In the broadest of terms, a quarterback’s job is to distribute the football and get out of the way as quickly as possible. Obviously, the position has changed over the years and with a higher number of dual-threat players such as former New England Patriots QB Cam Newton entering the league over the last decade-plus.
Still, the directive for a large number of quarterbacks is to stay out of harm’s way as often as possible. That is certainly true for Patriots rookie starter Mac Jones.
As opposed to his predecessor, the aforementioned Cam Newton, Jones is a pocket passer through and through. As such, he is virtually no threat to advance the ball himself and relatively easy to be kept safe from unnecessary physical exposure.
During last week’s game against the Atlanta Falcons, however, the Patriots needed him to do the opposite — and offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Josh McDaniels came away impressed.
In the third quarter of New England’s primetime matchup versus the Falcons, Jones threw an interception when targeting Jonnu Smith on a play-action concept. Cornerback A.J. Terrell picked off the pass, returning the pick 35 yards to the Atlanta 48-yard line. There, he was met by Jones with fullback Jakob Johnson also chasing him down:
A.J. Terrell lockdown corner @ajterrell_8
— NFL (@NFL) November 19, 2021
While Jones getting in on the tackling action is not ideal — neither is throwing the pick in the first place — McDaniels spoke highly about how the young passer reacted in that particular situation.
“You would like to never have your quarterback make a tackle. But I think that kind of speaks to, one, his awareness of what is happening on the play, and then the competitiveness to do the right thing,” McDaniels said on Monday.
“Sometimes, you throw an interception and you can recognize quickly that the play is not going to go very far. And you just try to protect yourself and protect the team and do it. And then there’s other times, where if you don’t make the tackle, this could change the game. I think that we saw that play had the potential to be a play that would affect the score, certainly. And maybe the momentum, for sure, in the game. So, give him a lot of credit.”
Jones doing just enough to slow Terrell down and allow Johnson to come in from behind could have been the difference between a stop and a touchdown in a 13-0 game. The Falcons’ defender, after all, had made the play against one of the Patriots’ big personnel groups New England had two tight ends on the field as well as a fullback together with only one wide receiver, N’Keal Harry, on the far side of the field.
Had Jones not gotten involved, Terrell and his 4.42-second 40-yard dash might have had nothing but green turf ahead of him. However, the QB helped bring him down.
Eight plays later, the Patriots defense forced a turnover on downs.
“He’s a tough kid,” McDaniels said about his quarterback. “Obviously, you don’t want your quarterback to have to do much of that during the course of the year, but if it’s needed and required, that’s why we wear shoulder pads; that’s why we have a helmet on; that’s why we lift weights. The credit goes to him for understanding the situation and then doing the right thing.”