The Patriots spent a first-round draft pick on a quarterback for the first time in the Bill Belichick era, so they obviously like what they see in Mac Jones. But the Alabama QB will have a learning curve in New England.
That's because, despite playing in a pro-style program for a head coach in Nick Saban whom Belichick knows well, Jones ran a different offense for the Crimson Tide last season than what the Patriots have historically run.
Mark Schofield of USA Today Touchdown Wire joined Phil Perry on the latest episode of the Next Pats Podcast to break down the differences.
"Alabama's offense was heavy RPO ... and we know that's not what the Patriots did," Schofield said. "They did more of it last year than they did in years past, but according to Sports Info Solutions and their charted data, Cam Newton had 18 pass attempts on RPO last year. That was like 46th in the league. It was not a lot.
"So if you're going to look at Mac Jones as a one-to-one scheme fit, he's coming from a very heavy RPO offense to an offense that didn't do a lot of it. And so they're going to have to bridge that gap a little bit."
Jones had a monster 2020 season at Alabama, completing 77.4% of his passes for 4,500 yards with 41 touchdown passes and just four interceptions. As Schofield pointed out, Jones found plenty of success on deep passes, which haven't exactly been common in Josh McDaniels' Patriots offenses.
"Jones threw downfield a lot and he's very good at throwing the football downfield," Schofield said. "Slot fades, vertical routes, throws those with touch, timing and anticipation, and we all know that while last year they took some shot plays downfield, New England historically has been a horizontal-based passing offense. Quick throws, quick decisions and things like that."
Of course, the Patriots' offensive style was built around Tom Brady for the past two decades, and McDaniels showed a willingness to adapt to Newton's style last season with shorter throws and more power runs. So, if Belichick and McDaniels truly believe in Jones, they'll work with the 22-year-old to design an offense that highlights his strengths.
"While Jones conceptually fits what they want to do, I think stylistically there are going to have to be some evolutions in the playbook, in the passing game to sort of put him on familiar ground and ease his transition into the National Football League," Schofield said.
Whether those evolutions happen right away with Newton returning as the incumbent starter remains to be seen.