A common theme to Mac Jones’s press conferences is the quarterback emphasizing he needs to do better.
A quick audit through nine games, however, reveals a portrait of a rookie who just keeps doing that steadily. Through nine games, Jones leads all first-year signal-callers in completions (204) and passing yards (2,135). He’s on pace to throw for more than 4,000 yards – a feat accomplished by only three rookies: Andrew Luck (4,374), Justin Herbert (4,336), and Cam Newton (4,051).
Still, Jones has gone through some rough patches, but has had the support system in place to help him navigate his way through it.
“That’s obviously something you have to address, even in college or whatever, you have like a little dry spout of incompletions,’’ he said. “Just try to find a way to get back on track and do your job and it just comes back to taking a deep breath … and sticking to my rules.’’
He knows help is always at the ready.
“So, Josh [McDaniels] does a good job of explaining what I need to be looking at, and he always guides me in the right direction. [Brian] Hoyer does a good job of helping me, as well, so it’s great to have those guys just get me ready for the next series.’’
McDaniels has been impressed with the way Jones has handled the volume of information and responsibilities thrown at rookies and how he’s responded to the dip.
“I think Mac is working really hard to try and master and improve in all levels of quarterback play,’’ McDaniels said. “I think it’s important for us to keep in perspective that these are his first nine games in the NFL. We ask a lot of the quarterback position, mentally we ask a lot of the quarterback position after the ball’s snapped, and sometimes I see a lot of progress and things that don’t necessarily show up in the stat sheet. I feel like each day is an opportunity for him to grow and improve and I think it’s really important that we don’t measure … we’re really not worried about measuring right now.’’
Nelson Agholor said he makes it his business to help Jones flush the negative thoughts and stay positive.
“I love the kid,’’ Agholor said. “The most special thing about him is his passion and discipline toward football. He takes little things very hard and my job is to remind him how gifted and how hard he already works, that he can’t allow little things nag on him.’’
Flurry of roster moves
The Patriots downgraded running back Damien Harris and returner/receiver Gunner Olszewski to out among a flurry of roster moves ahead of Sunday’s game against the Browns.
The club also activated right tackle Trent Brown, who has been out since Week 1 with a calf injury, and placed linebacker Jamie Collins on injured reserve with an ankle ailment.
Defensive lineman Tashawn Bower and tight end Matt LaCosse were elevated from the practice squad.
Harris and Olszewski suffered concussions in last week’s win over the Panthers. Running back Rhamondre Stevenson, who also suffered a concussion in that game, remains questionable, leaving open the question of who could answer the bell.
The Patriots have healthy tailbacks Brandon Bolden and J.J. Taylor on the roster, as well as fullback Jakob Johnson. Additionally, tight end Jonnu Smith has 10 carries for 102 yards in his career, including four rushes for 20 yards this season.
The club also worked out free agent tailback Kenjon Barner, who was with the team briefly in 2018. He won the Super Bowl with the Buccaneers last season.
The Browns also are shorthanded in the backfield, with Nick Chubb (Covid-19 list), Kareem Hunt (injured reserve), and Demetric Felton (Covid-19 list) out. D’Ernest Johnson is poised to get the start for Cleveland.
Nick Folk in elite Patriot company
Nick Folk is tied for the NFL lead with 21 field goals. The 14-year veteran has connected on 21 of 23 overall. Three Patriots have finished first in the league in field goals — barefooted Tony Franklin (1986), Adam Vinatieri (2004), and Stephen Gostkowski (2008, 2013, 2014).
“Nick Folk is the epitome of mental toughness. That guy is everything you want in a teammate and he’s the person you want there when the pressure’s on,’’ long snapper Joe Cardona said last week. “He’s been a tremendous mentor to me and to Jake [Bailey]. I’m constantly in awe of that guy’s ability to come out and do his job and make everyone around him better.’’
No harm, no fine
Jones was not disciplined by the NFL for his ankle twist of Carolina linebacker Brian Burns following Burns’s strip sack. The league determined the incident “did not rise to the level of a fine,’’ though Jones could have been called for holding … Panthers tight end Ian Thomas was not fined for his taunting penalty against Dont’a Hightower … The Patriots will be looking to become the first team since the 2012 Bears to record a pick-6 in three straight games.