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Armando Salguero’s NFL QB Talk: Still Early To Tell About Mac Jones; Joe Flacco Surprises; Awesome, Tough Week For Carson Wentz

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The Mac Jones love is real.

The New England Patriots quarterback is having a solid rookie season. That sentence is backed by statistics and analytics, but will probably be viewed as some sort of slight because it doesn’t gush or predict a grand future.

That’s because Mac Jones has become the favorite rookie QB of pundits around the Earth the past month as the Patriots have won four consecutive games and pulled themselves out of an early season 1-3 hole.

Jones, who is the NFL’s 18th rated quarterback with a 94.1 rating, has performed well most of his games, especially during last week’s 45-7 victory over the Cleveland Browns. Jones completed an amazing 82.6 percent of his passes and threw three touchdowns without an interception.

That showing sent the opinion world spiraling into talk about Jones being better than a young Tom Brady in his first year as New England’s starter. One prominent ESPN show discussed how the Patriots are looking like Super Bowl contenders now that Jones has elevated his game from game manager to elite quarterback.

Me?

I’m calling a timeout.

I’m asking for calm. And a bigger sample size before we elect guys into the Hall of Fame after 10 NFL starts.

Jones, I remind you, is going to be playing in the first midweek game of his career Thursday night. We’re talking about a kid who said preparing for the tilt against the Atlanta Falcons was a learning experience.

“It’ll be a good experience just to learn how to play, you know, right after you just played on Sunday,” Jones said almost innocently. “With the quick turnaround, we all made an agreement to focus on Thursday, and nothing in the past matters, and nothing in the future past Thursday matters, so we’re all on the same page there.”

Let’s all get on the same page here: He’s a young, young player and he’s improving while surrounded by a good defense, a good running game, and an outstanding coaching staff.

But can we hold off on the looney young Brady comparisons? And stop with the talk of Jones being the top pick in a hypothetical NFL re-draft in which we know what we know now as opposed to what we thought in April?

The Patriots staff probably laugh at the rush to anoint Jones.

It says here Jones should probably be expected to play well against the Falcons.

The Falcons’ pass defense is horrible. They’ve allowed 19 touchdown passes, which is fourth-most in the NFL, and opposing QBs have a 106.5 rating against them, second worst in the entire league.

The Falcons play perhaps the most mundane, uncomplicated pass defense in the entire league because their coaches know how terrible their talent is and don’t want to add to the struggles by asking them to do something complex.

So, you go off on Thursday, Mac Jones.

But games against the Titans and the Bills are on the horizon. And those two teams can indeed defend against the pass.

Last thing: Even if Jones struggles against those playoff contenders, it won’t mean he’s not good. Because he’s a work in progress.

Which is the reason comparing him to 2001 Brady is premature.

Joe Flacco adding spice to Jets QB situation

Quarterback surprise No. 1 from the New York Jets on Wednesday was Joe Flacco being named the starter for Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins.

Quarterback surprise No. 2 from the New York Jets on Wednesday was Joe Flacco saying he’s not vaccinated for COVID-19.

In one day, the Jets quarterback situation suddenly went from a hot mess with starter Zach Wilson injured and backup Mike White coming off a rough start, to a hot mess that’s, well, kind of interesting.

Flacco is starting ahead of Mike White and Josh Johnson because the Dolphins are a blitz-heavy defense that attacks the quarterback with Cover Zero — meaning man defense against all receivers and everybody else rushes the quarterback.

So coach Robert Saleh announced he’s turning to the 36-year-old Flacco because of his ample experience against such pressure defenses. And Flacco believes he understands Miami’s approach and will come up with his own to counter.

“You stick to the basics in these moments and you trust that your plan and the simple things are going to be what carry you to play a good consistent game through 60 minutes,” he said. “As soon as you get out there and you just start winging it and try to make your own thing happen, yeah it might work one time, but you might have put your team in a hole for no reason.

“On the other side of that, I am super grateful to be in the position that I’m in, so I have to look at it as using all my past experience, and now to be put in this position, after not playing for a bunch of games, you do look at it like, wow, how lucky am I to be in this position? That’s the way I’m going to look at it and approach it. Like, go out there and play. Go out there and play ball, just do what you do.”

Flacco was asked what is now apparently a customary question of all NFL quarterbacks and that is whether he’s vaccinated. He said he was not.

But rather than get into a long explanation or debate over his decision, Flacco shut the topic down almost entirely.

“I feel like I definitely have my reasons,” Flacco said. I honestly probably like to talk about this topic more than anybody. It’s one of those things that you debate with all the time. But have overall felt like it’s more of a distraction than anything.

“So I feel like to kind of talk about it too much and give you all of my beliefs is more of a distraction than anything. I think the most important thing is going and playing a football game.

Week of blessing for Carson Wentz can also present issues

Carson Wentz is blessed. He and his wife Madison celebrated the birth of their second baby girl on Monday.

And while that is obviously a joy, it presented some issues for dad because an NFL quarterback usually spends a lot of time preparing for the next opponent Monday night and Tuesday.

And Wentz was also attending to mom and the new arrival at that time.

“We had a long day there Monday in the hospital, so definitely got some film in on the iPad a little bit,” Wentz said. “Had to get ready for these guys. Not a ton of sleep in the last two days, so we’re hoping for a good night’s sleep [Wednesday].”

Wentz and the Indianapolis Colts play the Buffalo Bills on Sunday and that’s the team’s sixth game against a 2020 playoff team. And the Colts are trying to win the first of those because they’re 0-5 against last year’s playoff teams.

“Listen, at the end of the day we’re heading into late November and December here, and so where we’re at, sitting at .500, we would love to say it could’ve look different, be in a different spot,” a sleep-deprived Wentz said. “All of that kind of goes out the window. It’s pretty wide open. We know that. For us, it’s let’s just try and go 1-0 each week and whoever it is that we’re lining up across, we’re ready to go.”

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

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