Robert Kraft was among those impressed with the rookie New England quarterback last season.
The Patriots owner gave glowing praise to Mac Jones at the NFL Annual Meetings taking place in Palm Beach, Fla. this week, citing the 23-year-old's poise, work ethic, and the quality of relationships he's built with teammates.
But Kraft has high expectations for his team in 2022, determined to win a playoff game for the first time in the last three seasons. He looks forward to seeing if Jones is up to that challenge.
"This year will be very telling," Kraft told The Athletic's Jeff Howe. "To come into something as new as this, as established, I think he got beat up pretty bad, and he kept coming back and getting up and really doing some great stuff. Just the way he handles himself, he took some real beatings and hopped up. He has developed a good relationship with the whole cadre of receivers. I'm very happy with what I've seen. But this is a big year, the second year."
Jones started all 17 regular-season games, getting thrown right into the deep end after earning the job of QB1.
Despite being the fifth quarterback taken in the 2021 NFL Draft, he was the only signal-caller to receive a vote for Offensive Rookie of the Year, finishing second behind the Cincinnati Bengals' Ja'Marr Chase.
Jones completed 67.6% of his pass attempts last season for 3,801 yards with 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions -- the highest among rookie quarterbacks.
He was the only first-year quarterback to lead his team to a post-season appearance, but the hope is that trajectory will continue, the same way players like Joe Burrow and Justin Hebert made big leaps during their second year in the NFL.
"Time will tell," Kraft told The Athletic. "Part of it, in fairness, is the chemistry of the people around him. I hope that some of the free agents who we brought in who didn't perform as high as we would have liked last year will (produce) this year because they've adjusted to the system. And we're making changes to take advantage of what they do best. We have a lot of talent that hasn't been tapped into yet in my opinion."
Focusing on what Jones can control to make that jump, Kraft is confident Year 2 will allow Jones to take on a more defined role as a leader, now free from respecting his stature as a rookie within the team.
To Kraft, all the other intangibles are there to return the Patriots to glory.
"He really is all football," Kraft said of Jones. "That's the kind of commitment that we need."