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Patriots’ Josh McDaniels on Mac Jones: ‘I trust him completely’

Mac Jones has not had trouble on short passes, this one to Hunter Henry at practice.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

FOXBOROUGH — Through two weeks, Patriots rookie Mac Jones is unsurprisingly navigating the decision-making process as NFL quarterback.

“There’s definitely times when I watch the film and I wish I threw the ball down the field more,” Jones said Wednesday afternoon.

According to Next Gen Stats, Jones averaged just 4.6 yards per passing attempt against the Jets in Week 2. That is the fourth-lowest mark in a game this season. During New England’s 25-6 victory, Jones attempted only two passes that traveled at least 20 yards past the line of scrimmage.

One missed opportunity came in the first quarter, with the ball at New York’s 33-yard line. The Patriots executed a gimmick play in whichJones flipped the ball to running back James White, only to have White throw it back on a lateral. Wide receiver Nelson Agholor beat his defender inside the 15-yard line and was open with a clear path to the end zone, yet Jones elected to hit tight end Jonnu Smith, also open, for a 19-yard gain.

The Patriots ended up scoring a touchdown two plays later, on a 7-yard rush by White, but the series seemed to reflect the team’s conservative passing attack thus far.


On the season, Jones has registered just 15 passing attempts with more than 10 air yards. He’s averaging 5.6 air yards per passing attempt, which ranks fifth lowest in the league.

The more cautious passing attack has been effective, as Jones has completed 73.9 percent of his attempts with no turnovers. The Patriots, however, have the worst red zone scoring percentage (28.6 percent) in the league.

Mac Jones and Josh McDaniels talk during a break at a recent practice.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

On all drives, the offense has found the end zone only twice and settled for seven field goals.

“Obviously, you want to score touchdowns,” Jones said. “You can’t be too conservative or too not. You kind of just have to do what you do and read your reads. The points will come.”


Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was quick to note there are multiple factors that affect a quarterback’s ability to attack downfield, from route running to pass protection. The latter has certainly played a role, with starting offensive tackle Trent Brown sidelined for all but seven snaps through two games.

As for whether the play-calling has limited Jones? While the Patriots have seemingly relied on a “dink and dunk” offense, McDaniels expressed the utmost confidence in his quarterback.

“I trust him completely,” he said. “Believe me, there’s not a whole lot we’re holding back for him.”

Jones said he’s still determining the best way to handle each play. When is the right time to test the limits? Which plays are worth extending? When is it smarter to throw the ball away and move on to the next down? He described his method as “trial and error.”

“It’s hard when you’re really competitive and you want to keep the play alive or you want to hold the ball or whatever the situation may be,” Jones said. “But, at the same time, you kind of have a clock in your head of when things are supposed to happen.”

Mac Jones sounds like a guy who wouldn't mind taking a few more shots downfield.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

McDaniels made it clear the Patriots want to be able to integrate deeper passes into the offense. He also stressed the importance of taking calculated risks while playing smart football.

As Saints coach Sean Payton noted Wednesday, the Patriots have an impressive record, 108-7, when they’ve won the turnover battle at Gillette Stadium since 2001.


“There’s an important balance between closing your eyes and heaving it deep when it’s not there,” McDaniels said. “I want him to protect the football, and I want him to be aggressive when there are times to be aggressive.”

Echoed Jones: “You can’t chase plays that are not there or you think might be there.”

There’s certainly plenty of time for the offense to continue to come together.

“Certainly, you want to be able to attack all areas of the field and force the defense to defend everything,” McDaniels said. “We’ll work hard to try to continue to do that. I know I can do more in that area to give us chances. I think there’s also the balance of the timing of the game, the score, the situation. You’re weighing risk or reward.”

Nicole Yang can be reached at nicole.yang@globe.com.