New England Patriots: With Cam Newton out, it’s Mac Jones time to shine

Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

One of the most compelling storylines throughout the New England Patriots offseason has been their quarterback situation. After re-signing Cam Newton before the start of free agency, they added their quarterback of the future in Mac Jones with the 15th overall pick of the draft. Ever since then, fans have been wondering who would end up under center on September 12th when the Miami Dolphins roll into town.

For most of training camp and preseason, Newton has been the presumed starter. Head coach Bill Belichick said as much early on, and while he hasn’t officially locked in Newton as the Week 1 starter, it feels like we have been heading towards that for much of the offseason.

Newton’s dominating performance in New England’s most recent preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles only seemed to further cement his status as the starting quarterback. He was dominant against the Eagles backups, going 8/9 on his passes for 103 yards and a touchdown in just one quarter’s worth of work. It wasn’t necessarily that Jones did bad on the other hand, but Newton performed so well that it felt like the job was his after this one.

It’s fair to say though that Newton’s grip on the starting job isn’t what it once was, and it almost certainly took a hit yesterday when it was reported that Newton will be out of practice for most of the week due to a COVID-related “misunderstanding”. These are critical days of practice that Newton won’t be available for, leaving all the first team snaps for Mac Jones.

Newton’s absence is a huge deal for Mac Jones and the New England Patriots

This is understandably a huge development for both Jones and the Patriots. Jones has pretty much spent most of the camp behind Newton and running the second team offense. But now he has a prime opportunity to get some reps with the first team offense, and he could make up some serious ground in the quarterback race as a result.

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Part of the reason this is such a big deal is because the New England Patriots have a set of joint practices with the New York Giants this upcoming week. Joint practices are usually the most competitive practices, as you are playing against an opponent rather than yourself. The Giants have already been involved in a number of brawls during their training camp period, and it wouldn’t be surprising if another scrum broke out this week in Foxboro.

It may be for just a few days, but this is a huge opportunity for Jones to really force New England’s coaching staff into a tough decision. These practices will be the closest thing he has seen to an NFL caliber defense so far. We have seen him carve up second unit defenses so far, but now the stakes are being raised.

It may seem a bit presumptive to be making such a big deal over this, but imagine if Jones lights things up this week. It’s a big step towards proving he’s the real deal, and that he’s ready for NFL action. He could essentially re-open the supposedly dead quarterback competition if he balls out.

He also could struggle, and basically hand the starting role to Newton. It may already be Newton’s, and this is wasted speculation, but the NFL isn’t that simple. If Jones stands out, you can bet that the coaches will notice and take it into account with their evaluations.

Regardless of whether you think Newton should start or Jones should start, this is an absolutely huge piece of Jones development. We have heard all training camp long that he is closing the gap on Newton in the quarterback room. Now we are about to find out just how close that gap is.

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For the first time this offseason, the ball is in Mac Jones court. After waiting in the wings behind Newton, he now has a shot to prove to coaches that he is just as good, or maybe even better than the supposed starting quarterback. It may not seem like much, but Jones has a huge opportunity this week to stand out, and he may end up forcing the New England Patriots coaching staff into a difficult decision over these next couple of weeks.