The New England Patriots have tumbled quite a bit over these last two weeks. When the club was resting up during its Week 14 bye, they were sitting as the No. 1 seed in the AFC and riding a seven-game winning streak. Since then, however, they’ve lost two straight and lost their grip on not only the top spot in the conference, but the Buffalo Bills have also regained control of the AFC East thanks to their win at Gillette Stadium in Week 16.
While there are many different facets to the Patriots two-week slump, — including poor special teams play and a failure to make timely stops on defense — rookie Mac Jones has also struggled.
Over the last two weeks, Jones has completed just 51.9% of his passes, averaged 222 yards passing per game, and has thrown more interceptions (4) than touchdowns (2). In the 13 games prior to the bye, Jones was completing 70.3% of his throws for 220.7 yards per game and had 16 touchdowns to eight picks. That dip in production has some — including Patriots legend Julian Edelman — wondering if Jones has hit a rookie wall.
“I’ve got to give Mac a B+,” Edelman said of Jones’ rookie season as a whole during the latest installment of “Inside the NFL” on Paramount+. “These last two weeks, he could have been an A- if he continued that same play. We’ve seen him be a very efficient quarterback. You see him get through his progressions. You can see him drive a team down the field. But these last two weeks, you can tell that the rookie wall may have hit. The rookie wall is real. He’s had two games with two picks back-to-back. It will be interesting to see how he goes forward and to see really what he’s made of.”
As a group, the Patriots haven’t started games particularly strong over the last two weeks. Against the Colts, they were shut out for the first three quarters before rallying in the fourth to make it a one-score game. In Week 16, they were held scoreless through the opening quarter. To his credit, Jones took ownership of needing to execute better in his presser following this latest loss to Buffalo.
Despite these recent struggles, however, Josh McDaniels doesn’t appear to be worried about Jones hitting that rookie wall that Edelman highlighted.
“He’s doing fine, no concern on that,” McDaniels said of Jones on Tuesday. “Each rookie kind of handles that differently, there’s always a stretch during the course of the middle of the season that’s a little bit new to them. Because when you count the preseason, starting in July, usually that happens somewhere towards the end of October, middle of November, somewhere in there. He’s gotten through that, he understands what he needs to do and does a great job with his regimen, takes care of his body, his preparation, he’s learned how to manage his time and what he needs to allocate it towards.”
Jones could be in for a solid bounce-back game on Sunday when the Patriots host the Jaguars, who are 31st in the NFL in DVOA against the pass and allowing 7.2 yards per pass attempt this season.