Mac Jones proved a lot of people wrong yesterday in his NFL Debut. In fact, he looked like the best rookie quarterback taken in the 2021 draft. I know that is an unfair assessment because Mac obviously has by far a better team and coaching staff around him than Wilson and Lawrence, but Mac was sharp. Miami is notorious for sending heat consistently for four quarters, putting immense pressure on the QB and forcing him into mistakes. Brian Flores sent everything he had at Mac Jones, and he didn’t flinch. They crowded 8 guys at the line of scrimmage many times, sent everywhere from 3-8 guys, corner fire, zone blitzes, cover 0, absolutely everything they had, and Mac continued to respond.
Immediately, Justin Herbert’s performance last year against Miami comes to mind. The 2020 Rookie of the Year had arguably his worst game, throwing for only 187 yards and an interception. Herbert was confused and rattled by Miami’s constant pressure. They stacked the box and dropped out, tricking Herbert into throwing an interception.
Miami sent the kitchen sink at Mac Jones and the Patriots offensive line yesterday. Several occasions he recognized who was coming and simply replaced the blitz with the football as you are supposed to do. On one third down, Miami played cover 0 and Mac simply slid back, bought some time, and found Jakobi Meyers for a first time. Mac looked comfortable in the pocket, despite the offensive line not having their best game once RT Trent Brown exited with an apparent calf injury.
In his first NFL game against one of the most complex defensive fronts in the league, he looked like a 10-year vet. Miami could not phase him, even after hitting him many times, including when Mac stared down the barrel of the gun and delivered a strike to Hunter Henry on a third down while a free runner was bearing down on him. His biggest knock coming into the NFL Draft was questions about his arm strength and ability to throw into small windows. He answered those yesterday. You can see several tight window throws on film, but the one that stood out to me was actually a drop by Nelson Agholor. He was blanketed over the middle by Byron Jones, but Mac put the ball low and inside, where it his a sliding Agholor in the chest while Byron Jones was riding on his back.
Mac had two mistakes in the game. Early in the game, he was getting sacked and tried to throw the ball at the feet of tight end Jonnu Smith, who missed the block that got Mac sacked, but he threw the ball backwards. Smith jumped on it, but it brought the Patriots out of field goal range and they ended up punting. The second mistake was on 3rd down with 10 minutes in the game. Mac rolled out on a designed boot and made a low throw to Jakobi Meyers, who was wide open for the first down. Meyers got two hands on it, but when running an out route, it is very difficult to catch a ball on your back knee, so I put more of the blame on Mac. That’s it. Two mistakes in the entire game. Most quarterbacks can’t say that in week 1, or any week for that matter.
This kid is special. He aced every part of his debut, except for the win. The team was inside the 10 yard line with under 4 minutes to go when work horse RB Damien Harris fumbled, and then the defense could not get off the field. Patriots fans, you should be thrilled. You found your quarterback.
Final Grade: A-