The first quarterback to be handed the keys in New England after the departure of Tom Brady was bound to be heavily scrutinized from the start, as stepping into the shoes of the greatest of all time would not be an act most would want to follow.
However, through his first two seasons, it wouldn't be unfair to say that Mac Jones has had to deal with far more criticism than most probably anticipated, warranted or not.
For most fans, it's difficult to break out of the mentality that developed from watching the Patriots consistently reach unthinkable success over two decades, which creates a bias toward any new player attempting to follow that.
Although Jones has been far from perfect since he was drafted in 2021, the overwhelming amount of critique he has faced seems to be more in line with fans and media members having difficulty with adjusting to a new era in Patriots' football than adequately evaluating how Jones has performed in two seasons.
Of course, the 2022 season was a complete disaster. From Bill Belichick's decision to put Matt Patricia and Joe Judge in positions they weren't qualified for to Jones and other offensive players finding it difficult to overcome the obstacles, it was a season to remember for all the wrong reasons.
Now that we're heading into the upcoming season with more qualified coaches and big changes to the roster a lot of focus remains on Jones and how he will perform in year three. Since he will be working with Bill O'Brien and new offensive weapons, he hopes to have a bounce-back season and revert to his rookie form.
As the team returned to Foxboro earlier this week for the start of training camp, asking some of Jones' teammates about his performance and expectations heading into the season was a hot topic.
David Andrews was one of his teammates questioned about Jones. He was asked how he's seen the quarterback change ahead of his third NFL season.
"Just seeing him grow more confident. Getting older he’s doing more. Getting comfortable in the system – things we’re doing. I know he’s been here a lot of the summer working with guys and doing things like that. So that’s always great – as much as they can get on the same page. I think Mac’s got all the tools to succeed."- David Andrews
It was a glowing review from a guy who works the most with Jones each and every day. And he wasn't the only one to have nothing but good things to say about him on Tuesday.
Special teams captain Matthew Slater was also asked about what he's seen from Jones up to this point, especially after the difficult season he had last year.
"He’s a resilient young man. Playing quarterback is one of the toughest jobs in all of pro sports. Everything you do is analyzed to the nth degree. I mean, ‘What did he wear? What did he eat? What’s he doing on his Instagram? Or workout?’ You know, it’s hard.- Matthew Slater
But I think he’s shown a great deal of mental toughness. I think he’s learning, ‘Hey, I’m just gonna focus on the things I can control, keep my head down, work hard, try and get better for our football team.’ And I think that’s been the approach of a lot of our younger players, and all of our players. "
Considering the amount of cynicism surrounding his future as the quarterback of the Patriots, it's assuring and insightful to hear his teammates, especially tenured and respected members of the team like Andrews and Slater, speak candidly about what they've seen and openly support him while so many others do not.
Heading into his third NFL season, Jones has a lot of work to do to get back in the good graces of his coaches and hopefully lead the Patriots back into a position of being a winning and competitive team.
It won't be easy, but it's clear he has support from his teammates that it can be done. Now it's up to Jones to prove it.