Mac Jones could earn New England Patriots’ starting QB job

For most of the summer, there’s been somewhat of a conclusion that New England Patriots rookie Mac Jones would sit behind Cam Newton for at least one season.

Despite New England going against the grain and selecting a quarterback in the initial round for the first time since 1993, there’s a belief that they are in win-now mode. Retaining Newton after a disastrous first season with the organization added another layer to this.

However, things have suddenly taken a turn during training camp and the early stages of the preseason. Reports from New England indicate that Mac Jones continues to impress the Bill Belichick-led coaching staff. The Alabama product also looked darn good in his preseason debut last week.

Rumors of Jones potentially winning the starting job over Newton aren’t dying down any time soon. Recent reports from camp have made sure of this.

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“I just got a text from somebody within the Patriots organization who pointed out that Mac Jones is handling things ‘very well, very smart, very hard worker, steady progress, ESPN’s Jeff Darlington noted on Wednesday. “These are all the things behind the scenes that you want to feel about Mac Jones.”

Darlington later added that he views the Patriots’ quarterback competition to be real.

“Yes it matters what we personally see in practice and preseason games, but what’s happening behind the scenes in that building, the fact that he’s making that type of progress, to me, tells you that yes, this is a competition.”

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Cam Newton talks Patriots’ quarterback competition

new england patriots' cam newton
Aug 12, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) throws the ball during the first half of a game against the Washington Football Team at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

This comes on the heels of New England’s incumbent starter dismissing the idea that he’s been named the starting quarterback by Belichick.

“You know, he hasn’t said that. So for you to just ask that question, you know, it is what it is,” Newton told reporters Monday following the Patriots’ practice with the Philadelphia Eagles. “Every single day, I’m coming out here with the anticipation to just get better, and that’s the only thing that I can do. So, I can control that.”

Newton, 32, was a disaster in his first season with New England. The three-time Pro Bowl performer threw a mere eight touchdowns against 10 interceptions in 15 starts.

With that said, there’s certainly some excuses for his struggles. The NFL didn’t hold in-person offseason activities last year due to COVID-19 and canceled the preseason altogether. For his part, Newton had to battle the virus during the season. Now, with a full offseason in the books, there’s no excuses.

Mac Jones, New England Patriots QB1?

Patriots vs Eagles, Mac Jones
Aug 12, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones 10) throws the ball during a game against the Washington Football Team at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Jones, 22, completed 13-of-19 passes for 87 yards in his preseason debut against the Washington Football Team last week. Most of his passes were of the short or intermediate variety and were pretty much on the money.

This is no small thing when it comes to offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ timing-based system. The idea is to get pass-catchers in space with the ball in their hands to create yards after the catch. It’s something Newton struggled with a season ago.

After seeing New England add the likes of Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne during free agency, it became clear that selecting Jones was as much about his fit in the offense than anything else.

Based on what we’re hearing from camp, Jones has succeeded in this regard. And in reality, it would no longer be a shock if he were New England’s Week 1 starter against the division-rival Miami Dolphins.