The New England Patriots drafted Mac Jones intending to develop him behind starting quarterback Cam Newton early in the 2021 season. With the Patriots’ season opener approaching, Bill Belichick’s decision isn’t as easy as expected.
Jones, the 15th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, keeps making strong impressions this summer. He generated a ton of buzz in minicamp, received strong reviews in training camp and impressed even more in preseason action.
But true to Belichick’s word, Newton has received a majority of the first-team reps this summer. The Patriots’ rookie quarterback started closing the gap as of late, creating speculation that he might steal the job and open the season as the starter.
But based on the last week of practices and the Patriots’ preseason victory on Thursday, The Athletic’s Jeff Howe explained why Newton is still expected to take the field in Week 1.
“Newton has monopolized the leadoff reps in each practice period of training camp, started both preseason games and has evidently done what the coaches wanted along the way to maintain his perch as QB1. Even though head coach Bill Belichick hasn’t informed the Patriots who will start Week 1 against the Dolphins, the evidence is in plain sight that it’ll be Newton.”The Athletic’s Jeff Howe on New England Patriots QB Cam Newton
While Newton got off to a slower start, he is really turning it on as of late. The former NFL MVP had the football world buzzing after his performance against the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday.
One important thing to keep in mind, which Howe notes in his analysis of the Patriots’ roster, is that New England isn’t even unleashing its offense yet. We haven’t seen Josh McDaniels deploy the RPO game, an element that will be a fixture in the offense this season.
Jones has certainly impressed, but the Patriots are still extremely high on Newton. He is Belichick’s preferred starter and there’s a reason for it. Before he tested positive for COVID-19, with the side effects impacting him for the rest of the 2020 season, Newton played at a high level and this team looked like a contender.
New England recognized its supporting cast wasn’t good enough last year. Adding tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith changes this passing attack and there are enough weapons for the Patriots’ scheme to work.
If Newton is healthy, he gives this team its best chance to win right now. Once Jones gets more comfortable with the system and things can really open up, the Patriots will make the switch and a new era will begin in Foxborough.