New England Patriots: 3 things to watch for in preseason finale

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) /
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New England Patriots
Cam Newton #1 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

New England Patriots thing to watch No. 1: Who’s getting snaps at QB?

The quarterback discussion has been the hottest topic all offseason long for the Patriots, so why would it be any different in the preseason finale? Cam Newton seemingly put things to rest with a dominant performance against the Eagles last week, but was promptly forced to miss five days of practice due to a COVID “misunderstanding”. That led to Mac Jones getting an extended look with the first team, and he looked fantastic for the most part, reopening the quarterback competition in the process.

Now it all boils down to the final preseason game. Newton returned to practice Thursday and reclaimed his role as leader of the first team offense, implying that nothing has changed despite Jones standout effort in practice during his absence. But reports began trickling out of the Patriots camp that Newton’s COVID issues drew the ire of the coaching staff, and they obviously watched Jones pick the Giants defense apart in joint practices this past week.

That’s why even though things still seem to point to Newton for the time being, the quarterback competition is the top thing to watch in tomorrow night’s preseason finale. Jones has essentially reduced the gap between himself and Newton to nothing, and if he balls out while Newton struggles, there’s a good shot he finds himself under center come Week 1.

This may all be pure speculation, as no one knows how the quarterbacks will be used tomorrow night. So far in both games, Newton has gotten the first quarter, Jones has gotten the second and third, and third stringer Brian Hoyer has gotten the fourth. Maybe that sticks, or maybe head coach Bill Belichick decides to switch things.

In previous seasons, the Pats would typically use the third preseason game as a dress rehearsal of sorts, and let this first team units play the first half of the game. That was when there were four preseason games however, and it remains to be seen what the plan of attack will be for what is now the third and final game of preseason action.

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Whichever way it goes, the Patriots quarterback situation will again be the most interesting storyline of the preseason finale. The only way it would become uninteresting is if Hoyer is told to play the entire game, which just isn’t going to happen. Each preseason game has shown us something new in regards to the quarterback competition, and this game should be no different.