clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Patriots quarterback Mac Jones continues to show downside of vertical passing attack

Related: Mac Jones to start Patriots’ Week 8 game against Jets

Chicago Bears v New England Patriots Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

Through the first three weeks of the 2022 NFL season, Mac Jones almost appeared to be back in Tuscaloosa. With Jones at the helm, New England was playing primarily out of the shotgun and pushing the ball downfield more, quite similar to the offense Jones played in at the University of Alabama.

After playing in conservative mode for much of his rookie season, the Patriots hoped to create a more explosive offense this season. It showed, as Mac led the league in deep pass attempts (20) through the first three weeks of the season, while also ranking second in average air yards per attempt (10.4).

“We want to have those explosive plays,” Jones said on Wednesday. “Short, medium, long, it doesn’t really matter. We wanna move the ball down the field. Yes, by percentage those throws might not be as high but I think we have really good skill players that can go make those plays and that’s something that is good to know we have and you can trust them to go do that.”

As Jones was then forced out of the lineup with a high ankle sprain, the Patriots turned back the clocks to Jones’ rookie season with rookie Bailey Zappe running the show. Zappe averaged just 6.6 air yards per attempt while operating under center on 48 percent of his snaps. That also led to a drastic increase in play-action usage, as Zappe threw the ball off play-action on 31.6 percent of his attempts. For comparison, Jones was under center on 28 percent of his plays and used play-action on a measly 10.8 percent of his throws through three weeks.

While it may have came against two inferior defensive opponents, the results spoke for themselves. Zappe was terrific in his three games, especially while using play-action where he tossed three touchdowns and led the league averaging 15.3 yards per attempt.

With Jones now healthy and back in the mix, continuing to build off the successes with their rookie backup quarterback seemed to be a worthwhile plan. But as Jones took the field Monday night, it was right back to the old ways.

In his 11 official first quarter snaps, Jones was under center just 18 percent of the time. Out of his nine drop backs, play-action was used twice. It was exactly what the team ran, and struggled, with early in the season and the results were similar. Jones complete just 3-of-6 passes and forced an ugly interception before retreating to the bench while trailing 10-0.

“I think the good offenses, they have all three types of passes - short, medium, and long - and we want to be able to do that,” Jones said on Wednesday. “And we have a great offensive line so you know obviously you want to have all different types of plays that you can run, and we worked on different things.”

While the downfield passing attack is fun when it’s successful, the volatility of the approach has been of full display. All six of Jones’ interceptions this season have come on passes 10+ yards down the field. He recorded nine interceptions on such plays in his rookie season.

“They’re all part of the game, interceptions and things like that,” Jones said. “So, you can't really look at what you're doing, you just kind of have to at it through a straw and say ‘Alright on this play this is what I’m supposed to do and I’m gonna try and execute that.’ Obviously I need to do a better job of that on a lot of plays, whether that’s throw the ball away or just surviving the play really.”

Sitting at 3-4, the Patriots need a better version of Mac Jones from here on out. While Jones has some issues of his own to sure up, the coaching staff needs to put him and the offense in a better position to succeed.

“It’s all about finding what we’re comfortable with, and what works, and gets yards, and ultimately scores points,” Jones said. “So just trying to work through that and then get there.”