In the Week 5 matchup of the New England Patriots vs. Houston Texans, all signs point to a sweeping Patriots victory. This would be New England’s second win of the season, after notching their first (blowout) win against the New York Jets in Week 2. The Patriots need a win as their 1-3 record puts them in an unfavorable position in the AFC. The Texans’ struggling defense—which has allowed an average of 29 points per game with 264.8 passing yards allowed per game—will present the perfect opportunity for Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels to finally take the training wheels off rookie quarterback Mac Jones and see what he can do.
There is no question about it: Jones has played the best and most importantly, the most consistently out of his fellow rookie quarterbacks by a wide margin. Jones, the 15th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft boasts stats significantly higher—although nothing close to those of Patrick Mahomes, Matthew Stafford, and Tom Brady—than Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson (the first and second picks overall, respectively). Jones has a QBR of 48.5 with a 70% completion percentage and has thrown 1,012 yards for four touchdowns. In comparison, Lawrence’s performances have earned him a 36.3 QBR with a 57% completion percentage with 873 yards and five touchdowns. Meanwhile, Wilson’s QBR rating comes in at 25.0 flat with a 56.8% completion percentage and 925 passing yards with four touchdowns. Jones’ high completion percentage and yards thrown have allowed him to pull away as the front-runner in the 2021 quarterback class.
However, Jones' leading stats are not solely due to his own individual efforts. The big reason why Jones has been able to find so much success as a rookie on the NFL stage is because he plays for the Patriots. The Patriots are a well-oiled machine and Belichick is one of the most respected and knowledgeable NFL coaches of all time and has devised a systematic offensive structure that has allowed Jones to step into the role as starting quarterback seamlessly. Could Lawrence, Wilson, or even Justin Fields have stepped into Jones’ role and done the same if not a superior job? Absolutely. There is no doubt in my mind.
So, while Jones is comfy cozy in Foxborough adjusting to life with the Patriots, Lawrence, Wilson, and Fields have all been thrown headfirst into the trenches and have been fighting for their lives since Week 1. Lawrence and Wilson have been called on to lead their teams while Jones has had the comfort of being led.
All in all, Jones has undoubtedly seized his opportunity and taken full advantage of it. Jones has worked to fit himself into the role laid out for him. And, as a result of his training wheels and strict orders from McDaniels and Belichick, Jones continues to execute the conservative plays being called to benefit the offense. The offense has been constructed to play to Jones’ strengths—that being short, accurate passing. Historically, Jones struggles to throw the ball long due to a lack of arm strength and ability to move on the run while throwing the ball accurately.
Jones has been on a tight leash. While this does heavily contribute to his success and lack of mistakes, it also hinders his ability to test his own limits and find chemistry with the offense.
In Week 3 against the Saints, it appeared that Jones was given some freedom and, unfortunately, it led to his worst game of the season thus far. In a game where he threw more, he also managed to throw three interceptions and was only able to complete 33-of-51 passes for 270 yards.
In Week 4, we were able to witness Jones take the reins a bit, putting on a stellar performance against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jones completed an impressive 31-of-41 passes in the game for 275 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. As the game progressed, Jones completed 19 consecutive passes as he began to find his rhythm. Jones portrayed himself as a constant threat, forcing the Buccaneers’ defense to respect him.
Come Sunday, Jones will be given the ultimate opportunity to finally shed the training wheels and prove that he is the real deal, and here to stay in a more-than-favorable matchup.