New England rookie quarterback Mac Jones was not called on to throw deep in a season-opening 17-16 loss to Miami, but that could change Sunday against the Jets. Winslow Townson/Associated Press

Mac Jones doesn’t need to be a dink-and-dunk artist all year long. In fact, this is the perfect week to loosen the reins and have the New England rookie quarterback let it fly a little more on Sunday.


Because the Jets defense will serve as a suitable guinea pig for offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to allow Jones to take a few more chances.

Even Sam Darnold had a good day against the Jets secondary last week, throwing two touchdown passes, including a 57-yard bomb to Robby Anderson, against his former team.

There’s no reason why Jones can’t follow suit. It’s time for the kid to air it out a little more.

Against the blitz-crazed Dolphins, conservative play-calling by McDaniels made sense, especially for Jones’ debut at the helm. Breaking him in slowly and gradually putting a little more on his plate as the game progressed wasn’t the worst strategy. Part of that was also assuming the Patriots defense would keep Tua Tagovailoa and the Miami offense in check.

That didn’t happen during pivotal parts of the game, even if Miami only scored 17 points.

Jones, who played well, just couldn’t get in the end zone enough. The Patriots were only able to put up 16 points, with a 1-for-4 showing in the red zone.

Given the Miami defense – with top-notch corners Xavien Howard and Byron Jones and a good secondary overall – McDaniels probably didn’t want Jones taking too many chances. There were also no shots taken into the end zone.

Three points was better than a turnover. Three points was also better than shaking the kid’s confidence, in McDaniels’ view.

The problem was there wasn’t a “W” attached to the effort.

Against the Jets, the narrative should change. And for Jones himself, he needs to get more aggressive and not be afraid to let it rip.

Jones acknowledged he left some plays out on the field against the Dolphins. And while attempting big plays against Howard and Jones, one of the toughest cornerback duos in the NFL, wasn’t part of the game plan, it should be against the Jets cornerback duo of Brandin Echols and Bryce Hall. Neither one is on Pro Football Focus’ list of the top 32 corners in the NFL. The Dolphins had two in the top 15. Echols is a rookie out of Kentucky, and Hall is in his second season. Michael Carter II is their slot corner.

Translation: It’s go time!

Patriots receiver Jakobi Meyers even said on Wednesday that he had to do extra studying because there wasn’t much film on the Jets corners. He didn’t know who they were, or what kind of players they were in terms of their tendencies.

Let’s just say with that group, the Jets won’t put up anywhere near the same amount of resistance as the Dolphins. So take some shots with Nelson Agholor downfield. Get Kendrick Bourne and the tight ends more involved.

The fact that Jets Coach Robert Saleh, formerly the 49ers defensive coordinator, primarily employs a cover-3 zone defense should also inspire a less cautious approach. Tom Brady used to routinely feast on teams that play Seattle’s cover-3. Saleh was in Seattle when the Legion of Boom became known for that defense, which operates from a 4-3 base.

McDaniels should have a pretty good idea how to help Jones attack and ultimately beat that defense, even if Saleh occasionally switches to a cover-2 to try and help his corners. That’s what he did against Darnold and the Panthers last week.

So unleash Jones and use that arm for a few big plays. Those were missing against the Dolphins, who blitzed frequently, and yet Jones still managed a 74.4% completion rate.

This time out, McDaniels should be able to be a little more aggressive with his play-calling and create more opportunities for Jones. Taking advantage of the Jets corners seems like the ticket.

The Patriots are, after all, a game-plan specific team, molding the attack to exploit the opposing team’s weaknesses.

The Jets corners definitely fall into that category.

During his Zoom call Tuesday, McDaniels didn’t necessarily rule out letting Jones sling it a little more, but just wants to make sure he doesn’t get too far ahead of the game with his young quarterback.

“There’s certain things he could do and there’s certain things that he’s not ready to do, and hopefully we make the right choices each week based on what the opponent does, how they play and what we need to be able to do at the line of scrimmage as well,” McDaniels said. “He’ll continue to learn and grow in that area, also.”

This week’s opponent should allow for Jones to take advantage of some matchups in the secondary, or as Hunter Henry said Wednesday, “put his guys in the best position to be successful.”

Success on Sunday should mean exploiting the Jets for much more than another dink-and-dunk experience. It should find Jones airing it out a little more.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.