NFL ANALYST

Cassel: Mac Jones has earned the right to be vocal as a Patriots leader

NFL ANALYST

There's been a lot of talk about Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones this week and some of the comments he made after the team's loss to the Indianapolis Colts last Saturday.

I find it interesting -- the conversation about him being a rookie and saying the team didn't have a great week of practice leading up that Colts game, but at the end of the day he's not really a rookie anymore in the eyes of his teammates and the organization.

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He started from Week 1, and he's earned the respect of the team, the organization and also the rest of the NFL with the way he's played and the success the Patriots have achieved with a 9-5 record atop the AFC East.

When you're a quarterback it doesn't matter if you're a rookie or a 10-year veteran, it's how you perform, and at the same time the position you're in is naturally a leader. You have to have a voice, and I think it's in Jones' right to go out and say, 'Hey, we did have a bad week of practice and we have to practice better.' I don't believe it's going to create any issues in the locker room because everyone on that team understands they didn't perform up to their standard or expectations versus the Colts, and he's just stating the obvious.

 
Mac Jones says Patriots had bad week of practice ahead of Colts game

While the comments might have been taken by some people as, 'Well, he's a rookie and he shouldn't say anything,' I think it's the exact opposite. He's earned the right to say something.

When you're a quarterback, that comes with the territory. It's not a position where you're a wide receiver, defensive lineman or something else where you might not be as vocal. You have to have a voice as a starting quarterback.

There's different, subtle ways you can bring guys to the side and have discussions. And then there's times where you need to be vocal and yell at someone if they're not in the right spot, or hold them accountable. They might not always like it, but we're all trying to achieve the same goal and be successful on Sundays. If you're yelling at a teammate just to yell, that's one thing, but if you're giving constructive criticism, that's helpful.

Not only are you the guy who's constantly communicating inside the huddle, you have to hold everyone accountable. And that's the only way to achieve success is everyone working together, and particularly the quarterback being the coach on the field, while at the same time demanding excellence and making sure everyone is on the same page.

While the comments might have been taken by some people as, 'Well, he's a rookie and he shouldn't say anything,' I think it's the exact opposite. He's earned the right to say something.

Matt Cassel on Mac Jones as a vocal leader

Jones and the entire offense must be on the same page this week given the importance of Sunday's game against the rival Buffalo Bills.

The hardest part for any quarterback is blocking out the outside distractions. Everyone's going to be talking about the narrative around the game with first place in the AFC East on the line. You're going up against a good team within the division that you beat a few weeks ago where the weather conditions dictated a different gameplan than what we'll probably see Sunday.

It's so important to block out that noise, concentrate on the task at hand, and get the most out of each day in your preparation. If there was trouble with certain protection schemes you think could be an issue in this game, study those and make sure you're in lockstep with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in how he's going to attack the Bills defense. Just focus primarily on the opponent and what he needs to do to be successful because this game will be different than the first game.

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Another major factor could be a lack of wide receiver depth, depending on the statuses of Nelson Agholor, N'Keal Harry and Kendrick Bourne. That's going to be a big challenge and can definitely change how you call the game. It's also something they'll take into account in deciding whether to run the ball more or let the passing game loose.

 

But in any type of game, at some point you usually rely on the pass to get first downs, especially on third down. You can't just do what you did in the first game against Buffalo and expect that to be successful every week, particularly against a high-powered offense like the Bills.

You need to figure out adjustments, have more meetings during the week and make sure you're on the same page with every position group on offense. That communication isn't just with Jones on the practice field, it happens in meetings and with the coaches throughout the week and getting the new guys caught up to speed and understanding their roles.

A strong week of preparation will be critically important to avoiding another bad start and emerging with a pivotal victory Sunday.

Editor's Note: Matt Cassel played 14 years in the NFL as a quarterback, including four with the Patriots from 2005 to 2008. He serves as an analyst for NBC Sports Boston, appearing on Pre/Postgame Live, as a guest on Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast every Thursday, and as a columnist each week during the season.