Our Patriots insider Phil Perry answers your questions each week in his mailbag. Here's the latest edition...
Good question, Matthew. My personal opinion of Mac Jones -- based on everything I've seen of his game, everything I've heard from those within the organization, and everything I've been told by NFL folks who've evaluated his game -- really hasn't changed. In last year's offense, with an experienced quarterbacks coach and coordinator (Josh McDaniels handled both roles), he was one of the game's most productive young quarterbacks. Add receiving talent to the equation, opposing evaluators told me this offseason, and he should only improve.
The Patriots did add talent to the equation with DeVante Parker and Tyquan Thornton. But he's lost more in terms of continuity.
The coaching, the scheme, the language, the philosophies... all have been altered going into Year 2. So can we say with certainty he should be the guy in New England for the next decade? There are only so many quarterbacks in the league about whom you could say that definitively. But, in my opinion, he's a high-level starter in the right circumstances.
The circumstances at the moment aren't ideal, and it's worth looking at the coaching situation to see how much they're doing to help Jones develop.
The Patriots are at the bottom of the league when it comes to using quarterback-friendly concepts like play-action passes and run-pass option calls. They're last in play-action pass percentage this season (10.8 percent of Jones' throws) despite the fact that Jones is a top-10 quarterback when it comes to his yards-per-attempt figure when using play-action (9.8, 9th), according to Pro Football Focus. RPOs were a part of the plan in Week 2 -- Jones pushed for those to be incorporated into the offense in 2022 -- but he still hasn't thrown an RPO pass just yet, per Pro Football Reference.
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How the staff has prepared Jones and the rest of the offense for opposing blitz packages is worthwhile, too. Last year, the rookie had a rating of 87.6 against the blitz, according to PFF. Jones had an adjusted completion percentage of 73.6 and a 7-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio, absorbing 16 sacks on 196 blitzes faced (8 percent) in 2021. This year, Jones is last in the NFL with a 32.3 rating against the blitz. He has an adjusted completion percentage of 50.0 and a 0-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio, absorbing four sacks on 31 blitzes faced (13 percent).
Taking a closer look at how Jones has been protected, he's faced pressure on at least 30 percent of his dropbacks -- blitzed or not -- in each of the last two games. Jones faced that much pressure in six games last season, four of which came with starting right tackle Trent Brown (now starting at left tackle) out injured. Jones left his Week 1 game in Miami this year with a back injury after taking a violent hit when faced with an all-out blitz. Jones left his Week 3 game with the Ravens with an ankle injury that could threaten his availability for Week 4 and beyond.
Jones is currently last in the NFL in quarterback rating across situations (76.2) due in large part to his league-leading five interceptions. But are those turnovers just the cost of doing business in an offense that has a "different philosophy," as Jones explained when detailing his Week 2 interception in Pittsburgh?
That change in philosophy is clear. Jones is third in the NFL this season in average depth of target (10.4 yards) and leads the NFL in yards on deep passes that have traveled at least 20 yards or more (309 yards). But to what end? In targeting the team's No. 1 down-the-field option DeVante Parker -- whose deep-threat role is about as well-defined as any wideout in the league -- Jones has now been picked off four times.
There's a give and take there that Jones alluded to earlier this week when I asked him about the emphasis on deep attempts this season.
"I think explosive plays are always good," Jones said. "I think a lot of the really good teams in the NFL make explosive plays. Just being able to do that and then also hold on to the ball and have a fine line between the two I think is really important."
It hasn't all been bad for the Patriots offense.
They've been efficient on early drives, indicating that the coaching staff has put together impactful "scripts." They've played sound situational football at times -- including at the end of Week 2 and at the end of the first half in Week 3 -- which is a credit to the coaching staff. The running game has been very good at times, averaging just under 5.0 yards per carry in each of the last two games, thanks in part to the work of offensive line coach Matt Patricia.
But there are fair questions to be asked as to whether or not the personnel usage by the coaching staff has supported Jones sufficiently. Kendrick Bourne has found himself at the bottom of the receiver depth chart despite some advanced metrics suggesting he's one of the most underrated receivers in football. Patriots tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry have disappeared from a production standpoint.
And there are moments -- whether there's a player at the line of scrimmage who doesn't understand an audible, or ball-security problems (they're second-to-last in the NFL in giveaways with eight) -- when it's clear there's a lack of attention to detail on that side of the ball.
Is Jones "QB1" for the foreseeable future? He has the ability to be. But the situation he's been handed this year -- to this point, at least -- hasn't done much to help him etch that title in stone.
I think Brian Hoyer's leash will be lengthy. Bailey Zappe is smart and he's viewed as an improving young player in the Patriots' system. But his arm could probably use a season in the strength-and-conditioning program. And giving him as much time as possible coming from Western Kentucky would probably be best for his long-term development.
Expect plenty of runs in Green Bay. Not only would it make sense to roll with that kind of plan with Brian Hoyer behind center. But the Packers love to roll with nickel personnel and two high safety coverages. That should mean fewer (and lighter) bodies in the box for the Patriots to block when they hand off.
I think the Patriots actually have enough at that position. Damien Harris is a perfectly-suited first and second-down option. Rhamondre Stevenson, to me, is almost a third-down-plus back. Meaning he can do whatever the Patriots need on passing downs, and he gives them a bull of a back between the tackles on early downs if they want to use him in that way. Montgomery will have a role as a versatile chess piece and dependable pass-protector when he returns. But they're OK at this position for now.
Joe Judge is the quarterbacks coach. He's the one sitting next to Jones on the bench for the vast majority of between-series conversations. There are times when Jones has been frustrated, though, when Judge has given Jones a few moments to cool off. That's something they're trying to iron out in the early portion of the year here that came up in preseason.
They began by working on ball-security drills early in Wednesday's practice. The receivers, specifically, were the ones working the ball-security drills. Makes sense after late-game fumbles by Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne last weekend.
It's man-to-man work, Darryl. The Patriots are still among the league leaders in man percentage, despite losing both Stephon Gilmore and JC Jackson in the last calendar year. Bill Belichick's defense has veered toward 50 percent man-to-man through three games this year. And in man, Jones is the No. 2 graded corner by PFF. He's allowed just three catches for 46 yards and he's picked off a pass. Kudos to him for being able to transition from the slot to the outside as well as he has. Myles Bryant has been the primary slot option to this point in the year.
Hunter Henry is running plenty of routes, actually. Of his 123 total snaps, 80 of those (65 percent) have resulted in routes run. He's only stayed in to pass protect twice. Getting him more involved -- especially in the red zone -- would make a lot of sense for the Patriots moving forward.
Maybe that will shift moving forward. If not Marcus Jones, perhaps Jabrill Peppers would work as a punt-return option. It was surprising to see Bryant stay in that role after his Week 3 muff, though. He hasn't returned punts consistently since his senior year in high school so this is relatively new to Bryant.
It's all about restricting the outflow of information, in my opinion. Teams pay attention to what gets said in the media. Scouts look for details on game plans or tendencies based on during-the-week commentary. Less that gets said, the less opportunity an opponent has to take advantage of what gets said. How much does it actually matter in the end? Not much, in my opinion. But I believe that's the reasoning when we hear the types of back-and-forths we hear at times.
Looked to me like Dugger landed awkwardly on his right leg and may have gotten it caught in the natural turf in Pittsburgh while playing safety. He tried to break up a pass in the second quarter and almost over-extended, leading to an uncomfortable-looking landing on his right foot. He was at Wednesday's practice but his right leg did look stiff during the stretching portion of the practice that was open to reporters.
I think the combination of Rosen never blowing people away when he had a chance in the league with the fact that he wasn't viewed as a great personality fit (in Foxboro and elsewhere) has led to him not getting a ton of opportunity. He is in Cleveland as part of the practice squad at the moment.
At least a dozen. And he would've released a handful of platinum albums to boot if he'd spent his career going by his actual first name. No question.