The New England Patriots are reportedly irked by quarterback Cam Newton‘s COVID testing blunder, to the point where one source believes rookie first-round pick Mac Jones may now have a shot at the starting QB gig.
NFL Network’s Michael Giardi reported on the Patriots’ “level of frustration” about Newton and the “window of opportunity” for Jones:
Daily testing is required for unvaccinated players, so although he hasn’t publicly confirmed or denied his vaccination status, it’s clear Newton hasn’t gotten his shots in the arm. This is somewhat surprising, considering Newton came down with COVID-19 during the 2020 campaign and wasn’t nearly the same once he returned.
All accounts from Patriots training camp have painted a picture of a close QB competition between Newton and Jones.
Having led Alabama to a national title last year, Jones seems unfazed by the spotlight. Sitting behind Tua Tagovailoa certainly prepared Jones for life as a backup, yet his breakout season was preceded by his rising to the occasion, bucking expectations, and beating out highly touted recruit Bryce Young for the Crimson Tide’s QB1 spot.
The merits of starting Mac Jones over Cam Newton for 2021 New England Patriots
- Mac Jones stats (2020, Alabama): 311-of-402 passing attempts (FBS-record 77.4% completion rate), 4,500 yards, 41 touchdowns, 4 interceptions
- Mac Jones stats (2021 New England Patriots preseason): 26-of-38 passing attempts (68.4%), 233 yards
Even before this COVID situation involving Newton, you wouldn’t blame the Patriots for handing the keys over to Jones.
Thanks to his incredible processing ability, uncanny accuracy, and pocket presence, Jones has all the tools New England grew accustomed to in its two decades with Tom Brady under center. Not to say Jones will be remotely close to the accomplished legend Brady is, but his traits are far more similar to TB12 than Newton’s are.
While Newton can give the Patriots’ rushing attack a huge boost, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has proven he can adapt the game plan in any given week to great results.
Granted, that was with Brady at the helm, but the point is, it seemed like McDaniels had a harder time adjusting to Newton’s personal style of quarterback play in 2020 than he ever had tweaking his schemes in years prior.
The biggest knocks on Jones are his lack of elite athleticism, physical tools and the fact that he played on an Alabama team that lapped most opponents in sheer talent level. Well, at least to this point in his NFL journey, New England’s supporting cast around Jones hasn’t hindered him much — and that’s bearing in mind not all Patriots starters are getting heavy work, if any, in the preseason.
Jones has shown out well in two exhibition appearances, and his numbers would be a lot better if not for a couple close calls on downfield throws. He looks ready, but it’s ultimately up to head coach Bill Belichick to make the call.
The Hoodie’s pivot to Brady from Drew Bledsoe many moons ago was a stroke of genius. Can Belichick pull off a seamless transition once again?
Newton’s uninspiring play in 2020 could be attributed to a variety of factors, yet there’s a real case to be made that with a vastly upgraded cast of skill players from last season’s Pats, Jones could be in position for immediate success.