*This article was written after Week Four.
Coming off of his inspiring performance against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, many in New England are excited and ready for the new era of Mac. He has led the Patriots to an 1-3 record so far, but they easily could be 3-1 if Nick Folk had made the kick in the rain against the Buccaneers and Damien Harris had not fumbled on the final drive against the Dolphins. Even though the Patriots lost to the Buccaneers, Mac did his job to keep the Patriots in a game they should have had no business competing in.
Looking at his complete body of work statistically, Mac Jones has been about a slightly-below average quarterback when compared to the rest of the league. Although he has done his job well, he has not been asked to do much, as evidenced by his low 7.7 average depth of target, which ranks 22nd out of 30 qualifying quarterbacks. Mac has been accurate with a 70% completion percentage, but the Patriots still have been unable to move the ball successfully down the field often or effectively, ranking 26th in yards per drive and points per drive. While counting stats are not great for rating performance, Mac has an impressive 1012 yards through four games, although it is mostly volume based as he has the 6th most passing attempts in the NFL with 160.
Mac has performed a little better than most people’s expectation from before the season when he was in a QB competition with Cam Newton. He has shown many of the things that he was great at doing at Alabama, have translated to the NFL, including throwing to open receivers, progressing through his reads well, and avoiding turnovers. One concerning aspect of his play so far is the number of sacks he is taking. Mac is not a mobile quarterback, but he was able to minimize the amount and effect of pressure last season by throwing the ball quickly and well under pressure. He has not been nearly as consistent with this aspect of his game through four weeks with the Patriots, but that can likely be chalked up to not having the offensive line and receiving advantages he had at Alabama, which always allowed him a little bit more time to see defenders or to find an open man. I believe that when he gets some more experience and becomes more comfortable with NFL-level defensive lineman rushing after him, he will be a little better at staying away from pressure and will stop taking some unnecessary and ugly sacks.
Even though Mac has been slightly below average when looking at the league as a whole, he has been significantly better than all of the other four rookie quarterbacks that were taken before him in the first round of the draft. 3rd overall pick, Trey Lance, is getting his first start this weekend, but in limited action and in the preseason, he looks to be extremely erratic, and while he provides a strong rushing floor, his arm likely is not good enough to win NFL games as of now. Justin Fields was just named the official starter for the Bears, but in the two games he’s started, the overall body of work is not good as he has a 53.9 passer rating which is worse than all other quarterbacks except 3rd round rookie Davis Mills. The two guys directly ahead of Justin Fields in passer rating are Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson. Lawrence has thrown five touchdowns and seven interceptions, while Wilson has thrown four touchdowns and nine interceptions. It is still far too early to determine which of these quarterbacks will become the best of the group and hold a starting job on an NFL roster, but Mac looks like the readiest of the bunch for now, which is a good sign for the future.
Going forward for this year and beyond, Mac Jones looks to be a promising young quarterback who is going to need to take his lumps in the NFL before it is possible to tell if he is the long-term answer for the Patriots. I think Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels should stop holding Mac back and should try and see how far he can take this team. Until the Patriots have their true franchise quarterback, they will not see much if any playoff success and have almost no chance of playing in, let alone winning, a Super Bowl.