Next Pats: Matt Ryan gives optimistic take on Jones' rookie season for Patriots


The New England Patriots took a chance on Mac Jones in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, and so far that decision has proven to be a good one.

Jones was the best rookie quarterback in the league last season. He completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 3,801 yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 17 games.

There were plenty of reasons, based on Jones' rookie campaign, why Patriots fans should be optimistic about the future. On the latest episode of NBC Sports Boston's Next Pats Podcast, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan struck a similar tone.

Next Pats podcast: Matt Ryan explains why the Patriots should have high hopes for Mac Jones | Listen & Follow | Watch on YouTube

"I thought (Jones) had a great year," Ryan said. "I really did. We had the AFC East this year. When we were preparing for some of those opponents, you got to see what he was doing on the offensive side of the ball. I thought he was really accurate, made good decisions all year and put them in positions to win football games, and made some plays late when he needed to. Ultimately, that's what you want from your guys. 

"I think the composure he showed, really the entire season, should have people optimistic up there. It's big shoes to fill, there's no question about that. It's not an enviable position to be in. But I really think Mac can do that and do a great job with it. He certainly had a great start to his career this year."

While Jones had a strong year, he also appeared to hit the dreaded rookie wall late in the season. He threw six touchdowns and five interceptions over the last four games of the regular season, while the Patriots posted a 1-3 record during that span.

Ryan admitted the rookie wall is very much a real thing.

Two Patriots ranked among PFF's five highest-graded offensive rookies in 2021

"I'm not sure it's just the quarterback position. It's such a difference in the length of the season, especially with the additional game this year," Ryan said. "It's just a different grind. It takes getting used to. Keeping that competitive stamina at a high level week in and week out, for a longer amount of time -- experience helps with that. And I think guys learn how to make it work for them. Everybody is different, but I think everybody is dragging by the end of that first season.

"There's really no way to get around it. It's the longest year, from a football standpoint, of your life. You finish up your college season and next thing you know you're training non-stop, getting ready for the combine. Then you're coming into a new system and you have a lot of mental stress on you during the offseason. That kinda changes as you get older, you kinda learn how to balance that. But that first season is a long year for everybody."

Also in this episode: Ryan talks about Boston College football and whether pure pocket passers can still succeed in today's NFL. Jones' former Alabama teammate, Jerry Jeudy, also talked to Perry about the Patriots quarterback and more.

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