FOXBOROUGH — Patriots quarterback Mac Jones says he hopes to play in Friday’s preseason game after sitting out the opener last week.
Few of New England’s starters logged snaps against the Giants last Thursday, so it would be surprising if Jones and other offensive players did not play at least one series against Carolina. Panthers coach Matt Rhule said he is expecting to face New England’s starters, although he will field mainly second- and third-stringers.
If Jones does see some action, one big question is: Who will be calling the plays?
Senior football adviser Matt Patricia and offensive assistant Joe Judge traded off the responsibility in the opener, with Patricia calling plays for veteran Brian Hoyer and Judge doing so for rookie Bailey Zappe.
Coach Bill Belichick has remained tight-lipped about the regular-season plan for an offensive play-caller, saying only that the team is going through “a process.”
Asked if he expects Patricia, the leading candidate, to call the plays moving forward, Jones deferred to Belichick.
“At the end of the day, I’m going to do whatever they tell me to do and do it to the best of my ability,” Jones said. “As is everybody on the offensive line and the skill players.”
With no official offensive coordinator, the play-calling duties have been split primarily between Patricia and Judge, though Belichick has taken over at points as well.
Wide receiver Nelson Agholor said that Patricia and Judge both do a great job with preparing the offense, so he is comfortable with either.
Players have remained vague on the details of the coaching setup, but many have stressed the importance of a collaborative environment.
“Whoever’s calling it, it’s our job to execute,” Jones said. “I think the communication has been really good. Even with assistant coaches and their position groups, you can tell it’s not just a one-headed monster. It’s a lot of different guys coming together: ‘Hey, what did you see on this?’ ”
Belichick said early in training camp that Jones would have input as the team adjusts to its new offensive scheme. Jones called the discussions between the quarterbacks and the coaches “fluid.”
“For them to be able to take some of our thoughts is really important,” he said. “The really good offenses in the NFL, you can tell that the play-callers and the quarterbacks are on the same page. I think we’re getting there. That’s the progress that we need.”
Rhule still has a soft spot for Patriots rookie wide receiver Tyquan Thornton, one of his players during his coaching tenure at Baylor.
“Tyquan Thornton is an amazing football player and an even better person,” Rhule said. “Competitive. The people in this community are going to love him. He’s going to play when he’s banged up. He’s going to do whatever he can to help the team. I love him personally, just as a guy, and he’s also a great football player.”
Rhule, Thornton, and members of Thornton’s family caught up on the field after Tuesday’s practice, bringing back memories of when the parties first met during the recruiting process.
“Oh man,” Rhule said. “I remember Tyquan’s family coming on their visit and sitting at our house. I remember going down trying to convince Tyquan to leave the state of Florida and come play for us at Baylor.”
Thornton went on to play four seasons at Baylor, including two for Rhule. As a senior last year, he caught 62 passes for 948 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Friends for now
After practice, several fans in Patriots jerseys clamored for Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield to come over and take photos with them. Mayfield obliged, but he knows that is not the norm during the season. “The two times I’ve played here, they have not been very pleasant,” he said … Belichick caught up with Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey for a moment following practice. McCaffrey called Belichick “an unbelievable mind of the game,” adding, “I have so much respect for him and the way he’s operated since I was growing up, watching the way he coaches football.” … Both teams gathered in a large huddle after practice while Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona, in uniform, led a Navy reenlistment ceremony. Cardona, who graduated from the Naval Academy, did the same thing in August 2017 following a joint practice with Jacksonville.