Mac Jones: Week 10 NFL QB Rookie Report

Mac Jones is one of the most polarizing players in the NFL. The rookie QB is showing he can play in the NFL, but can he be a playmaker?

Mac Jones has been one of the more polarizing rookie QBs the NFL has seen in the past few seasons. It reminds me of the trench warfare made famous during World War I. Fans and media are dug into two camps — they either think Jones is the next Drew Brees, or they believe he’s nothing more than a glorified bus driver with an excruciatingly low ceiling.

The select few of us trying to remain objective are stuck in “no man’s land,” catching stray bullets from both sides as we search for common ground.

Mac Jones: NFL QB Rookie Report Week 10

The Patriots punked the Browns pretty severely in Week 10, and Jones wasn’t asked to do too much as New England ran the ball down Cleveland’s throat. Yet, he was incredibly efficient and made a few big plays.

You’ll see very little throughout the course of a game that makes your jaw even slightly hinge — let alone drop — while watching Jones play the quarterback position. Some will tell you it’s just a no-nonsense lack of flash. Others will say he doesn’t have what it takes to make the play. It all depends on which side of the coin you chose during the pre-draft process.

Unfortunately, we’re so fragile as a species that we force confirmation bias upon ourselves to not crush our paper-thin egos.

Mac Jones film review

Jones is already proving he’s more than capable of winning football games at the NFL level. He’s not necessarily chaperoning the field trip, but he is getting the students to and from the outing. It hasn’t started to become widespread yet, but I’d be shocked if the “system QB” moniker isn’t getting thrown around for Jones after all other explanations of why he’s not very good fail.

He’s been great, but he’s also not answering many questions as a quarterback. However, he made a few throws against Cleveland that were necessary for him to show as his ceiling is still in question.

The seam touchdown

The intermediate middle is where elite quarterbacks thrive. Arm strength isn’t a necessity when attacking this area of the field, but it is encouraged. Anticipation and ball placement, in addition to sufficient arm strength, are great equalizers.

First, I’d like for everyone to applaud Kendrick Bourne for making this play. It’s a great catch. Second, I’m intrigued why Browns safety John Johnson III was so flat-footed reading Jones’ intentions because the Patriots QB really didn’t do much to hold Johnson to his spot. Third, good gracious, what a high-end NFL throw from the rookie QB!

Jones has a rapid release, which also helps mitigate some of his velocity issues. However, this touchdown was due to ball placement, something he must do well at the NFL level to ever become a Brees-esque passer. Even if Johnson drives on this throw earlier, the best he could do with this placement is pop the ball up and hope for a tipped interception.

Pre-snap recognition

Every single NFL quarterback can and should be able to make this throw consistently. Jones has all the room in the world to work with toward the sideline, and his best receiver is isolated on that side.

The Browns show a simulated pressure, and the Patriots’ formation makes Greg Newsome’s press-man, inside-shaded alignment a bad position to be in.

The lone safety is near the opposite numbers. Even with seven defenders dropping into coverage, there is never a chance for help over the top on that side.

Jones doesn’t need to overthink things here. Just get to that final step and throw the receiver open. He happens to make a great throw on top of the excellent pre-snap advantage.

Deep-out placement

The above throw is an example of some silly ball placement. Jones sees the corner and apex defender carry the vertical routes, clearing the sideline for Hunter Henry on the deep out.

Jones gets late pressure in his face, but he hangs in the pocket and delivers a pass with great pacing that drops safely over the linebacker (which didn’t end up mattering but is still good to see). If Anthony Walker (No. 4) turns and burns to the catch point instead of taking a half-turn, Jones’ ball trajectory would have come more into play.

Jones puts this ball high and outside, forcing Henry to extend out to make the catch. That may have been necessary because the linebacker does a great job contesting this pass. These are the throws Jones must make if he wants to ascend to a more significant “playmaking” role at the NFL level.

A matter of sustainability

That’s it. That is the only question I have. Will the mass volume of successful screens continue? Can Josh McDaniels and Co. continue to avoid the shorter sideline areas in favor of shorter passes over the middle? Will the plethora of screens continue to gain positive yardage?

Well, at least on the last question, we can probably assume the answer is “yes.” Ball handling is an underrated trait for a quarterback. It’s essential for physically limited signal-callers that rely on play-action and screens. Jones excels there.

Suppose the Patriots round out this roster with weapons that can best maximize yards after the catch. In that case, we could see an offense that resembles what Kyle Shanahan has always promised, but Jimmy Garoppolo has never been able to deliver.

Dalton Miller is the Lead NFL Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can read more of his work here and follow him @daltonbmiller on Twitter and Twitch.

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