By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Mac Jones looked pretty darn good in his NFL debut last week, and the rookie was solid once again in his second preseason game for the Patriots on Thursday night.
Jones again came off the bench in relief of Cam Newton, who was also stellar Thursday night against the Eagles. Newton likely solidified his spot as New England’s starter with his performance, but Jones continues to make Patriots fans feel good about the future at the most important position in the game.
Jones was under center for four series in Philadelphia and carved up the Eagles, completing 13 of his 19 passes for 146 yards. While he mostly delivered check-down strikes last week against Washington, he opened things up a bit more against the Eagles. He also looked like a cool customer in the pocket for the second straight week.
Here’s how the rookie quarterback did in each of his four series in preseason game No. 2.
Mac’s First Drive
Jones took over with 11:14 left in the second quarter and the Patriots up 13-0. He played with the backup receivers and offensive line, and went against backups and backups to backups on the Philly defense, but he made the most of the opportunity in front of him.
Starting at the New England 9-yard line, Jones found himself and the Pats offense facing a 3rd-and-13 after he was nearly picked on a second down pass over the middle. But the rookie stepped up and split the Philly zone with a nice strike to N’Keal Harry that picked up 19 yards and got the drive going.
A few plays later, he checked down and made a nice throw to Sony Michel on the right side. Michel broke some ankles to pick up some extra yards to make it another 19-yard pickup.
Other than an eight-yard connection between Jones and Gunner Olszewski (plus a three-yard run/slide by Jones), Patriots running backs took over the rest of the drive. Michel ran for 21 yards on five carries while rookie Rhamondre Stevenson picked up 30 yards on six carries, capped off by a one-yard touchdown run.
Jones lofted a jump ball to Kendrick Bourne on New England’s attempted two-point conversion, but the receiver couldn’t come down with it. Still, it was a beautiful 17-play, 91-yard drive orchestrated by Jones that ate 8:52 of preseason football.
Just Before The Half
After a Harvey Langi interception gave the Patriots the ball at their own 45-yard line with 45 seconds in the first half, Jones delivered a lovely deep ball to Harry. But the receiver couldn’t come down with it despite the ball hitting him in the hands, and Harry appeared to injure his shoulder on the diving attempt.
Jones hit JJ Taylor for a quick eight yards and then spiked the ball to stop the clock with 12 seconds left, setting up a 4th-and-2 at the Philly 47. There was no second deep attempt by Jones or any trickeration in the cards from Bill Belichick, who after a delay of game penalty sent out his punt unit.
Hurry Up Out Of Halftime
Jones came out of the half and ran the hurry up to near perfection. The Patriots offense marched 75 yards down the field and found the end zone on just nine plays. Jones hit Gunner Olszewski twice on the drive, picking up 38 yards on those two connections, including a 21-yard pickup. There was one play where Jones checked down to JJ Taylor for a three-yard pickup when he had Gunner open downfield, a play the rookie would probably like to have back. But other than that, he was pretty solid on the drive, going 5-for-5 for 54 yards.
Taylor had 31 yards on the ground on the drive, picking up seven yards on an insane spin move on 1st-and-goal, and capped things off with a one-yard touchdown run.
Jones started his fourth and final drive by hitting Stevenson for eight yards. He had a nice 12-yard connection to Isaiah Zuber on the left side on a 2nd-and-5 pass, but a few plays later couldn’t connect with Devin Ross over the middle. On 3rd-and-6 at the Philly 12, Jones threw an absolute dart into the Eagles zone defense for a 11-yard connection with Gunner. Devin Asiasi dropped a potential touchdown in the flat on Jones’ next pass, but Stevenson found the end zone for the second time on the night on the very next play.
Jones was 3-for-5 for 31 yards on his final drive before handing things over to Brian Hoyer.
It capped off another impressive evening for the rookie, who once again commanded the pocket with the poise of a veteran and didn’t make any glaring mistakes with the football. The Patriots scored on three of his four drives, and the one that didn’t put points on the board was a gift possession just ahead of halftime that New England could have — and likely should have — scored on had Harry tried to catch Jones’ deep pass in stride instead of sprawling out for it. The pass will go down as a preseason incompletion, but it was a pretty heave.
Jones may not be New England’s starter come Week 1, but he is certainly making the most of his opportunities this preseason.