“I love chunk plays. My whole career, I’ve kind of thrived off those -- play-action and normal chunk plays. Just trying to keep doing them -- you have to keep the hook in the water, have the bait out there and continue to fish,” he said.
The 24-year-old Jones knows plenty about the value of explosive passing plays going back to his college days at Alabama, but those have eluded him early in the 2023 season.
Jones is 2-of-16 on passes at least 20 yards downfield, according to ESPN Stats & Information tracking. The 16 pass attempts are tied for second most in the NFL and the 12.5 completion percentage is second worst behind Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (1-of-9).
The two completions Jones hit on passes at least 20 yards were to rookie receiver Demario Douglas (23 yards) in a season-opening loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and tight end Pharaoh Brown’s 58-yard catch-and-run touchdown in Week 3’s victory over the New York Jets.
“We definitely work hard on that,” offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien said. “I think there’s some things that we’re doing pretty well, and we have to do a lot of things better offensively -- including our ability to get the ball down the field, chunk plays.
“There are a lot of different factors that go into that. How the game is being played. How we want to play the game as a team. What we’re trying to do to win the football game -- a lot of it based on how our defense is playing, how their defense is [playing]. We’ll continue to do what’s best for us in order to win the football game, but we definitely need to improve getting the ball down the field, chunk plays.”
One question that could be answered Sunday at the Cowboys -- who play with a retractable roof -- is how much adverse weather conditions have contributed to the Patriots’ early-season struggles, as they played two games in the rain.
This week, receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, among others, noted how much the Patriots are looking forward to playing in a climate-controlled environment -- even as they acknowledge the presence of former New England ball-hawking cornerback Stephon Gilmore as someone they need to be careful of when throwing in his direction.
The Patriots rank 26th in the NFL in points scored, and coach Bill Belichick noted after Sunday’s 15-10 win that 15 points usually isn’t going to be enough. That the team’s lone touchdown came on a big passing play -- a play-action strike to Brown out of a three-tight end set -- wasn’t lost on Belichick.
“Those are statistically the hardest passes to hit, but we’ve got to him them,” he said. “We’ve got to throw them and we need more production out of the deep balls.”
The Patriots haven’t been shy about attempting them.
On passes at least 15 yards down the field, Jones is 6-of-24, according to ESPN Stats & Info. The 24 attempts are tied for fifth most in the NFL and the 25% completion percentage is tied for 30th.
On passes of at least 30 air yards, Jones is 0-for-9.
The nine attempts are tied for most in the NFL with the Eagles’ Jalen Hurts, and Jones joins the Chicago Bears’ Justin Fields (0-5) and Arizona Cardinals’ Joshua Dobbs (0-4) as those who have yet to complete a pass of at least 30 air yards (of 24 qualified quarterbacks).
Jones struck an optimistic tone that more big catches are coming.
“I think we’ll hit them,” he said. “I’ve looked at other teams in the league at how they do it and kind of gotten a really good idea of ‘How can I improve on it? How can we improve on it as a team?’ The offensive line is doing well protecting, so we definitely need to hit them, and I’m looking forward to growing in that area.”