What initially looked like a landslide has become much more interesting in the last few weeks in the offensive rookie of the year race. Bengals recipient Ja’Marr Chase should still be considered the front runner, but former NFL Pro Bowl linebacker and current CBS Sports London NFL analyst Fletcher believes Patriots quarterback Mac Jones is a legitimate candidate for winning the Award is.
As the fourth quarterback selected in the 2021 NFL Draft, Jones completed 69% of his passes for 2,337 yards with 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. In his last four games, Jones has thrown six touchdowns against just one interception, helping bring New England to victories in each of those games. In Cleveland’s 45-7 round last Sunday, Jones set season highs by completing 82.6% of his passes with three touchdowns.
“I think it’s really a battle between Mac Jones and Ja’Marr Chase for Offensive Rookie of the Year because Mac, what he did and the Patriots are right in the middle,” said Fletcher. “He’s playing well. He’s a big part of why they have been able to take the position they are in and really have the opportunity to challenge the Bills for this league and make the playoffs.”
Jones would be the fourth Patriots player to win the award and the first since Curtis Martin took home the Hall of Fame honor in 1995. Jones credits offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for his steady growth over the first 10 games of the season. That growth has resulted in more downfield litters from Jones in the past few weeks. And while admitting that he has some autonomy over pre-snap audios, Jones won’t decipher how much freedom he has to change plays on the line of scrimmage.
“This is top secret information,” Jones said earlier this week. “You have to ask Josh or trainer (Bill) Belichick about it.”
The third player selected in last year’s draft, Chase caught 44 passes for 835 yards and seven touchdowns in the first nine games of the season. The former LSU star caught five passes for 101 yards and one touchdown on his regular season debut. Two weeks later, Chase picked up his first multi-touchdown game while helping the Bengals defeat AFC North rivals Steelers. Against the Ravens in Week 7, chase eight eight passes for a season high of 201 yards and a touchdown in Cincinnati’s 41-17 win.
The extra attention Chase has drawn from the defense is starting to show when Chase has caught a total of nine passes for 81 yards and one touchdown in the Bengals’ last two games. And while the defense will continue to work to minimize his production, Fletcher still believes that Chase should be considered the front runner to win Offensive Rookie of the Year for the last two months of the season. Chase joined the other receivers Carl Pickens (1992) and Eddie Brown (1985) as the only Bengals players to win the award.
“Yes’Marr Chase, he got off to such a great start,” said Fletcher. “If he can maybe get back to some of those numbers, he’ll likely win this award, but Mac Jones has filled that void in terms of Offensive Rookie of the Year.”