The Patriots canceled their final minicamp practice on Thursday, but starting quarterback Mac Jones still made time to speak with the media after two strong sessions that showed the strides that the second-year starter has made this offseason. Mac looked fully in control of the Patriots offense and made a collection of outstanding downfield throws over the two days of practice.
A season after winning the job, there's no doubt this is Mac's offense now and there are plenty of reasons for optimism.
"Keep the main thing the main thing and that's getting better as a football player," said Jones on his focus in his second season. "For me, that's identifying things at each phase, so OTAs are through here and just figuring out what I need to do better for the season. For me, it's always focusing on the little things, whether that's nutrition, my footwork, how can I get my arm stronger, what can I do better in the film room... The important part is applying that to the regular season and hopefully, that can help us win games."
Jones threw 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions during his rookie season, leading the Patriots back to the playoffs while completing 67.6 percent of his passes. His quick processing and accuracy showed up immediately and now it looks like he's built upon those things with an even better downfield touch and anticipation that was consistently on display on both Tuesday and Wednesday.
Despite the departure of Josh McDaniels and a new organizational approach to how the offense is coordinated, Jones was leading the way in minicamp, taking time to show receivers how he wants certain routes run while showing off his conditioning by being near the front of every conditioning sprint.
One of the better connections during Wednesday's practice came with Jones hitting Nelson Agholor with a perfectly placed pass. Kyle Dugger's coverage was tight but the throw and catch were even better.
"I think he's a year better," said Agholor following the session. "Working hard every day. Does a great job communicating and he's just working to be the best version of himself. I'm grateful to have him as a quarterback."
"At the end of the day we're all doing this for each other, I think we have that chemistry," said Jones of the budding camaraderie among the offense. "There's a big play, everyone's excited because they know another big play could be coming their way... It all starts in offseason training, just getting together as a group, understanding what we're trying to do then going out there and doing it."
With the Patriots also canceling their open practice OTA sessions next week as well, the team won't be back on the field until training camp starts. But with solid strides made through the spring, the season is already getting rolling
"We've had a good few weeks, it's all about finishing strong, and continuing to evaluate us as an offense," said Jones. "We've made strides but we know where we want to get to, that's going to take a lot of work beyond just OTAs and we're going to get there. At this point, we're just going to self-evaluate and push through, figure out the things we like, figure out the things we don't like, then carry that over to training camp."