FOXBOROUGH — One thing Patriots running back James White has noticed about rookie quarterback Mac Jones? His confidence has grown.
“The more you’re out there and the more you keep getting those repetitions, the more confidence you get,” White said Wednesday.
With Cam Newton still away from the action because of the NFL’s health and safety protocols, Jones and Brian Hoyer were the only quarterbacks at Wednesday’s joint practice with the New York Giants. Jones took the lion’s share of the reps, gaining another opportunity to work with the presumed starters in Newton’s absence.
He seized the opportunity, completing 18 consecutive passes at one point. Among the day’s highlights was a 20-yard pass floated perfectly to White on a wheel route during a two-minute drill. White made the back-shoulder grab along the sideline, which set up a field goal.
“I kind of got jammed up on the route a little bit,” White said. “I actually heard somebody scream, ‘Ball!’ So, that was kind of [telling] me the ball was coming. It was perfect timing, but a perfect throw and a big play in the two-minute drive.”
White credited Jones for his improving command of the offense.
“As a quarterback, you have to be the guy to kind of demand the best out of everybody,” he said. “Everybody is looking at you when they are in the huddle, so he’s getting better. Even though he’s a rookie, you have to know when you step into that huddle, you have to take control of the group. He’s learning that each and every day.”
Wide receiver Kendrick Bourne echoed that sentiment.
Said Bourne: “I think Mac is doing a good job, taking leadership, controlling everybody, having everybody in the right place and stuff like that, and making the team be a real team.”
Newton is expected to return to action Thursday for the second of two joint practices with the Giants. Through the three practices he missed, though, it sure seems like Jones has made a favorable impression.
“He’s working extremely hard,” White said. “He’s getting a lot of reps now. He’s taking control of the huddle and just trying to do the best he can, just making sure everybody is on the same page, so we can go out there and execute not just for one period, but throughout the entire practice.”
On the back of every Patriots helmet is an American flag.
But on the back of fullback Jakob Johnson’s helmet, there is both an American flag and a German flag. Johnson, now in his third year with the Patriots, is a big fan of the addition.
“Oh man, it’s cool,” he said. “Everybody wears the same uniform, everybody wears the same gear, but just to have that acknowledgment from the NFL that they are interested in growing the game and they’re acknowledging some of our unique paths to making it here, that’s awesome.”
Johnson was born in Stuttgart, Germany, and moved to Florida for his senior year of high school. He played college football at Tennessee before returning to Germany to play for the Stuttgart Scorpions of the German Football League in 2018.
After one season with the Scorpions, he joined the Patriots via the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program, an initiative designed to grow the league’s reach and provide opportunities for international players. Giants running back Sandro Platzgummer is a product of the same program.
The German flag on Johnson’s helmet is small but carries significance.
“Just to see that part of the game grow means a lot to — maybe not you guys — but it means a lot to the kids overseas,” Johnson said. “When I was back home training this offseason, making it to the league was never a thing that I thought was a viable option for people that played football overseas. But little symbols like that make it real, and provide a perspective for the kids that are growing on that path over there.”
A brief skirmish broke out between linemen during one-on-one drills midway through practice. Asked what happened, center David Andrews said he couldn’t remember, saying the parties were “just talking.” What were they talking about? “Baseball,” Andrews quipped … When explaining why he likes to stay late after practice, defensive end Deatrich Wise referenced a video from the late Kobe Bryant, who emphasized the importance of maintaining one’s fundamentals. Said Wise: “I always try to perfect my craft. Always try to master my work. I don’t care if it’s something small like stepping, eye control, eye discipline, whatever the case is. I always like to work on one little thing every day.” … Jon Bon Jovi was a special guest at practice, sporting a Patriots hat.