The New England Patriots are set to take on the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL’s lone preseason game on Thursday night. As far as exhibition games go, it’s a marquee matchup with several intriguing storylines on both sides that should keep us entertained throughout all four quarters. None of the plot points should excite Patriots fans more than the opportunity to see their first-round quarterback Mac Jones in a live-action contest for the second time.
Jones performed admirably in his first test as a Patriot. While playing more than 50% of the team’s offensive snaps, Jones completed 13-of-19 passes for 87 yards. There were several highs and few lows as Jones routinely displayed an ability to hang tough in the pocket and pick apart defensive coverages with several throws that surely impressed Bill Belichick and Co. (and we know how difficult that is to do). In short, it wasn’t all that different from what we saw from Jones at Alabama, where one of his finest assets was often his ability to take advantage of what the defense gave him.
It wasn’t all roses. Jones could have gotten the ball out quicker on a few occasions, and he could have been a touch more accurate on others. All in all, Jones generally threw the ball well and exhibited the ability to command the Patriots’ offense, an ability that was especially showcased on a possession that saw Jones run a “hurry-up” offense. Jones passed that test with flying colors, and it’s something that won’t be lost on offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
In the name of nitpicking, there were a few throws Jones wishes he had back. One that stood out to me, in particular, came on a 3rd-and-long miss where he had receiver Gunner Olszewski open for what would have been a huge gain. He missed it by a hair, and the Patriots had to punt on the very next play.
As he gets ready to suit up Thursday night, Jones should have a few goals in mind. For as impressive as he was last week against Washington, he failed to lead the team to a touchdown on his five possessions. The offense had to settle for a couple of field goals and punts with Jones in the game. It’s worth noting that Cam Newton, who started the game at quarterback, also failed to lead the Patriots to a score.
What does Jones have to show tonight in his second professional contest? The answer could be summed up with the old saying, “more of the same.” Sprinkling in a touchdown drive or two wouldn’t hurt.