Mac Jones continues to make all the right moves.
Following a standout rookie season that included winning a camp quarterback competition against a former MVP, helping to lead the Patriots back to the playoffs, and earning a Pro Bowl invite, Jones has “made tremendous strides” and is starting 2022 “from a much, much higher point,” Bill Belichick said Tuesday, the day the players reported to training camp.
“I think Mac’s done a great job,” Belichick said. “He’s worked extremely hard. He’s got a tremendous work ethic in all areas. I think there’s a dramatic improvement. His physical work and conditioning, working on his mechanics, working on his footwork, working on his understanding of our offense, of opponent defenses, of situations. All those things.
“We’ve talked about all those things in varying degrees — some more emphasis than others — and the emphasis on maybe some other things will come later on. You can’t do it all at once.’’
Jones led the NFL rookie class in nearly every passing category, hitting on 67.6 percent of his attempts, good for 3,801 yards with 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Jones and the Patriots have undergone significant changes since the season-ending playoff loss to the Bills. New England lost longtime offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, while Jones improved his diet and conditioning while also taking more ownership of the offense, including leading workouts around the country with his receivers.
Belichick said Jones will have input when it comes to decisions on the offense as he works with new quarterbacks coach Joe Judge and the other offensive assistants.
“We’re just a lot further ahead in the conversation,” Belichick said. “The plays that we talk about or the concepts that we talk about, Mac’s already done them before, and it’s easy for him to say, ‘Well, are we going to do this on that? Are we going to do this on something else? What do you think about splitting them a little bit wider or splitting them a little bit tighter?’ Suggestions like that.
“That type of thing comes up all the time. Now it comes up with the background and the experience of doing it.
“He might have had some of the same questions last year, but without really having the full knowledge that he has this year. He’s just a lot further along in the conversation, and we have a much better feel for what he can do, what his strengths are and how to play into those.”
Jones consistently drew high praise from his teammates through last year’s ups and downs, and longtime captain Matthew Slater believes Jones will soar higher this season.
“I think he’s demonstrated great leadership since the day he walked in this building, and I think he’ll continue to do so,” said Slater. “Ultimately, this is going to be his team.
“In a lot of ways, we’re going to take on the personality of our quarterback, but he’s just got to be himself. He doesn’t need to try to be anybody from the past, the present, or the future. He’s just got to be the best version of Mac Jones, and we’ll certainly respond to that and rally around him.”
Jobs over titles
Belichick reiterated that he isn’t big on job titles when asked about not naming a specific offensive or defensive coordinator. ”I think it’s important that we all work together and create a good final product, so that’s what we’re going to try to do,” he said. “That’s what we’ve always done.” As for when he’ll name play callers, Belichick said, “I’m the head coach. Ultimately, I’m responsible for everything. So, let’s leave it at that.” … Belichick said he loved Danny Amendola, who announced his retirement Monday. The coach said the slot receiver/returner was “very smart, tough, dependable, great hands and concentration. He was a good football player. Glad we had him here, and he certainly was a big contributor for us while he was here.” Devin McCourty added that Amendola was “one of the toughest guys I’ve ever played with.”
The hands team
The Patriots hosted a handful of pass catchers Tuesday, including wide receivers Derrick Dillon, Terry Godwin, Andrew Jamiel, and Cinque Sweeting, as well as tight end La’Michael Pettway. Notably, Dillon played for Judge in New York, while Jamiel played at Stonehill … Center David Andrews, who is starting the season on the PUP list after offseason shoulder surgery, said he has no definitive timeline for when he’ll be a full go … Entering his 15th season, Slater said that on reporting day he feels “like a kid going back to school.” McCourty’s take was a tad different: “Day 1, you’re happy to see all the guys … but I think anybody that tells you they love to be back at training camp, that’s a bold-face lie.’’ … Gates open at 8 a.m. Wednesday, with practice set to start at 9:30.
Jim McBride can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.