been a captain in his second season, Reiss noted, while just two second-year defensive players have earned the C in Jerod Mayo and Devin McCourty.
Bourne was among several Patriots players who attended Jones' house for a gathering on the first night of the 2022 NFL Draft and has been impressed with how the 23-year-old interacts with his teammates.
"He connects with all the players really well," Bourne told Reiss. "I'm proud of that dude, because it's not easy. Going into his second year after having a year like that, it's going to be a challenge, but he's a guy that likes challenges, like all of us in that Patriot building."