Perry: Mac Jones and the Patriots offense party in Vegas originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
HENDERSON, Nev. — The Patriots finished their joint practice with the Raiders with an exclamation point, courtesy of Mac Jones and Hunter Henry.
At the tail end of their two-minute drill, with four seconds on the clock and the Patriots down five points, Jones took a snap from the nine-yard line and surveyed his options. He eventually settled on Henry, ripping a strike over the middle of the field to the big tight end. After a leaping grab, Henry popped off the turf and threw down a thunderous spike before being mobbed by his teammates.
It was the second-straight strong finish to a practice for the Patriots. Although unlike Tuesday’s work — where the success stories for Bill Belichick’s offenses were few and far between — Wednesday was a more productive day for that side of the ball. And a more enthusiastic one, too.
Jones sought out his pass-catchers for celebrations after two touchdowns to Jakobi Meyers and one to Ty Montgomery. He saved his most exuberant reaction for Henry’s walk-off grab.
“We’re trying to just focus on the process,” Jones said afterwards. “Definitely was a better day for us. But we gotta just watch the tape, clean it up. Good day in the heat once again… It was a good, clean practice.”
Let’s start on the offensive side of the ball for the Patriots in today’s stock report…
Stock up: Mac Jones
Jones is often touted for his football intelligence and accuracy. But his grit — by the dictionary definition: “firmness of mind or spirit” — is one quality that is less frequently discussed but just as critical to his success. He exhibited it last year when bad periods of practice were quickly answered by good ones. Tough days as a rookie last summer were immediately followed by strong ones. When he was battered early last season behind a fluid offensive line, he weathered the storm and had his best stretch of the season following a painful first month or so.
This season, and particularly this summer, may be when Jones is best served by his perseverance. New system. New coaching staff. It’s been rough at times in camp for the Patriots offense. It was rough for the vast majority of Tuesday’s workout. But Jones was the best quarterback on the field Wednesday, showing better accuracy than Derek Carr — who missed open throws on a relatively consistent basis — in a chip-away-at-the-Raiders-defense kind of practice.
Jones went 4-for-6 in 7-on-7 work and followed that up with a pedestrian 11-on-11 period that included a blown-up tunnel screen, a run-pass option play for no gain, a sack, a timeout to get organized, a third-down incompletion and another sack.
But then came the bounce-back.
Jones hit Rhamondre Stevenson on back-to-back passes before lofting a dime to Jakobi Meyers in the back corner of the end zone. That led to Celebration No. 1. In the next full-team period, Jones hit three of four throws to get his team into field-goal range. That was followed by him hitting all four of his throws in the next period, with touchdown passes to both Meyers and Ty Montgomery for Celebrations No. 3 and 4.
Then came the two-minute period where he went 4-for-5, which was punctuated by Henry’s game-winner. In that period, he and his teammates got off four snaps with 18 seconds left.
In all 11-on-11 periods, Jones ended up going 19-for-22 with three plays that would’ve resulted in “sacks.” Including his 7-on-7 work — where the passing game worked on time, unlike some similar periods in previous practices — he went 23-for-28. It was one of his and his team’s best performances of the summer, about 24 hours after one of their roughest.
Stock up: Jakobi Meyers
There were two moments in Tuesday’s practice where Jones and Meyers couldn’t connect that were then quickly followed by lengthy conversations between the two on the sidelines. Whatever their issues were then, they seemed to be ironed out by Wednesday. He showed excellent concentration on his first touchdown grab, and on his second he elevated up and over a defender to high-point the football. After the session, Jones praised his most reliable wideout from 2021.
“He’s a really smart football player,” Jones said. “He’s been one of my close friends since I’ve gotten here, and I trust him. We see the game the same way, sometimes without even talking about it. So, we’re just working on growing together and making our repertoire a little better, with what he sees, how can he help me, how can I help him. Hopefully we can grow together here. He’s just a tough, smart football player. I’ll take him on my team — forever, hopefully. “
One day after going 0-for-3 in his middle-of-the-field 1-on-1 reps with the Raiders, Mills responded. He popped up for the first rep against Davante Adams in a red-zone 1-on-1 period and promptly batted Carr’s pass away. He later shadowed Keelan Cole expertly to force an incompletion, and he finished the period by running Tyron Johnson’s route for him and easily breaking up a throw to the back of the end zone.
“He’s one of the best if not the best in this league,” Mills said of Adams later, “so there’s no better look than to get to see him play in and play out in practice these past two days.”
Stock down: Isaiah Wynn
Wynn left for the sidelines under his own power in the middle of the second 11-on-11 period of practice for the Patriots offense. He left the field with head trainer Jim Whalen and later returned to the sidelines but did not participate. Asked how he was feeling after practice, he declined to comment.
Wynn missed last week’s work against the Panthers and was not able to participate in the preseason game. He was limited on Monday, but looked like a full participant Tuesday and for the start of Wednesday’s work. He appeared to allow a would-be “sack” to Maxx Crosby Wednesday prior to his departure. Wynn’s health moving forward bears monitoring…
Stock down: Justin Herron
…In Wynn’s place at right tackle was Herron. Yodny Cajuste has played well in spurts at right tackle in Wynn’s absence, but it was Herron — who the team used as the top right-tackle backup before Herron was injured earlier during camp — who got the call Wednesday. He had his issues with Crosby, allowing one sack and appearing to get beat by Crosby on another snap that led to a holding call.
Wednesday’s practice was really the first of the summer where injuries to multiple projected starters was one of the top storylines afterward. Not only did Wynn go down. So did Nelson Agholor and Harris. Agholor, like Wynn, returned to the sideline but did not participate after leaving with Wynn and Whalen. Agholor told reporters after practice that he could play Friday in the preseason finale if his number was called.
Harris, meanwhile, was not spotted after his departure. The Patriots are deep at running back with players like Stevenson and Montgomery, who look capable of being three-down players. But Harris has a key role on the team when healthy, and without him, Belichick would be without arguably his top between-the-tackles hammer.