Why Brian Flores, Miami Dolphins are not underestimating Patriots' Mac Jones
MIAMI -- When Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Raekwon Davis thinks of New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones, he thinks of the Joker; he couldn't pinpoint which specific iteration of the famous comic book supervillain Jones personified, but he did say his former Alabama teammate was enamored by Batman's chaotic nemesis during their time together in Tuscaloosa.
Davis hopes to be the one bringing chaos come Sunday, when the Dolphins travel to Foxborough, Massachusetts to face the Patriots in the season opener on Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS). It's an intriguing matchup for a Miami defense that led the NFL in turnovers in 2020 -- an opportunity to give the rookie a harsh welcome to the league -- but the Dolphins will be preparing for an unfamiliar opponent.
"I just think for us, there's no film of him. I once had a coach say, 'prepare for war in a time of peace,'" Dolphins safety Jason McCourty said. "I think sometimes you look at it and you're like, 'Oh there's a rookie quarterback, we'll be all right,' and you have no idea what this rookie quarterback is going to go out there and do Week 1 of the season. ... You know he's prepared for the moment or he wouldn't be out there."
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Jones, who was a backup behind Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa for a stretch at Alabama, completed 78% of his passes as the Crimson Tide's starter last season for 4,500 yards, 41 touchdowns and four interceptions. New England selected him No. 15 overall in this year's draft and he competed with incumbent starter Cam Newton throughout the summer before winning the job outright last week. Newton was subsequently released.
McCourty, who spent the past three seasons with the Patriots, said he "wasn't expecting" Jones to beat out Newton, but he has been impressed by what film they do have on Jones -- specifically his ability to move defenses with his eyes and make adjustments at the line of scrimmage.
Miami has faced two rookie quarterbacks in two full seasons under coach Brian Flores; it was the only team last season to keep Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert under 200 passing yards (although he did account for three total touchdowns) in a 29-21 win. In 2019, Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph completed 55% of his passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns in Pittsburgh's 27-14 victory.
The Dolphins, with two weeks to prepare for a quarterback with precious little NFL tape, hope to replicate last year's performance against Herbert by throwing as many looks as possible at Jones to take advantage of his inexperience.
"You just try to confuse guys, execute well, line up different and really just play that cat and mouse game," Miami linebacker Jerome Baker said. "You really don't know what we're doing. At the same point, the offense does the same thing. We don't really know what they are doing. They try to line up a guy differently, bring him back in, bring him back out, try to go fast, get us out of personnel. ... We've just got to come in there and execute, follow our rules and play together."
Baker was complimentary of Jones, saying he's "not like your typical rookie quarterback," adding he's smart with a "strong, accurate arm."
Safety Eric Rowe said the Dolphins were figuring out how to stop the quarterback power-run scheme that comes with facing Newton, but shifted their focus toward Jones' pocket-passing style when the Patriots announced Jones would be their starter.
The rookie is a player Flores will not underestimate.
"Look, if he's earned the respect of [Patriots coach] Bill Belichick and [coordinator] Josh McDaniels, then he has my respect," Flores said. "He was a very good college player. He did a lot of great things there. I think one other thing I would say is this is not the Dolphins against Mac Jones. It's the Dolphins against the Patriots and they've got a good team. They've got good coaches. They've got a lot of good players.
"But specific to Mac Jones, I think he's a good, young talent and we'll have our hands full."