McCourty has seen this positive change in Mac Jones entering Year 2

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Mac Jones is facing high expectations entering his second season with the New England Patriots.

The former Alabama star helped the Patriots reach the playoffs in 2021 with a 10-7 record, and he led all rookie quarterbacks in several of the popular stats, including completion percentage (67.6), passing yards (3,801) and passing touchdowns (22).

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Whether Jones takes another positive step in his development in Year 2 could be the determining factor in the Patriots making the playoffs or failing to do so in a much-improved AFC. 

It's going to be a tough challenge for Jones, but one of his teammates is encouraged by what he's seen from the young quarterback, especially as a leader.

"I think he’s just been way more himself this year," Patriots safety Devin McCourty said Wednesday on "The Rich Eisen Show". "When you come in and you’re a rookie, I think everything is all, ‘How do I learn? I need to learn everything possible.’ I feel like this year, he’s kinda letting some of that go. He’s obviously still learning, but he’s being himself. He’s leading, he’s doing the things that I think he did at Alabama, that he did in high school.

"That’s the thing I’ve been encouraging him (about). Don’t try to be a type of leader that you think you should be, just be yourself. It’s been a lot of fun. Obviously, as an older guy, to watch him grow in just a year and do different things, it’s helped us out a lot offensively and I would say overall, even as a team."

McCourty added: "This is probably one of the hardest places to be at. You're playing for a franchise that has won multiple Super Bowls, you come behind Tom Brady and everything that's stacked up there. I think last year, (Jones) came in and did a great job getting to work. He spent so much time in the facility, working with different guys and figuring things out. I think that was a good foundation for him. This year, it's like, all right, I've done that, now let me try to advance and move to the next level, ignore other things and just try to be the best version of myself."

Training camp and the preseason have been a grind for Jones and the Patriots as they've installed a new offense. The results so far have been less than ideal, and their final tune-up before the regular season comes Friday night in the preseason finale against the Las Vegas Raiders.

It could be a rocky start to the regular season for the Patriots, given the issues on offense and a tough schedule over the first four weeks. They'll need Jones to lead the way both on and off the field to weather that early storm and set the stage for a successful year.

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