A closer look at Mac Jones and the Patriots

Foxborough, Mass., July 28, 2021 — Patriot QBs Mac Jones (50)  and Cam Newton (1) work through a drill during Patriots training camp at Gillette Stadium. (Bob Breidenbach/The Providence Journal/TNS)

Credit: Bob Breidenbach, The Providence

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Foxborough, Mass., July 28, 2021 — Patriot QBs Mac Jones (50) and Cam Newton (1) work through a drill during Patriots training camp at Gillette Stadium. (Bob Breidenbach/The Providence Journal/TNS)

Credit: Bob Breidenbach, The Providence

FLOWERY BRANCH -- Mac Jones looked pretty weird in training camp wearing that No. 50 jersey.

The former Alabama quarterback, who dropped to the Patriots at the No. 15 NFL draft slot this year, looks comfortable in his No. 10 jersey now. He and the Patriots are set to face the Falcons (4-5) at 8:20 p.m. Thursday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Jones has the Patriots off to a 6-4 start, and they are coming off a 45-7 drubbing of the Cleveland Browns.

“He’s smart, he’s efficient,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “He’s doing a really good job for them. Can tell he’s doing what they’re asking them to do.”

Jones has completed 223 of 323 passes (69%) for 2,333 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He has a passer rating of 94.1.

The Patriots and Jones got off to a rocky start. They were 1-3 before winning five of their next six games, including four in a row. The Patriots are 6.5-point favorites over the Falcons by betonline.ag.

“He looks poised,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. “I’ve been impressed. I mean, nothing seems too big for him. He goes out there and just continues to compete and make good plays for them.”

Jones had to beat out veteran Cam Newton for the job. Newton was released and recently signed with the Panthers.

“Seems to get them in the right plays and right protections and those kinds of things quite a bit,” Ryan said. “So, of the little I’ve seen, I think he’s done a good job.”

Jones benefits from a strong rushing attack. Damien Harris is the Patriots’ leading rusher, but he missed Sunday’s game while in the league’s concussion protocol. He was replaced in the starting lineup by rookie Rhamondre Stevenson, who rushed for 100 yards against the Browns.

Jones’ top receiver is Jakobi Meyers, who played at Arabia Mountain High and N.C. State.

Meyers, who was passed over in the 2019 draft, leads the Patriots with 50 catches. He has 483 yards and a touchdown. Kendrick Bourne has 33 catches for 520 yards and three touchdowns.

Tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith were added in free agency over the offseason. Henry signed a three-year, $37.5 million deal.

Smith, who formerly played with the Titans under then-offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, received a four-year $50 million.

“They went out and spent a lot of money in free agency,” Smith said. “They (have) a really talented defense. They’re physical, they’re going to jam you.”

Henry, the Patriots’ main red-zone threat, caught two touchdowns against the Browns and has seven on the season.

Jones is making good use of his weapons.

“They’re playing really efficient on offense,” Smith said. “He’s going to make the right read for them. They’re playing really well as a team.”

The Patriots defense is led by linebackers Matthew Judon, Ja’ Whaun Bentley, Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower. Judon has 9.5 sacks, which is fourth in the league.

The Patriots have the second-rated defense in points allowed at 17.7 per game and sixth-rated unit in yards allowed at 328 yards per game.

“I think the one thing they don’t get enough credit for is how physical they are,” Smith said. “You know, even the runs. I mean, you watch them play right now, and they’re doing a heck of a job. They’re as physical as any team.”

The secondary is anchored by second-year safety Kyle Dugger, who played at Whitewater High and at Lenoir-Rhyne. He has three interceptions and 64 tackles.

Dugger was lightly recruited coming out of high school, but developed into one of the top safeties in the Division II ranks. The Patriots selected him in the second round of the 2020 draft. He was the AJC’s fifth-rated safety in the 2020 draft.

Last season, the Patriots finished 7-9 and in third place in the AFC East. That was the first time they missed the playoffs since 2008 and their first losing season since 2000.

They appear to back on the road to the playoffs with Jones leading the way.

Jones has the best Pro Football Focus.com grade (88.7) of any of the rookie quarterbacks. He super power has been his accuracy as he ranks seventh in Next Gen Stats Completion Percentage Over Expected metric (+2.6%) (accuracy).

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Falcons’ 2021 schedule features trip to London, January trip to Buffalo

Atlanta Falcons schedule and scores

Eagles 32, Falcons 6

Buccaneers 48, Falcons 25

Falcons 17, Giants 14

Washington 34, Falcons 30

Falcons 27, Jets 20

Bye Week

Falcons 30, Dolphins 28

Panthers 19, Falcons 13

Falcons 27, Saints 25

Cowboys 43, Falcons 3

Next four games

Patriots at Falcons, 8:20 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18

Falcons at Jacksonville, 1 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 28

Tampa Bay at Atlanta, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 5

Atlanta at Carolina, 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 12

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