FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Quick-hit thoughts/notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:
1. Mac’s models: Just as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ Tom Brady has leaned heavily on personal quarterback coaches Tom Martinez and Tom House over his career, Patriots first-round draft pick Mac Jones has done the same.
Joe Dickinson, who first started coaching as a graduate assistant in the 1980s under Barry Switzer at Oklahoma, has been with Jones since an initial meeting at the DeBartolo Sports Camp in Jacksonville, Florida, when Jones was 11.
The two communicate daily, such as Saturday when Dickinson’s phone buzzed with a text at 5:50 a.m. It was Jones.
“He said, ‘Hey, Coach, are you ready to go to work?'” Dickinson told ESPN.com in a phone interview.
Dickinson said the early-morning text reflects Jones’ relentless work ethic and passion for the game. As Jones takes the early steps of hoping to become the Patriots’ succession plan to Brady, Dickinson pointed out that Jones has long studied Brady’s game.
“Tom Brady is a huge idol to him, since he was a young guy,” said the 64-year-old Dickinson. “I had a buddy of mine from the NFL who would get me New England film, and we looked at that a lot, because he was a master of going to the right guy. He loves Brady, because he’ll cut your heart out with a dull spoon.”
For Patriots followers becoming more familiar with the 6-foot-2, 217-pound Jones, and what he hopes to become, the quarterbacks he watches closest with Dickinson provide an introductory guide.
“He studied Tom Brady the most. Then Drew [Brees], because Mac knows his own capabilities. Drew might not have the biggest gun in the fight, so he has to have fast eyes. While Mac has a lot stronger arm than people think he does, and he’s more athletic than people think he is, he’s a huge student of the game and he has the fastest eyes.”
As Dickinson was relaying that information, he started to laugh. His phone was buzzing again with a text message from Jones. He wasn’t surprised.
Jones told him he’d be back in Birmingham, Alabama, at 1:15 p.m., and wanted to finalize the details for a one-on-one throwing session with him. After two days of draft excitement and hype — from Cleveland to New England to Alabama — it was time for Jones to get back to work.
2. QB economics: Jones’ contract with the Patriots will be four years, $15.58 million, fully guaranteed, and include an $8.6 million signing bonus. The deal, like all first-round picks, will include a fifth-year option. That’s a great contract for the Patriots — assuming Jones pans out. Had Jones gone to the 49ers at No. 3, he would have signed a four-year, $34.105 million deal that was fully guaranteed.
Check out the best highlights from Alabama DT Christian Barmore’s college career.
3. Intel on Day 2 picks: A brief reach-out to some scouts/personnel men on the Patriots’ Day 2 picks — Alabama’s defensive tackle Christian Barmore (second round, No. 38) and Oklahoma’s outside linebacker Ronnie Perkins (third round, No. 96) — confirmed the initial impression that both weren’t expected to be available at those picks based on pure talent alone. So both seemed to be a case of how teams balance talent with the fact these are young men who are still maturing. Barmore had a challenging training camp, posted on social media that he wanted out of Alabama, and had deleted Alabama references from his accounts before playing his best football late in the season. And Perkins reportedly failed a drug test that led to a suspension, limiting him to six games. They both get a fresh start in New England, where their talent is less of a question than how they adapt maturity/culture-wise.
4. Mills as QB2?: The Patriots obviously felt good about Jones falling to them at No. 15, but as usual, they were prepared for multiple scenarios, having spent considerable time and resources on the second tier of quarterbacks. Who might have been their target? The Texans’ selection of Stanford’s Davis Mills early in the third round (No. 67) is the strongest evidence to me that he was the Patriots’ Plan B, as first-year Texans general manager Nick Caserio grew up in the New England system.
5. Windy welcome: When Jones arrived in town Friday and took part in the traditional photo shoot for a first-round draft pick with owners Robert and Jonathan Kraft, there were wind gusts of 40 to 50 mph. At one point as he stood on the stage at the 50-yard line, answering questions from reporters, the Jacksonville native stopped and said, “I’m going to have to get used to this.” He said it reminded him of the windy days when he would bring his football to the beach and throw there.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) April 30, 2021
6. Mac’s timetable: When coach Bill Belichick didn’t wait for a question from a reporter after the first round and instead decisively declared Cam Newton is the team’s quarterback until further notice, some might have viewed him as being stubborn and fiercely loyal to Newton. The view here is different, however. Everyone knows the Patriots selected Jones to be their quarterback of the future, so the question is more “when” than “if” he’s handed the reins to show what he can do. But a foundational principle of the Patriots’ program is showing the type of commitment, work ethic and leadership to earn the respect of teammates and coaches, and there’s a process that still has to unfold over time. No one is handed anything until it does.
7. Bam(a), Bam(a): The Patriots selected back-to-back Alabama players with their first two picks in the 2021 draft (Jones and Barmore), and then back-to-back Oklahoma players after that (Perkins and running back Rhamondre Stevenson), which is the type of double dip at one school that has been commonplace under Belichick. It marked the sixth and seventh times, respectively, under Belichick that the Patriots have gone back-to-back at the same school: Rohan Davey/Jarvis Green (2002, LSU), Jermaine Cunningham/Brandon Spikes (2010, Florida), Logan Ryan/Duron Harmon (2013/Rutgers), Joe Thuney/Jacoby Brissett (2016/NC State) and Isaiah Wynn/Sony Michel (2018/Georgia). Only one team has done what the Patriots did this year (first two picks from one school, next two picks from another school): the 1992 Los Angeles Rams, with Pittsburgh’s Sean Gilbert and Steve Israel, and then LSU’s Marc Boutte and Todd Kinchen.
8. Wynn’s option: Monday marks the deadline for the Patriots to make a decision on the fifth-year options for 2018 first-round picks Wynn and Michel, with the team taking it down to the wire. Doing so for Wynn, the starting left tackle, would fully guarantee him $10.4 million in 2022. If the Patriots had selected an offensive tackle in the first three rounds of the draft, it might have swayed the decision. But since they didn’t, the safe play would be to pick it up, even though Wynn’s availability hasn’t been ideal because of injuries. For Michel, the No. 2 running back, it would be $4.5 million — which likely will be too rich for the team’s liking.
9. BB salutes Adams: Belichick called football research director Ernie Adams’ impact on the Patriots’ organization “historic” on Saturday night, tipping his cap to him while announcing Adams had concluded his final draft with the franchise. Adams and Belichick met at Phillips Andover Academy, with Adams first joining the Patriots in 1975 as an administrative assistant and assistant offensive coach under Chuck Fairbanks. Belichick noted that things the Patriots do now trace back to those years with Fairbanks and personnel czar Bucko Kilroy, crediting Adams for “being part of the process and the way he set it up and taught it to all the people who have come through here — from Scott [Pioli] and Nick [Caserio], to all the scouts.” ESPN’s Wright Thompson previously wrote about Adams as a secret to the Patriots’ success, and now Matt Patricia seems to be stepping into at least part of that role.
10. Did You Know: When the Patriots selected Jones at No. 15, it marked the second time in the common draft era (since 1967) that five quarterbacks were selected within the top 15. The other year was 1999 — Tim Couch (1), Donovan McNabb (2), Akili Smith (3), Daunte Culpepper (11) and Cade McNown (12).