New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones enters Year 3 of his NFL career with a lot of pressure.
It's no secret that the 2022 campaign wasn't Jones' best. He missed three games with an ankle injury, and when he was able to get on the field his performance was often subpar. Context is important, though. Matt Patricia and Joe Judge did a horrible job running the offense and the talent around Jones was less-than-stellar. The Patriots also played the kind of undisciplined football we haven't seen from them in a long, long time.
But the reality is Jones' play wasn't good enough. However, there are reasons to believe 2023 will be much better for the 24-year-old quarterback.
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Patriots head coach Bill Belichick showered Jones with praise during his Monday morning appearance on WEEI's "The Greg Hill Show", and he highlighted three specific areas where his starting quarterback has improved.
“Mac has had a really solid spring and (training) camp," Belichick said. "Very similar to what we talked about with (wide receiver Kendrick Bourne). (He’s) out there every day, ready to go, in excellent physical condition.
"And I’d say he’s made a lot of improvement over the spring and training camp in reads, decision-making and timing. (He’s) getting more work, timing with the guys he’s throwing to, (he) works hard. Looking forward to the season here with Mac.”
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The Patriots didn't make any massive upgrades to their offense over the offseason and the summer, but the additions of running back Ezekiel Elliott, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and tight end Mike Gesicki do provide solid depth and give Jones more quality pass-catching options than he had last season.
The most notable upgrade was the hiring of Bill O'Brien to be the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. O'Brien is an offensive guru with an impressive track record of success at the college and pro levels. Jones has been complimentary of O'Brien so far, telling Sports Illustrated that they "speak the same language."
The Patriots face a brutal regular season schedule in 2023, one that features many of the league's top-scoring offenses. New England might need to score 25-plus points per game to be in the playoff mix come December, and they will need a bounce-back season from Jones for that to happen.