How Patriots have helped Mac Jones look like best QB from 2021 NFL Draft class

Call him “Easy Mac,” because the Patriots QB has made it look that way this season.

The Patriots opened eyes when they released Cam Newton and handed the keys of the franchise over to 2021 first-round pick Mac Jones just before the start of the NFL season. While there are many reasons for the hand off, among them was Jones’ reported mastery of the playbook and the offense.

While it’s true that Jones has looked in control of the offense the Patriots offense early on, there are still some warts that he has to work out. But hey, he is a rookie after all. 

Here’s why it’s worked out for Mac Jones so far this season:

MORE: Ranking the NFL’s best rookies so far from 2021 draft

Why has Mac Jones been good?

Back in the glory days of the Patriots dynasty, the offense was predicated on working the middle of the field, specifically targeting tight ends that would find holes in coverage and work the middle of the field. Well, what’s old is new again under Jones.

Bill Belichick went on a spending spree to try and juice up the Patriots offense this offseason, adding tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith to the mix, giving the Patriots that tight-end tandem they had been searching for entering 2021. 

With Jones under center, New England’s offense hasn’t particularly been a downfield, deep-threat offense, with the rookie primarily throwing short and intermediate routes through five games this season. The Patriots’ run-and-dunk offense has lead them to a 2-3 record on the season.

To dig a bit deeper: Per PFF, in terms of average depth of target (ADOT), Jones is the No. 34 ranked QB in the NFL (no dropback minimum) at 7.7 yards per target, the lowest number of any of the rookie quarterbacks. 

Jones has made a living in the short (0 to 9 yards) and intermediate (10 to 19 yards) games so far this season. PFF has him graded as an 81.7 thrower in the short throws and an 82.1 in the medium throws. Jones has thrown a whopping 124 passes within 10 yards and behind the line of scrimmage.

All of throws, by length and direction, courtesy of PFF: 

Left Center Right
20+ 2/8, 45 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 50.5 passer rating 2/9, 52 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT, 11.6 passer rating 0/2, 0 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 39.6 passer rating
10 to 19 8/14, 109 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 106 passer rating 13/19, 228 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT, 69.5 passer rating 3/4, 69 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 156.3 passer rating
0 to 9 17/20, 147 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, 114 passer rating 46/58, 366 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 97.3 passer rating 18/20, 118 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 91.3 passer rating
Behind LOS 5/5, 9 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 79.2 passer rating 16/16, 87 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 89.3 passer rating 5/5, 13 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 79.2 passer rating

To add another layer to it: Jones’ 19 attempts on deep throws (20-plus yards) is good for 19th in the NFL, and his 51.0 PFF grade in those throws ranks 41st among 46 passers who had dropped back to throw this year.

Simply put, without the numbers, hoopla and fanfare: Jones is executing what the offense is asking him to do. That’s not a bad thing, after all, when your QB keeps you in games.

While Jones — and every rookie QB in the class, really — has a lot more work to do to becoming a bona-fide franchise starter, at least the Patriots have put him in a position to be successful. The early success is not entirely like the other dude that the Patriots had at QB for like 20 years.

Whatever happened to that guy?