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Improved footwork a key ingredient in Mac Jones’ turnaround, explains former NFL quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan

J.T. O’Sullivan spent nine seasons in the NFL, and has since become one of the top quarterback analysts in sports media.

Mac Jones played one of the best games of his career in Week 7, leading his New England Patriots to an upset win over the visiting Buffalo Bills. The game was especially impressive considering that Jones was coming off arguably his worst three-game stretch since entering the league in 2021.

So, what did change for the former first-round draft pick? Several things. As former NFL quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan pointed out in a new analysis on his The QB School YouTube channel, however, his footwork might have been his biggest area of improvement compared to the last three weeks.

“Mac Jones looked so much better for the vast majority of this game on his back foot — the rhythm and timing that he was driving the ball down the field with,” O’Sullivan said.

There were several instances of Jones’ base being a lot better than it was the previous few games. His decisiveness on play-action in particular stood out, with a shot to Hunter Henry and a deep seam pass to Pharaoh Brown as two examples pointed out.

In total, Jones finished the game completing 25 of 30 passes for 272 yards and a pair of scores — including a touchdown to Mike Gesicki to cap off the game-winning drive in the late fourth quarter. For O’Sullivan, that play was a perfect example of everything that right for the Patriots’ young quarterback against a solid Buffalo defense.

“Mac Jones, great job hanging on that back foot,” he said. “Just a big time, massive throw in a gotta-have-it, game-winning situation. You just love to see guys step up to these moments versus a really good team. They might be down a little bit defensively, but this is a hell of a player — hell of a drive. Just awesome to see someone kind of come into their own and find a way to overcome what it’s been like the last few weeks.

“I absolutely love Mac Jones’ footwork here, how he hangs on that back foot. No heel click, just sinks on that back hip, giving Gesicki and opportunity to win. The ball location high, back-five. That’s it, y’all. That’s how you get it done on a final drive. That is outstanding.”

Jones’ footwork was not the only reason why he looked noticeably better compared to previous weeks. The offense as a whole also showed some strides.

Whether it was the inclusion of more run/pass option (RPO) and screen/run option plays or better offensive line play, New England functioned much more efficiently. As a consequence, Jones played his best football of the season.

“Mac Jones looked so much better from within the pocket ... much better footwork, base, trust,” said O’Sullivan.

All that said, there were still a few hiccups. One play pointed out was a sack taken on a 3rd-and-11 in the third quarter: Jones simply appeared to panic in the face of pressure, with his footwork and technique breaking down.

“There was some leakage there. There was some damage done somewhere with either the trust, the mindset, the ability to function all the time from within the pocket,” said O’Sullivan. “It’s not easy to do, I just don’t remember ever seeing it from Mac Jones before this year.

“But that being said, dude was resilient, grinding out that win. Great play-calling on that final drive as well. Big-time throws, big-time hook-up. Love to see it from Mac Jones and the Patriots.”

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