The Patriots’ 2023 hopes of a playoff return could rest on the shoulders of Mac Jones and his ability to execute Bill O’Brien’s revamped offense.
Despite Jones’ lackluster production on Matt Patricia’s offense last season (14 touchdowns, 11 interceptions in 14 games), the 25-year-old QB impressed under Josh McDaniels as a rookie, earning a Pro nomination. Bowl in 2021.
O’Brien’s familiarity with McDaniels’ system in New England and with the Alabama offense in which Jones thrived should benefit the New England quarterback, especially given the propensity for ‘O’Brien to write RPOs (running pass options), screens and other short passing plays. that match Jones’ skills.
But beyond New England’s revamped game plan, tight end Hunter Henry believes Jones’ mindset is the main reason he should have a rebound year in 2023.
“Mac has always been consistent in who he is,” Henry said Wednesday at Gillette Stadium. “But this year I feel like he’s been super, super consistent at all times. In the building, outside the building, on the ground, off the ground. He’s a great leader, and it’s fun to be around him and to compete with him.
“We had a lot of good competition last month with our defense, and it’s been fun, so I’m excited to go out there and start that journey with him throughout the season this year. But he does a fantastic job and it’s fun to work with him.
Another year without shoulder surgery in 2022, a healthy Henry could be a key part of Jones’ resurgence under center this fall.
Henry was Jones’ most reliable target in the red zone in 2021, hitting nine touchdowns for a Patriots offense that ranked 11th in touchdown percentage (61.9%) after crossing the 20-yard line.
But Henry was lost in the shakeup with last year’s dysfunctional offense, amassing just two touchdowns in 17 games while averaging 29.9 receiving yards per game, the lowest in his seven-year career.
Jones has spread the wealth on offense so far in the preseason, but Henry has been a familiar target during red-zone drills throughout the summer.
Heading into a pivotal season, Henry feels Jones is in the right frame of mind when it comes to turning the page on 2022 and doing his best.
“He always had my respect,” Henry said of Jones. “I think every year, though, as a player and as players, we all try to earn the respect of our teammates and our coaches. It’s part of the process. It’s you as the competitor. It’s you as the player. When I step onto the pitch, especially at the start of camp, I try to earn the respect of my teammates.
“All that stuff from the past, it doesn’t matter. Obviously it helps me process things and do things, but I have to earn it anew every day. So you kind of have to take that approach, and I think he’s done a great job of that. I’ve always had respect for him and he does a great job.
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