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Mac Jones defends his athleticism

Mac Jones

Mac Jones isn't the first quarterback mentioned in this year's class of prospects, since he's not the same kind of athlete as Trevor Lawrence or Zach Wilson or Justin Fields or Trey Lance.

He does have the production, however, and he thinks there are other things that help him stand out in a crowded group.

"Yeah, so I mean, this quarterback class is a really good class," Jones said Monday. "You know, I'm just blessed to be a part of it. Obviously, you can watch the tape and see that we have great tape.

"What separates me is my preparation, and my ability to take what I learned from the coaches meetings in my own meetings, and then apply it to the field, I'm going to do exactly what the coach tells me to do."

The Panthers had a head start on their research on Jones, coaching him all week leading up to the Senior Bowl in January. And with so much focus on quarterbacks (general manager Scott Fitterer has already hit the pro day workouts for Wilson and Lance, and will for Fields), the diligence they're doing is beyond the due kind.

What they learned in their first-hand work with Jones is that he can absolutely lead.

"I've been really impressed with who he is," Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said of Jones in January. "I've been impressed with his character, his moxie, his swag. I mean, he's got it all. You can see why his teammates follow him, he's got a great way with other people.

"He's been a really productive quarterback, and he's shown a lot of things he can do this week. He's really smart, he's accurate, he can move his feet and slide in the pocket. For me, getting to know him, I can see why everyone raves about him and why he's had the success he had."

He had plenty of that at Alabama, passing for 4,500 yards last year, with 41 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Playing with receivers like Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle certainly helped, and there's a reasonable question of whether it was Jones' ability or the cast around him.

Of course, a lot of the praise of Jones is conditional. When he showed up to the shirtless weigh-in at the Senior Bowl, his lack of definition was obvious, drawing comparisons in the room to Tom Brady's combine photos (although those photos didn't age nearly as well as Brady has).

But Jones did run a 4.7-second 40-yard dash, and defended his ability to move.

"I mean, I've always believed in my athleticism. I honestly kind of just make jokes about it," Jones said. "But I really am a pretty good athlete. And I mean, the numbers are the numbers at the end of the day, it really doesn't matter. But I think I proved that at least I'm gonna go out there and compete, and even have fun with it."

Of course, no one's drafting Jones for his mobility, and that's fine with him. Getting with teams by Zoom and going over plays on the board works to his strengths, and he's fine showing that off too.

"I've gotten a chance to show what I know, just watching our film," he said. "And sometimes we'll pull up games and plays from last year. And I'll remember every detail that all 20 people were doing. I don't know what it is, maybe I have a little bit of a photographic memory."

And if teams aren't buying what he's selling when he brags about his speed, he knows he has other things to fall back on.

"I think that a team that picks me is going to realize that they don't have to worry about me being the first guy in, last guy out, I'm gonna sit and watch as much film as I can and do all the right things," he said.

And in the NFL, doing that every day can make up for a lot of things you may not have.

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