The Mac Jones era in New England is upon us.
The 22-year-old made his preseason debut on Thursday late in the first quarter and was greeted with a standing ovation. The stats — 13-for-19 for 87 yards — don’t jump off the page, but the young QB looked poised and comfortable throughout as he battles Cam Newton for the starting job. He also made some smart decisions with the football and was not afraid to take shots down the field in the Patriots’ 22-13 win over Washington.
On his first possession, Jones completed 2 of 5 passes for 20 yards and led a 10-play, 43-yard drive that ended in a 50-yard field goal to push New England’s lead to 6-0. Jones’ first completion was a 15-yard pass to Kristian Wilkerson on a comeback route.
Then Jones displayed his accuracy and anticipation by fitting the ball through a tight window for a 13-yard pickup to Kendrick Bourne. Next, he showcased his arm strength and deep-ball accuracy by firing a shot to Wilkerson in the end zone. The ball, however, slipped through his hands but was on target.
“He came and talked to me, and we talked it out about just his expectation. Every young quarterback goes through it – the excitement, the anticipation,” Newton said of Jones. “He wants to be so perfect, and I see his preparation is always pristine. That’s what I admire about him.”
The rookie played through the second and third quarters before being taken out for Brian Hoyer. Head coach Bill Belichick upped their tempo noticeably on the first possession of the second half and called multiple quick-hitters to see how Jones reacted.
“We’ll look at it on film and see,” Belichick said of Jones’ performance. “Some good things, plenty of things we can improve on. Same with everybody.”
The No. 15 pick out of Alabama, Jones threw for 4,500 yards, 41 touchdowns and four interceptions while setting the NCAA single-season record for completion percentage with 77.4 percent. Jones led the Crimson Tide to a national championship and set a championship record by throwing for 464 passing yards.
For now, Jones is still seen as the backup to Cam Newton. The 32-year-old Newton played on two drives and completed 4-of-7 throws for 49 yards. Newton spent last season in New England and threw for 2,657 yards, eight touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. He was benched multiple times for poor performances. If that happens again this year, Jones has an opportunity to take his starting position.
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