BOSTON (CBS) — Mac Jones’ rookie season has yielded some up-and-down results. He and the Patriots started the year with a 2-4 record, and Jones had seven touchdowns and six interceptions. Then they ran off seven straight wins, with Jones throwing nine touchdowns with just two interceptions. Things have cooled in the past two weeks, with Jones and the Patriots losing two critical AFC matchups, and with Jones throwing two touchdowns and four interceptions.
It hasn’t been perfect for the rookie out of Alabama. But it’s been a lot better than the work of his fellow rookie QB class.
On Sunday, Jones will share the field with the top dog of that class, No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence. The Jaguars have slogged through their schedule with a 2-13 record, firing their coach midseason. Lawrence has not exactly thrived in the environment in Jacksonville, as one might expect.
Lawrence has completed just 58.7 percent of his passes while throwing nine touchdowns and 14 interceptions, which has him tied for the league lead in that category. Lawrence’s progress appears to have been stunted, as he’s thrown just one touchdown and five interceptions in the past eight games.
With a game in New England followed by a home date vs. the Colts, the Jaguars could be on track to own the No. 1 overall pick for the second straight year. But first, Lawrence will be the final rookie QB to go up against Jones this year.
“I’ve known Trevor going back to high school, some camps, and stuff like that,” Jones said Wednesday. “He’s a great quarterback. He’s a great person. I know he’s a great leader. Obviously, we’re both rookies and we’re learning along the way together, but it is fun to watch the crossover tape and see how well he’s been doing and all that.”
Jones has gone up against two fellow members of the 2021 rookie QB class this season, winning all three games.
Jones had a modest performance (22-for-30, 186 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT) in his first game against the Jets, mostly because Zach Wilson threw four picks. The Patriots won 25-6.
Five weeks later, Jones threw for 307 yards with two touchdowns and no picks in a 54-13 romp over the Jets. Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick, was 6-for-10 for 51 yards before leaving due to injury. (Lawrence went 26-for-39 for 280 yards with no touchdowns or picks vs. the Jets last weekend.)
In between those games, the Patriots went up against Davis Mills, a much less-heralded member of the rookie QB class. Mills, the 67th overall pick by Houston, was actually great vs. the Patriots, throwing for 312 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Jones was 23-for-30 for 231 yards with one touchdown and one pick. (Lawrence threw three touchdowns and three interceptions in his NFL debut vs. Houston, and he threw for 210 yards with no touchdowns or picks vs. Houston two weeks ago.)
That touchdown pass was a big one, as Jones hit Hunter Henry for the game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter. Jones and the running game helped set up the game-winning field goal with 17 seconds left, allowing New England to escape Houston with a desperately needed victory.
Jones hasn’t had any head-to-heads with the rest of the rookie class, though he’s outperformed them all.
Justin Fields — the 11th overall pick — is 2-8 with a 73.2 passer rating for Chicago, though he has rushed for 420 yards and two touchdowns. Trey Lance — the third overall pick for San Francisco — has barely seen the field, taking just 12 percent of the team’s offensive snaps behind Jimmy Garoppolo. Ian Book — the 133rd overall pick, out of Notre Dame — made his debut on Monday night for the Saints, completing 12 of his 20 passes for 135 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
Jones, meanwhile, has put together a solid — if unspectacular — rookie season. He’s thrown 18 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, averaging 7.2 yards per attempt and posting a 90.2 passer rating.
3,313 yards, 7.2 Y/A
18 TDs, 12 INTs
90.2 passer rating
39 rushes, 113 yards, 0 TD
3,225 yards, 5.9 Y/A
9 TDs, 14 INTs
70.6 passer rating
61 rushes, 301 yards, 2 TDs
It hasn’t been perfect. But a win over Lawrence and the lowly Jaguars would certainly help add to what has already been a successful rookie showing for Jones.