“Mac Jones sure looks like he’s the Patriots’ starter,” Breer wrote. “I was out at New England’s OTAs last week, and if you dropped in there from Mars and I asked you who the first quarterback was, I don’t think you’d have much problem figuring it out.”
“Jones was taking snaps from starting center David Andrews during early walkthrough periods,” Breer added. “He was with the first group in just about every drill. He was with the monied skill-players during seven-on-seven work. I’m told, additionally, that’s really the way it’s been throughout the offseason program.”
Doubts surrounded Jones after a subpar 2022 season and the emergence of Bailey Zappe. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick even “shopped” Jones according to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio before Jones trade rumors flamed out.
“I don’t think Jones is entrenched the way, say, Patrick Mahomes is in Kansas City or Josh Allen is in Buffalo, or even his draft classmate Trevor Lawrence is in Jacksonville,” Breer wrote.
“That said, where Bill Belichick has left the door open for a competition with his words, the coaching staff’s actions will tell you that the path to Bailey Zappe winning the job is very, very narrow — mostly in that it looks like he’ll have fewer opportunities than Jones, which means Zappe will have to absolutely crush it with those opportunities to create a real summer QB derby,” Breer added.
Zappe has a much smaller sample size of work compared to Jones with just two career starts. Jones has 31 career starts and one playoff game under his belt.
“Both players, for what it’s worth, have been in the building daily, starting in the 6 a.m. hour and regularly staying through dinner time. But this is very clearly Jones’s job to lose,” Breer wrote.
Patriots Make Strides With OC Bill O’Brien
Breer also noted that new Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien has made a significant difference already. O’Brien looks to turn around a Patriots offense that sputtered with 21.4 points per game in 2022.
“The Patriots practice I saw [which again, I’ve heard mirrors the ones closed to the media], moved efficiently, with the offense looking crisp and put together and Jones clearly looking like the team’s best quarterback,” Breer wrote.
“I’d say that clarity and consistency give everyone a chance to bounce back, and the team to get a cleaner assessment on its 2021 first-rounder at the game’s most important position,” Breer added.
Mac Jones’ Rookie Seasons Leaves Questions Unanswered
Jones’ 2021 season begs the question of which Jones the Patriots will get in 2023. He shined as a rookie in 2021 before his play regressed in 2022.
Under former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Jones threw for 3,801 yards and 22 touchdowns versus 13 interceptions in 17 games for 2021. Jones nearly won Offensive Rookie of the Year along the way.
New England’s experiment of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge coaching the offense in 2022 didn’t pan out after McDaniels took the Las Vegas Raiders head coaching job. Jones stumbled with 2,997 yards for 14 touchdowns versus 11 interceptions in 14 games.