I Could Spend All Spring Listening to Patriots Veterans Talking About Mac Jones

Of all the things I'm grateful for this week (and it staggers the imagination how many blessings a man of my looks, charm, intellect and raw sensuality has to count), second on the list is the fact I got to Patriots mini camp when I did. Because not only did Bill Belichick immediately cancel the rest of camp, he cancelled next week's as well. I'm going to assume that the reason is because the practice I witnessed achieved excellence of the kind Plato was speaking of in his Theory of Forms in which he stated there is a realm where all things exist in their perfect form. And to run one more drill would be to diminish what his team has accomplished. Regardless, I'm glad I went, because that's the last workout until training camp begins in late July. 

The first thing on that list of blessings is Mac Jones. Specifically, how good he looks after a full year in the system. How strong his throws have been, in addition to the accuracy we saw last year, even when he was fighting for reps behind Cam Newton. How much he command and control he's demonstrating now that he's unquestionably The One. How he can rock out with his cock out to his coach's preferred brand of Jersey Rock. And really, as much as anything, I can be grateful for the way his teammates are falling in line behind him, ready to take his lead. 

In the Belichick Epoch, only two players have ever been voted captain in their second year: Devin McCourty and Jerod Mayo. (Tom Brady gets an asterisk for first being elected in 2002, his second year as a starter, but the third of his career.) Hearing the way Patriots veterans have been talking about Jones, if he's not named this year, it will be the biggest voting upset since a senior citizen beat Katharine McPhee back when American Idol still mattered. Because every time they're asked, it's never the obligatory "He's working hard and we're all trying to get better every day" you typically get with a still-unestablished passer. These are raves

Jakobi Meyers, his No. 1 target last year:

You ask if he’s taken control of the offense? That’s just a capital YES! Exclamation mark! Exclamation mark! He’s the real deal. Just kind of what he sees, we all try to catch up to what’s in his mind, his vision. I know him and the coaches have been doing a great job of just relaying information to us. But ultimately, when we’re out there, he tells us and we ask him. ‘How do you want it? Where do you want us to be? When do you want us to be there?’ He’s been really just adamant about what he says. He has a clear vision in his mind, like I said. It’s real easy to work with him because he puts us in the right direction and we just have to catch the balls that he throws.

Nelson Agholor, his top X-receiver:

He’s a year better. Working hard every day. He does a great job communicating, always working to be the best version of himself. I’m grateful to have him as a quarterback.

Tre Nixon, the last pick in the Pats 2021 draft class, who has been one of Jones favorite targets so far:

He's a great player. And I guess I'll let him speak for himself about what he's got going on, but as you can tell, just on the field watching him, he's making tremendous strides, for sure.

Kendrick Bourne, his best deep threat last year:

[Jones' leadership] is just at another level now. He's more comfortable, more confident. He knows what's going on, and the muscle memory is there. OTAs, then camp and the season. He's just more locked in, more secure in his position. He is over that rookie wave, and now it’s on to his second year. It’s going to be better, man. For myself, for a lot of us new guys that are going into their second year. So it’s going to be exciting.

Damien Harris, his top running back:

 I just feel very fortunate to share the field with Mac. He’s an incredibly hard worker. That’s what I appreciate about him the most — just coming out here, seeing the way that he leads, the way that he works his butt off to be the best — to be his best in order to help all of us be our best.

DeVante Parker, the team's top offseason acquisition:

He’s a leader. He’s a young guy, but he’s vocal as a leader. That’s what this team needs. And even though I’ve just been out here a few weeks, I still see it. … That starts in practice. He sees it. He likes what he sees. If there’s a confidence in him to have confidence in me to throw the ball up.

Even the former teammate he beat out for the job, who might have reason to be bitter, but is just impressed:

Believe me, I'd much rather be reporting on another 23-of-25 completion rate and how McCorkle hit guys on deep balls and all that. But if the coach says we don't need that, we don't need that. So instead, I'll just have to pass the time reading and hearing what the players who are counting on him to fly this jet have to say about him.

Some guys just have that leadership quality that is hard to define, but impossible to fake. Whether they're born with it or develop it due to circumstances, when you're in the presence of it, it's unmistakable. And it transcends age. These guys have been in the league longer than Jones, but every one of them sounds like they're willing to follow him through the gates of Hell in clothes soaked in gasoline. More than willing, anxious to get going and see how far he's going to take them. 

Everything you hear about Napoleon was the same. He wasn't from France. He had to learn the language. His classmates didn't think much of him at first (like so many of the draft pundits with Jones). But it didn't take long for him to establish he had that innate ability to lead men. So he was put in command of troops at a younger age than anyone ever had. And now that I think about it, he was first named a captain in the regular army in 1792, when he was 23. The same age as Mac Jones. 

Damn, this is going to be a long summer waiting for camp. At least we don't have to spend it looking for the next great Patriots quarterback. 

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