Mac Jones took baby steps in downfield throwing in Week 5

By Henry McKenna

Rookie quarterback Mac Jones has been safe, if nothing else, for the New England Patriots through the first five weeks of the season.

He has completed 71.1% of his passes, best among rookies and fifth-best in the NFL. His quarterback rating is 86.4, best among rookies and 25th in the league. He has five interceptions to his five touchdowns, so it’s not like he has been perfect in protecting the football. He seems to minimize his mistakes, however, by playing conservative.

There’s one clear shortcoming in his game: Jones is 4 of 19 (21.1%) on passes that travel 20 or more yards past the line of scrimmage. That’s 38th in the NFL among quarterbacks. Simply, he has been largely unable to target the deep portion of the field.

In Week 5, there was a glimmer of hope, however. Jones may have only attempted two deep passes (both incompletions), but he found success targeting a different area of the field: the intermediate middle. Check out the red rectangle. It’s a spot that Jones had rarely targetted through the first four weeks.

In turn, he finished with the highest yards per attempt (7.7) in a single game. The important context is that the Texans have the 18th-best secondary in the NFL in terms of yards allowed. Houston is also 23rd in yards per attempt allowed. It’s not like Jones was facing a stiff test. Still, Houston knew Jones, playing from behind for the entire game, would pass often.

Jones took baby steps forward on Sunday.

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels faced a question about how he helps Jones manage his aggressiveness when the team is trailing.

“I think being aggressive and making poor decisions are not the same thing,” McDaniels said Tuesday. “(On the touchdown to Hunter Henry,) that’s being aggressive, and giving your guy a chance. … If there’s really nothing there — and you just, really the percentages are not nearly in your favor — then you just got to do the right thing and protect the thing.”

It seems the Patriots gave Jones the opportunity to attack the middle of the field — and with a little more depth this week. He seemed to take those opportunities more than normal. The passing chart could be a sign that the young quarterback is taking a step forward.

What is inkl?

Important stories

See news based on value, not advertising potential. Get the latest news from around the world.

Trusted newsrooms

We bring you reliable news from the world’s most experienced journalists in the most trusted newsrooms.

Ad-free reading

Read without interruptions, distractions or intrusions of privacy.