Both Mac Jones and Christian Barmore were named to Pro Football Focus' midseason All-Rookie team, as the Patriots' first two picks from this year's drafts have paid immediate dividends through the first eight games of the season.
Jones comes in with an 84.0 overall grade from PFF, ranking 11th in the league, with analyst Mike Renner writing of him:
Jones has been far and away the most consistent rookie quarterback this season, and his 81.6 passing grade laps the next closest rookie quarterback by 22.2 grading points. While he may get the same criticism Tom Brady did for being a "check-down artist," Jones' 8.0-yard average depth of target (aDOT) is actually the same as Patrick Mahomes' and Justin Herbert's this season.
Elsewhere, Jones comes in at 18th in Football Outsiders' DVOA rankings as well as 18th in ESPN's QBR. He's completing 68.1 percent of his passes for 1,996 yards with nine touchdowns and six interceptions.
Panthers coach Matt Rhule had some high praise for the rookie signal-caller on Thursday.
"To me, no matter where Mac ended up, I knew he was going to be a longtime pro, because he just has all the right qualities and all the right things that are essential to being a great player," Rhule said. "That was evident to me from the very beginning.
"Spending time with him, you could tell he loves football. He just won the national championship game and he's out there practicing with us. You could see how intelligent he was the first day. We put a lot of install in, a lot of words in, just to see if they could recite it, and you could see pretty quickly he had a feel for the game. He had some moxie, and he was really, really intelligent and accurate and could throw the deep ball at a high level."
Barmore's PFF grade doesn't exactly jump off the rankings page, as his 52.0 grade has him outside the top-50, as does his 63.5 pass-rush grade. But you don't have to look very far to understand why Barmore made the team, as his disruption in key spots, along with drawn penalties, have made an immediate impact on defense. His expanding role on defense is one of the brightest developments on that side of the ball. Barmore had led the defensive tackles in snaps the last two weeks and picked up the first half sack of his career against the Chargers.
Of Barmore, Renner writes:
While he's still earned just a 52.0 overall grade, no defensive tackle in the class has come close to flashing as much as Barmore. His 46 positively graded plays are eight more than any other defensive tackle in the class, and they rank 30th at the position in the NFL.
Barmore also earned some praise on the latest episode of The Mina Kimes Show, with Kimes calling him a "potential Pro Bowler," while her guest Gregg Rosenthal of NFL Network concurred.
"There's about three or four plays each week where he just does something that no one on the Patriots has done since the mid-2000's or so, like Richard Seymour," said Rosenthal. "They just haven't had a homegrown guy who can win so quickly and just make the guard or center just look slow-footed."
The Patriots needed an infusion of youthful talent this season and appear to have hit on at least two players, including one at the most important position in the game. That alone already makes the 2021 class a slam dunk. Add in Barmore's continuing ascension along with the potential flashed by running back Rhamondre Stevenson and some unknown potential still developing behind the scenes from the rest of the class and it should continue to look even more impressive.
Practice & Injury Report
J.C. Jackson missed his second-straight practice with an illness as his availability for Sunday's game is starting to become a concern. It's possible Jackson is being kept away to avoid passing his illness to other teammates, but with one practice remaining this week, time is getting tight.
Quotes of Note
Matthew Slater on where the Patriots stand:
"I think the one thing we can't do is become complacent. Four wins in this league is not going to get you anything. Being .500 in this league is not going to get you anything either. I think we have to fight the urge to become complacent and we have to continue the urgency, continue the preparation on a day-to-day basis and then obviously continue the execution on gameday."
Jonnu Smith on the NFL season:
"At this point of the season, you got a pack; it's kind of like a horse race, with everybody kind of bunched in there together. As the race goes on, some horses start falling back a little bit. We just want to give ourselves a chance."
Matt Judon on his success this season:
"They set me up with great positions. They put me in good spots so I can have success. I'm over there rushing with Barmore last week and he's breaking the pocket for me. He's getting the QB off his mark and stuff like that. Same thing if I'm rushing with Carl, LG or DG. They all do a great job. Sometimes me and KVN will be rushing over there and KVN will break the pocket or he'll be like, 'All right, let's run this game.' He knows it's going to work but he knows he's the sacrificial lamb. They do it all for me and I definitely appreciate everybody on the team."