Patriots

Is Mac Jones still 'the guy'? Here's what Rob Ninkovich thinks

Patriots

Is it too early to worry about New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones' development?

After a promising rookie campaign, Jones hasn't yet shown that he's progressed in Year 2. He's thrown for 465 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions through the first two weeks of the 2022 season. The Patriots' offense has totaled 24 points.

Perry's Mailbag: Is concern over Mac Jones warranted entering Week 3?

Sure, it's only Week 3, but Jones is under a microscope in an increasingly-competitive AFC East. MVP candidate Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills are Super Bowl favorites, and the Miami Dolphins surrounded Tua Tagovailoa -- who had 469 passing yards and six TDs on Sunday -- with weapons. Jones needs to take the next step if the Patriots are to reach the playoffs and make a run in a loaded conference.

It's fair to be concerned about Jones, but former Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich isn't about to panic. He joined our Phil Perry on a new episode of the Next Pats Podcast to explain why he still believes Jones could be the future of the franchise.

Next Pats Podcast: Is Mac Jones slipping? Relax. | Listen & Follow | Watch on YouTube

"I do believe he is still the guy," Ninkovich said. "I'm kind of taking everything that I'm watching with a grain of salt considering I don't know if they necessarily put him in a great position this offseason. You have to understand, when you go from Josh McDaniels to a new staff or a new style, you have Matty P (Matt Patricia), Joe Judge, Bill Belichick, those three guys are probably making the rounds trying to implement an offensive system that's different. A new scheme, new terminology, new protections. All things that as a quarterback you have to be on every single thing that's going on. You have to know what's coming, you have to know what's next.

 

"I don't think they're there yet. I don't think they're there in a sense of being on the same page. Because really what a quarterback has to do, they have to be on the same page and wavelength of the OC (offensive coordinator). You saw it with Tom (Brady) and Josh. You see it around the league with coordinators and their quarterbacks, but that takes time. You can't just do that like 'boom, we have chemistry.' They're building that right now, getting comfortable with each other. I really think that you have to give them a little bit of time."

Ninkovich believes that rather than comparing Jones to the elite QBs across the league, we should focus on the encouraging characteristics the 2021 first-rounder brings to the table.

"He's still a very young player and experiencing new things," Ninkovich said. "The arm accuracy is there. The smarts are there. So he has all those intangibles. I think what people aren't seeing is, you turn on the Eagles, you turn on the Bills, you turn on the Ravens, you turn on some of these quarterbacks that are so electric and dynamic with running and moving in the pocket and throwing a 75-yard laser beam, that you get infatuated with that and that's what you want. But it's not necessarily what you need in the moment.

"You have Mac Jones, a capable, smart quarterback who can put your team in the position to win football games. Would I like to see a little more zip on the throws? Sure, why not. But at the same time, I still like what I see and the way he carries himself."

Also in the new episode: Thumbs up or thumbs down on RPOs? How can the Patriots defense stop Lamar Jackson? And what are the necessary building blocks to make Mac Jones a more confident player?

Check out the latest episode of the Next Pats Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network, or watch it on YouTube below: