Despite coming off a blowout loss in the wild card round in Buffalo, the New England Patriots entered 2022 with plenty of optimism. They had won 10 games the previous season and made the playoffs despite being led by a rookie quarterback.
Fast forward one year, and that optimism has turned into disappointment. The Patriots struggled to put a consistent product on the field and for much of the year looked outmatched, especially on the offensive side of the ball. As a result, they ended the regular season with an 8-9 record and out of the playoffs.
That end result weighs especially hard on the team’s most important player, second-year QB Mac Jones.
“It’s my offense, it’s my group of guys. We have to put a better product out there, and it starts with me,” Jones told reporters following New England’s season-ending loss to these very same Buffalo Bills. “Tough uphill battle, but I learned a lot; learned more than I could ever imagine in a football season. Just want to be able to build on it.”
Jones’ progress has been one of the biggest stories in New England ever since his first campaign came to an end. But while he was a realistic candidate to earn Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2021, he was a below-average passer in 2022.
The former first-round draft pick took a step back both in terms of volume and efficiency statistics, and seemingly failed to make the famous second-year jump.
Missing three starts because of a high ankle sprain, he finished the season with 288 completions on 442 attempts for 2,997 yards, 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Jones’ completion percentage (67.6 to 65.2), yards per attempt (7.3 to 6.8) and yards per game (223.6 to 214.1) all decreased compared to 2021, while his sack rate went up (5.1 to 7.1).
A quarterback is also always a product of his environment, though, and the Patriots did him no favors in that regard. Replacing long-time offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels with the duo of Matt Patricia and Joe Judge — two assistant coaches who had little experience on that side of the ball — did not work as planned, and the progress for the entire unit fell short of what it needed to be for the team to reach consistent winning territory.
Jones was at the center of this, and he also touched on his personal and the team’s overall progress following the 35-23 defeat in Buffalo.
“You look at each year in your football life, and you want to get better as a player, and I did. I learned a lot, and I think a lot of guys on our team learned a lot,” he said. “But it was not the progress that any of us wanted to make. It starts with me, and not to talk about last year or anything but it’s the same story here. Towards the end of the season, we have to play better. ...
“We made a lot of progress throughout the year, just not good enough to consistently do it. It’s disappointing.”
So, what do the Patriots have to do to make that next step in their progression in his third year as starting quarterback? For Jones, it all starts with controlling what can be controlled — something he also took away from the loss to the Bills.
“We have a great group, and we all fought hard for each other. It’s just conversations that will be had. It’s not important right now,” he said. “I think everybody put everything they had on the line. That’s important. We played for the Patriot on the front of our jerseys and the name on our back, and that’s all you can ask.
“At the end of the day, you can control your effort, and that’s all you can control. Tough year, tough ending, but proud of the guys, and I’m really blessed to have gone through a year like this. Honestly, just looking forward to improving as a football player.”