Cassel: Why continuity with McDaniels would be huge for Mac Jones' growth


The upcoming offseason is a really important one for New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones.

He had a strong rookie season, but the work doesn't stop just because the Patriots' playoff run has concluded.

Jones has the opportunity to take tremendous strides in his development over the next few months. A lot of players grow so much from Year 1 to Year 2, not only in the maturation process but in their physical development.

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The team has been able to see and work with Jones for an entire year to understand his strengths and weaknesses, and really concentrate on what he needs to improve, whether it's certain types of reads, protections, and issues you had throughout the year. You can go into the film room and dissect it, put together clips and go through it formationally.

One thing I know about Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, just being there with him for four seasons, is that he's a tremendous teacher. He's a guy who will have a plan to help Jones improve from a mental side and also the physical side.

What specifically can Jones work on?

There's always mechanical things you can improve, particularly footwork stuff, drifting when you're in the pocket, certain step-ups but staying on balance. There were times during the season when Jones would move up in the pocket or move to the side and maybe not be completely on balance, and therefore lose a little velocity on the throw.

There are a lot of different ways in which you can condition your shoulder. A lot of quarterbacks nowadays focus on the exterior of the shoulder and building that arm strength. From a physical standpoint, footwork and arm strength are always good areas to focus on during the offseason.

From the mental side, it's about going back and watching film to see what areas or route patterns you struggled on throwing, whether it's a deep crossing route or the intermediate stuff on the outside. How can I get better in those areas and work those fundamentals where I'm more confident and precision-based?

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Jones being able to build stronger chemistry with McDaniels and continue to develop that relationship also will be a crucial part of the offseason.

Continuity between a young quarterback and the offensive coordinator is critical. One of the biggest reasons why is you're hearing one voice. It's the same message, and McDaniels is in that meeting room every day -- he sees Jones' ups and downs throughout the season.

He understands Jones as a player and you grow together with that offensive coordinator. The more he gets to know you over the course of the season, the offseason, the communication that takes place and confidence you have as a young QB with him being there as a sounding board and guiding that path is tremendous. Especially with a guy like McDaniels, who has so much experience in this league with lots of different quarterbacks. He's a guy who's enjoyed a ton of success and will put Jones in a position to thrive.

When your team keeps cycling through coordinators, it can be challenging in some ways. After I left Kansas City, I had a new coordinator almost every single year for every team. While it might be the same offensive structure, each OC calls the game differently. They see the game differently and you have to get to know and understand how that coordinator wants to call the game.

One good example is someone like Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen. Allen had an up-and-down rookie year and second season, but he's been with the same OC his whole career in Brian Daboll and he started to figure it out the last two years. They've been able to grow together in that Bills offense, and the team surrounded Allen with enough talent at the skill positions and along the offensive line to help put that unit in the upper echelon.

Now you can see Allen's impressive growth from Year 1, 2, 3 and 4. There's a lot of confidence quarterbacks get from being with the same coordinator year after year. 

The preparation that will take place and the growth that will occur from Year 1 to Year 2 with Jones will be huge because McDaniels does a tremendous job in the offseason of challenging you from every aspect, whether it's physical, but more so from the mental side of the game, which is a big part of Mac Jones' growth and a big part of his game.

Editor's Note: Matt Cassel played 14 years in the NFL as a quarterback, including four with the Patriots from 2005 to 2008. He serves as an analyst for NBC Sports Boston, appearing on Pre/Postgame Live, as a guest on Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast every Thursday, and as a columnist each week during the season.

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