fb-pixel Skip to main content
christopher l. gasper

Picking up troubling vibes from Mac Jones, and other Patriots thoughts

In the third preseason game, against the Raiders, Mac Jones was 9 of 13 for 71 yards with an interception.Chris Unger/Getty

The three-and-out has been an all-too-familiar sight for the Patriots offense this preseason. I figured I would take a page from their work-in-progress/Trust The Process playbook. Here are three thoughts on the Patriots on the precipice of the regular season, starting with the mental state of Mac Jones:

1. Remember the days when Tom Brady was the Patriots quarterback, and we would intently study his body language and parse his press conferences for any clue about his true feelings about who and what he had to work with offensively? We’re back there with Jones.

The second-year signal-caller does a great job of toeing the company line regarding the struggles of the offense while leaving just enough verbal bread crumbs about his dismay with the new “attack” initiated by the hand-picked duo of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, a duo long on fealty to Bill Belichick and short on offensive coaching experience.

No matter how many tepid votes of confidence Monotone Mac gives, his body language gives him away, indicating frustration with the reimagined offense. He’s giving up on plays in practice, prematurely bailing out of the pocket in preseason games, and spiking wristbands on the sideline.


All of it points to a quarterback undergoing a crisis of confidence in an offense with new terminology, new communication, and an emphasis on different elements. That’s alarming since so much of the Patriots’ ability to close the gap on the Buffalo Bills is dependent upon Jones leveling up this season. The redesign was intended to maximize Mac and be something closer to what he played in at Alabama. So far, no dice and no joy for Mac.

Jones is set to start his second season with the Patriots. Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

In seven Mac-led preseason drives, the offense went three-and-out four times and was intercepted another time. The passing offense has looked competent only in the shotgun; Jones registered 11 of his 13 completions from that formation.


On Thursday, Jones tried to put a Foxborough happy face on the proceedings, saying the offense has “ironed out a lot of things.”

“I just like to know why, and when the coaches explain that to me, they’ve done a great job explaining, ‘Hey, this is why we’re doing this,’ ” he said. “From there it’s my job to execute it and do a great job. That’s one of the things that I feel like we have ironed out.”

But he was evasive when asked directly if the ironing out means the offense has determined which plays work and which ones don’t; the zone blocking concepts come to mind. He again referenced the why but didn’t endorse the how-to.

“I think good teams, they take the plays in practice and they execute them on Sundays,” said Jones. “So we have to do that consistently, and when we get there, we’ll get there. But right now, it’s just finding the plays that we can do the best.”


That means Mac and the offense are still searching a little more than a week before the season opener against the Miami Dolphins. Couple that with another telling quote from Jones on Aug. 24, and you can see that the Patriots’ most valuable asset is short on faith before he faces the Fins.

“I think the really good offenses in the NFL, you can tell that the play-callers and the quarterback are on the same page,” he said then. “So, I think we’re getting there and that’s the progress we need. I’ve been really pleased with that.”


2. Despite all the aforementioned big-picture doom and gloom surrounding the Patriots offense and Jones’s obvious lack of conviction regarding its new direction, I still think the Patriots are going to surprise us in the opener Sept. 11.

Belichick has had all offseason to game-plan for the Dolphins. Miami’s defensive coordinator is former Patriots defensive assistant Josh Boyer, so the tenets of Miami’s scheme are familiar. Plus, there’s still enough institutional knowledge of the traditional Patriots offense to trot out those plays. The Patriots are still a game-plan-specific outfit.

It could be reminiscent of when the Patriots opened with the Dolphins two years ago at Gillette Stadium with Cam Newton. Everyone was expecting the Brady-version Patriots offense. Instead, Belichick zagged, and they rode a quarterback running game to victory.

The real test for this reconfigured offense isn’t going to come in Week 1. It’s going to come when they have only a week to dissect opponents like Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Green Bay. Then we’ll see what the revamped offense is or isn’t capable of.

3. Everyone loves a feel-good story. But the Patriots’ streak of 19 seasons with an undrafted rookie free agent making the initial 53-man roster is one of the most overrated things in Boston sports. Sorry.

This year’s winners were wild-haired special teamer Brenden Schooler and defensive end/outside linebacker DaMarcus Mitchell.


The Patriots prosper at undrafted free agent alchemy, for sure, but if you were really doing something special, you would be drafting some of these players over some of the draft duds. Part of the reason these players make the team is the Patriots’ spotty draft record between 2016-19, and an overreliance on aging veterans who are no longer here, like Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy.

Everyone remembers the gems the Patriots have pulled out of the undrafted free agent pile: Malcolm Butler, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, David Andrews, Jakobi Meyers, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, etc.

When it comes to undrafted free agents, Meyers is one of New England's undisputed success stories.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

But no one cites guys who were barely serviceable or below: Pierre Woods, Gary Guyton, Dane Fletcher, Bam Childress, Zach Sudfeld, Kenbrell Thompkins, Jordan Devey, Chris Harper, Gunner Olszewski, etc.

Sometimes guys make the team not because they’re genuine finds, but because they’re fringe players who are the best the Patriots can find to fill holes. Two guys who were trumpeted as UDFA finds — running back J.J. Taylor and linebacker Harvey Langi — were cut by the Patriots Tuesday, landing on the practice squad after going unclaimed by the rest of the NFL.

It’s fun to root for long shots. But it’s not some banner-worthy organizational badge of honor to keep this streak going. Stop treating it as such.

Christopher L. Gasper is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at christopher.gasper@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @cgasper.