New nickname in hand, Pats rookie Jones finding his footing

Thu Jun 10 3:57pm ET
By KYLE HIGHTOWER
AP Sports Writer

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Mac Jones has his new nickname.

He also is slowly getting more comfortable existing in the whirlwind that has been his first month as an NFL rookie quarterback.

''Yeah, it's been good,'' the Patriots' first-round selection said Thursday when asked to describe how his relationship is developing with incumbent starter Cam Newton. ''He calls me Mac `n Cheese so I've got my nickname.''

Newton, who appointed himself as the team's nickname guru last season, was not on the field Thursday for the third straight voluntary workout after injuring his throwing hand last week.

Coach Bill Belichick said he expects Newton to be fine, but his absence did provide an opportunity for more reps for the team's other three quarterbacks, Jones, Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer.

The Patriots are scheduled to hold a final voluntary workout Friday before opening their three-day mandatory minicamp next week.

Despite not being on the field recently, Jones said Newton has provided a lot of leadership and has been generous with his time in showing the former Alabama star the ropes thus far.

''He's done an awesome job being a good mentor. He brings great energy,'' Stidham said. ''Brian and Jarrett have done a good job of helping me in the film room. All three of them - just watch their reps and learn as much as I can. You don't have to be in on that play to learn. I just have to figure out how to do that. I've been getting a lot better at just watching tape and learning how to do that and they've helped me in that regard.''

Jones has been a little timid at times when throwing the ball downfield during the limited portions of practice the media has been allowed to view. But he said his comfort level is growing with each workout.

''Really, just an everyday grind, so when you've got to come in and get your routine. That's what I've been trying to figure out - what's my routine?'' Jones said. ''In college you have one routine, in the NFL you have another. Every day you kind of fiddle with things. Obviously, there's things that I like that I've done and things I need to adjust.''

One of the biggest adjustments has been learning how to watch film in ''an NFL manner.''

''It's different than college. There's more to it. It's pro football. I'll figure it out,'' Jones said. ''I'm continuing to grow in that aspect. I'm obviously trying as hard as I can. It's not like I'm leaving early or doing anything like that. We're all just trying to get better.''

That has included taking stark coaching and criticism at times.

Asked recently about how he's approaching integrating Jones into the mix, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said he's always been a fan of brutal honesty.

''With the quarterback room, the best thing about coaching these guys is - and we've got four great guys in the room - is you coach all of them hard and you coach them all fairly and you coach them all to what they need,'' McDaniels said. ''One of them might need a kick in the butt once in a while and one of them might need a pat on the back. What all of them need is good honest communication and constructive criticism.''

Jones said he wants to be pushed hard.

It's how he was coached by longtime Belichick friend and confidant Nick Saban at Alabama and it's what he expects at this level.

''I've gotten hard coaching my whole life, so I'm super hard on myself. Sometimes it's hard,'' Jones said. ''Josh, he expects everything to be perfect. That's why he's so great at what he does. Our relationship is great. He does that with all the quarterbacks, so if you miss one detail, it's not good enough.

''As a rookie, you want to try to get everything right, but you're not going to. So I just have to accept that and try to be the best I can be.''

Top Headlines
The Paur Report

2021 Champion's Draft

Player Notes
Joe Tryon Jun 22 12:50pm ET

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed first-round outside linebacker Joe Tryon to his four-year rookie contract on Tuesday. Tryon was taken 32nd overall in the first round of this year's NFL draft out of the University of Washington. He opted out of the 2020 season due to concerns around COVID-19, but he managed to record eight sacks in college in 2019. Depending on how ready Tryon is for the NFL after taking a year off, he's an exciting pass-rusher off the edge that could become an impact player right away for an improving Buccaneers defense. He has the size and strength to be a full-time pass-rusher, but he also has the technique to drop into coverage if asked to do so. If not for the fact that he didn't play at all in 2020, he might've been long gone at pick No. 32.

From RotoBaller

Chris Evans Jun 22 12:20pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan has been impressed with rookie running back Chris Evans so far this offseason. "He's got the most natural hands for a running back that I've ever been around," Callahan said. Evans was selected with the 202nd overall pick in this year's NFL draft out of Michigan. While the 23-year-old has the physical skills, he doesn't have a ton of experience. He probably won't be anything more than a late-round flier in much deeper fantasy leagues, but he could be dangerous in this offense eventually, especially in point-per-reception formats. Evans is obviously a much more attractive dynasty/keeper piece, but if Joe Mixon misses extended time with injury, there's definitely a path for Evans to find some relevant single-year appeal in a rising Bengals offense.

From RotoBaller

Golden Tate Jun 22 12:10pm ET

Free-agent wide receiver Golden Tate remains available on the open market after being released by the New York Giants following two disappointing seasons. The 32-year-old hasn't received much interest, but he wants to continue playing and mentioned the Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Rams as three teams he'd be interested in joining. Tate wouldn't mind reuniting with quarterback Matthew Stafford in LA after enjoying three 1,000-yard seasons with Stafford in Detroit. The veteran wideout caught just 35 of 53 targets for 388 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games (four starts) for New York in 2020. He was benched at one point and dealt with a calf injury, so Tate will have to prove he's worth a spot on fantasy rosters again if he signs with a new team.

From RotoBaller

Frank Clark Jun 22 12:00am ET

Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark was arrested in Los Angeles on Sunday after police saw a submachine gun in his car. Officers noticed a bag with an Uzi sticking out in plain sight in the car, and Clark was then arrested on suspicion of having a concealed firearm in a vehicle. He was booked into an LA county jail and released Monday on $35,000 bond. "We are aware of the matter, which will be reviewed under the NFL's personal conduct policy," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. The 28-year-old pass-rusher spent the first four seasons of his career with the Seattle Seahawks before being traded to the Chiefs in 2019. Clark has been a Pro Bowler each of the last two years with KC, so any suspension would be bad news for the Chiefs defense. He has 49 sacks in 91 career games, including 14 total in the last two seasons.

From RotoBaller

Jaylen Twyman Jun 21 11:40pm ET

Minnesota Vikings rookie defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman was shot four times on Monday while visiting an aunt in Washington D.C. "Wrong place, wrong time," said his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. "In talking to him today, he's going to be OK - that's all that matters. We're thankful he's OK. He will make a full recovery." The 21-year-old suffered superficial exit wounds and will not need to have surgery. The Vikings selected Twyman with the 199th overall pick back in May. He was the first interior defensive lineman to lead Pittsburgh in sacks when he had 10.5 in 2019 since Aaron Donald achieved the feat six years earlier. Twyman opted out of the 2020 season in college due to concerns over COVID-19.

From RotoBaller

Frank Clark Jun 21 7:53pm ET

Kansas City Chiefs DE Frank Clark was reportedly arrested for felony possession of a concealed firearm in a vehicle Sunday, June 20. He was released on bond Monday, June 21.

From TheHuddle

Zaven Collins Jun 21 7:10pm ET

Arizona Cardinals rookie linebacker Zaven Collins, who was the No. 16 overall pick in this year's NFL draft, was arrested on Sunday for excessive speed and reckless driving, according to the Scottsdale Police Department. The 22-year-old was observed going 76 mph in a 35-mph zone in Scottsdale, Ariz. Collins signed his fully guaranteed four-year rookie deal with Arizona on June 8 and is expected to start right away in 2021. The All-American from Tulsa is a big and physical presence in the middle of the field. Despite his size, he moves smoothly and is great in zone coverage. Although he shouldn't be considered a sideline-to-sideline linebacker, Collins has excellent closing speed and change-of-direction ability. It's not a great start to his rookie campaign, but Collins should pair nicely with last year's first-rounder, Isaiah Simmons.

From RotoBaller

Dak Prescott Jun 21 1:10pm ET

Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Tyron Smith (neck), Zack Martin (calf, concussion) and La'el Collins (hip) didn't do much on-field work during spring practices, but all three are expected to be full participants when training camp begins at the end of July. The trio combined to miss 36 games in a lost 2020 season. The Cowboys were forced to use 13 different offensive line combinations a year ago without Smith, Martin and Collins. Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick also retired. Smith hasn't played a full season since 2015, but he said his injury is no longer something he's worried about. Collins said he's dropped around 10 pounds and is moving around fine. With these three linemen back healthy, Dallas' offensive line has the potential to be one of the best in the NFL, which is obviously great news for running back Ezekiel Elliott and quarterback Dak Prescott.

From RotoBaller

Justin Herbert Jun 21 12:50pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, the league's Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2020, said the team's new offense under coordinator Joe Lombardi puts a lot more on his plate. "It's pretty similar. I think there are just more personnel [groups], more formations and a lot more put on the quarterback with going up to the line of scrimmage," Herbert said. The sky is the limit for Herbert, but it's not easy for a young signal-caller to have to learn a whole new offense in just his second season. It might be a lot to expect Herbert to make another big jump in Year 2 after throwing 31 touchdowns in 2020. The 23-year-old is one of the best young QBs to own in dynasty/keeper leagues, but he should be more of a low-end QB1 target in single-year leagues in 2021.

From RotoBaller

Sammy Watkins Jun 21 12:33pm ET

Baltimore Ravens WR Sammy Watkins was the best receiver at the team's minicamp as he made several contested grabs. QB Lamar Jackson said it's fun to throw to Watkins.

Fantasy Spin: Watkins hasn't been able to stay healthy and has one 1,000-yard season in his seven-year career. He could still be worth a WR4/5 flyer, but the upside isn't there for much more.

From TheHuddle

Matthew Stafford Jun 21 12:30pm ET

Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay couldn't be more happy with the team's new quarterback, Matthew Stafford. "Bro, this dude's a bad MF-er," McVay said, laughing. "Whatever people say about him, as good as it can be, he's even better than advertised. It makes sense to him. The guy's ability to see the game, his ability to draw on his experiences, the feel that he has, it's pretty special and unique. And man, his feel for people, his authentic way of connecting with his teammates, his coaches, this guy, it's great being around him." The 33-year-old was often undervalued while with the Detroit Lions, but now he has higher expectations with a much better supporting cast around him. Health is a concern, but Stafford is an excellent selection as a QB1 with upside after the bigger names at the position come off the board.

From RotoBaller

C.J. Mosley Jun 21 12:23pm ET

New York Jets LB C.J. Mosley, who opted out last season and played two partial games in 2019 due to injury, has looked slimmer and quicker in practices this offseason.

From TheHuddle

Keelan Cole Jun 20 8:33pm ET

New York Jets WR Keelan Cole 'will be in the wide receiver rotation' following an impressive minicamp, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN.com.

From TheHuddle

Jamal Agnew Jun 20 7:43pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars WR Jamal Agnew will likely handle both kick and punt return duties this season, according to Bill Barnwell of ESPN.com.

From TheHuddle

Todd Gurley Jun 20 5:53pm ET

Free-agent RB Todd Gurley (Falcons) would be the No. 3 running back if he signs with the Detroit Lions behind RBs D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams, according to the Detroit Free Press' Dave Birkett

From TheHuddle

Rashard Higgins Jun 20 4:43pm ET

Cleveland Browns WR Rashard Higgins (undisclosed) missed the last two days of minicamp because of a undisclosed injury. The injury is considered minor.

From TheHuddle

Tre'Quan Smith Jun 20 2:33pm ET

New Orleans Saints WR Tre'Quan Smith has been working out with QB Jameis Winston on a regular basis this offseason.

Fantasy Spin: Smith is in line for a bigger role this season and likely will be one of the starting receivers for the Saints. He has played well at times over the last few years and can be a deep threat option in the passing game. Fantasy players can consider him a No. 4 or No. 5 receiver.

From TheHuddle

Allen Robinson Jun 20 2:13pm ET

Chicago Bears WR Allen Robinson said he is open to playing on the one-year franchise tag this season. He said there is no news regarding a long-term contract with the Bears.

Fantasy Spin: Robinson has been one of the top receivers in the NFL over the last few seasons and will continue to be the main focus in the passing game for Chicago. He is a weekly must-start option in all fantasy leagues.

From TheHuddle

Stephen Gostkowski Jun 20 1:53pm ET

Free-agent PK Stephen Gostkowski (Titans) is interested in continuing his career.

From TheHuddle