Patriots Sent a Potentially Harsh Reality Check on Mac Jones’ Ceiling

Getty Mac Jones, New England Patriots

Sometimes, the toughest concepts to grasp are the ones rooted in facts.

Following Week 8, Heavy Sports’ Matt Lombardo sent a strong message on the New England Patriots and their starting quarterback Mac Jones that might be tough to swallow. Jones has not had the greatest season through the first eight weeks.

He just returned from an injury that kept him out for three weeks. When he returned, he was pulled after three disastrous series during a primetime loss to the Chicago Bears in Week 7.

In Week 8, he started in the Patriots’ win over the New York Jets, but he was less than spectacular. He threw an 84-yard pick-six that was called back after a questionable roughing the passer called wiped out the play. Through Week 8, Jones has thrown just 3 touchdown passes and 7 interceptions, with a completion percentage of 65.9%.

The negative trend for Jones began during the second half of his rookie season. Lombardo suggests what you see might be what you get with Jones.

“There is now a significant body of work to come to the conclusion that this — a 65.9% completion percentage, throwing an interception on 5% of his dropbacks, while accounting for just 993 yards with 3 touchdown passes — may be Jones’ ceiling,” Lombardo wrote on October 30.

In case you’re wondering, Jones has played in 22 regular season games and one postseason contest. He’s had two complete, uninterrupted training camps and thrown a total of 659 passes during his career.

Is that enough of a sample size to make the sort of statement Lombardo is making on Jones?

Examining Mac Jones’ Performance Since Rookie Season

Looking back to the 2021 season, in a vacuum, Jones appeared to have had a strong rookie campaign. That’s mostly true, considering he helped lead the team to a 10-7 record and a playoff berth.

However, the last quarter of the year was pretty forgettable for Jones. On December 6, the Patriots traveled to Orchard Park and took on the Buffalo Bills in a division battle deeply affected by cold temperatures and blustery winds. Bill Belichick elected to limit Jones to just three pass attempts.

The Patriots won the ugly primetime matchup 14-10, but some believe Jones’ psyche may have been damaged in that game. There may be a statistical reference that backs up that concept.

Since that game–if you count the playoff loss to the Bills–Jones has thrown just 11 TD passes to 14 interceptions. If you remove Jones’ 3-TD-0-INT performance against the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars late last season, he’s only thrown for 8 scores.

Did that game break Jones or was it the moment Belichick exposed his young quarterback’s limitations to the rest of the NFL? In any case, he hasn’t been the same since that cold night in Buffalo.

Do the Patriots Still Need to Look for a Young QB?

In light of all of Jones’ struggles, the Patriots have to ask themselves if they actually have their quarterback of the future or if they should still be looking for the guy.

Depending on where the Patriots finish the season and how Jones plays down the stretch, New England might not be able to spend a high pick on a quarterback.

Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud probably won’t make it out of the top five picks of the 2023 NFL draft. Perhaps they could have a shot at Kentucky’s Will Levis. If not, Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker or Florida’s Anthony Richardson could be options.

The Patriots hope to see Jones prove Lombardo and his critics wrong for the rest of this season.

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