NEW ENGLAND: Mac Jones‘ debut for the New England Patriots as their new rookie quarterback could have gone better. The Pats lost their season opener to the Miami Dolphins by a painful one point after Damien Harris fumbled the ball with four minutes left to go in the final quarter.
But the 23-year-old’s first regular season performance at Gillette Stadium was far from disappointing if you ignore the unfortunate fact that the Pats lost. In fact, in the grand scheme of things, Mac Jones’ debut was actually pretty impressive.
The rookie has already etched his name into the record books with his accuracy on Sunday night. By completing 74.4% of his passes, Mac Jones has the highest completion percentage of any rookie QB making their 1st NFL start in NFL history with a minimum of 25 pass attempts.
But that wasn’t the only promising stat from Mac Jones’ debut…
Mac Jones Debut Gives New England Patriots Reason to Cheer
Firstly, the former Alabama play-caller put up good numbers. Jones completed 29 of 39 passes for 281 yards and a touchdown. And that was against a very talented secondary which included former Patriots Eric Rowe and Jason McCourty. McCourty only left the team this year and will be pretty familiar with the Patriots offense.
The secondary also included Xavien Howard whose 10 interceptions meant he topped the league last season. Nevertheless, Jones was able to do what his former teammate Tua Tagovailoa couldn’t and did not throw an interception on his debut.
But that wasn’t the only thing Jones did better than Tua. The Dolphins quarterback failed to put up numbers that matched Mac Jones’ debut, only completing 16 of 27 for 202 yards and one touchdown.
What a throw and catch by Mac Jones and Nelson Agholor. 🔥(Video via @BenBrownPL)
— Pats Buzz (@PatsBuzz) September 12, 2021
While Mac had a rating of 102.6, Tagovailoa’s performance came in at 79.6 despite doing just enough to help Miami on their way to victory. In fact, despite being the fifth one drafted, Mac Jones outperformed all rookie quarterbacks in week one.
Admittedly, the Patriots looked nervous sending Jones onto the field. They played four snaps before the quarterback was even asked to throw the ball.
His opening drive showed flashes of panic and there were times fans were reminded this was his first professional game under center. He may not have thrown an interception but his bizarre backward ‘pass’ went down as a fumble. Not exactly what you want your first NFL pass attempt to go viral for.
But the nerves were temporary and after the first drive, there were few moments when Jones looked overwhelmed by the occasion. The Crimson Tide alum looked in command and ready for the season ahead.
Mac Jones coped well under pressure
This came through most when he was facing pressure. Mac Jones showed a remarkable ability to cope when he was being harassed. He completed 8 of 12 passes when under pressure according to ESPN. He also showed he was not afraid to stand up in the pocket if it meant completing the pass.
The most impressive example of this also happened to be his first career touchdown to newly acquired wide receiver Nelson Agholor. With defenders bearing down, Jones stood tall and fired a pass to Agholor as he took a monster hit. But he did enough. Agholor was able to power it in for a 7-yard touchdown late in the second quarter.
His calmness under pressure filtered through to the rest of the team. They were able to convert an impressive 11 of their 16 third downs, enabling them to keep the drives going at important points. At 69 percent, that’s better than any of their conversion rates last season.
Mac Jones ➡ Nelson Agholor,
Jones first Career TD 🤝 Pats First TD of 2021pic.twitter.com/MDjAz2Kvjq
— Patriots Nation (@PatsNationCP) September 12, 2021
Jones was able to put together promising drives, three of which were made up of 14 plays. Although they ended in field goals, Jones appeared confident and focused on the task at hand. He did not look like someone trying to fill the biggest boots in the sport’s history.
When the Patriots cut Cam Newton after just one season, the stakes were certainly piled high for Mac Jones’ debut as he was suddenly asked to be the next star quarterback for a franchise that got used to winning ways under Tom Brady. But you couldn’t tell to look at him.
Mac had chemistry with his receiving corp
Once warmed up, the 23-year-old rookie was solid through the air. The Patriots made sure to stack their roster with talented receivers to give him as much help as possible and Mac took full advantage.
Jones completed passes to eight different receivers and four of those put up more than 40 yards on Sunday. As well as the touchdown pass, Agholor was his most productive target with 72 yards from five catches. Agholor also caught one of Mac’s longest passes of the game – a 25-yard into heavy coverage.
Veteran James White and sophomore Jakobi Meyers both had six receptions and 40+ yards each. One beautiful 26-yard pass landed in White’s arms to convert a vital 3rd and 11. Meanwhile, the Pats’ new tight end duo also showed promise. Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry had five and three receptions respectively.
It was only the season opener but there is plenty to build on with his receivers which should only improve week after week. At the end of the day, the New England were undone by the two turnovers – which were not down to Jones – and the unacceptable penalty tally (86 yards). If they can iron out the errors, Bill and the Patriots could put together a winning season this year and fans can only imagine where things could go from there.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images