Why ex-Patriots assistant believes Mac Jones is 'special'


Mac Jones has turned a few heads this summer -- including that of a former New England Patriots assistant coach.

Longtime Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who retired from his position in 2019, told ESPN's Mike Reiss he's liked what he's seen out of both Jones and Cam Newton this preseason.

"I watched the quarterbacks to see what they look like after all the things that have been said. I was really, really impressed by both the quarterbacks," Scarnecchia told Reiss.

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Scarnecchia had high expectations for Jones before he even took a preseason snap. The ex-coach visited with the Alabama coaching staff earlier this year and watched film on the young QB, who amassed 4,500 passing yards with 41 touchdown passes and just four interceptions for the national champion Crimson Tide.

"When I watched their tape and saw the things they did, and the sophistication of it, you could see [Jones] is pretty special," Scarnecchia said. " ... He's smart. Gets the ball out fast. Knows where to go with it probably before the ball is snapped, which I think is half the battle.

"Pre-snap read, what are you seeing? Post-snap, what it really is, and then get the ball out when it is supposed to be out. He does all that."


That's encouraging praise from a coach who spent nearly two decades watching Tom Brady operate the Patriots' offense with precision.

But Scarnecchia pointed out that Jones' real test will come during the regular season against full-strength NFL defenses. When the No. 15 overall pick gets that opportunity in 2021 remains to be seen, as Newton still appears to be the favorite to start Week 1.

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"It looks like Cam has better command of the offense, and the ball seems to be coming out a little bit faster," Scarnecchia said. "And I think what they're doing with Mac Jones is everything.

"They're lining up in stuff that has gone beyond Basics 101 and into other things -- the empty backfield sets, the protection adjustments, all the stuff that goes with it. And he seems to be doing very well with it all."

Newton and Jones will make their final cases for the starting job Sunday night in the Patriots' 6 p.m. ET preseason finale against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium.