The New England Patriots appeared to be locked in on Cam Newton as their starting quarterback for Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season, but everything that has transpired in the preseason has given their first-round pick, Alabama gunslinger Mac Jones, more ammunition to overtake Newton in the near future.
With Newton not present at practice against the New York Giants due to a COVID-19 testing mix-up, Jones took full advantage by going 35-40 and completing 18 consecutive passes in Wednesday’s practice. Even though it isn’t a full-speed game, those numbers are extremely impressive.
The Patriots drafted Jones with the expectation that he will sit on the bench until he is 100% ready to take over for Newton, who is looking to bounce back after a poor 2020 season. That plan has been upset by the media frenzy around Jones, who looks more composed than anyone could’ve anticipated.
With the likes of Mike Reiss fanning the Jones flames after a dominant practice against the Giants, will the hype around him eventually become so strong that Bill Belichick breaks from his established plan and makes Mac the starter?
Will the media circus around Mac Jones force the Patriots to start him?
Reiss also pointed out that today’s copy of the Boston Herald was gushing about Jones after his standout day in practice. This could either be interpreted as the local media fawning over the first quarterback picked in the first round by New England in over two decades or a silent endorsement of Jones as the starter.
Jones has gone 26-of-38 in two preseason games and, while he’s been playing against backups, he’s also been playing WITH backup linemen and receivers. Despite that, he’s been able to go through his reads and deliver the ball accurately, which is exactly what Belichick, Josh McDaniels, and the Patriots needed to see out of him.
Newton had to be absolutely perfect to prevent Jones from overtaking him in camp — or at least it feels that way — and with this latest COVID slip-up combined with Jones eviscerating the competition, he doesn’t exactly have a stranglehold on the QB1 job.
Jones has become the darling of the local media, while Newton hasn’t done a ton to completely erase the stink of his disappointing first season with New England. The switch is coming eventually, and Belichick almost never bows to outside pressure, but Jones might have so much momentum that the head coach likely has to put No. 10 out there eventually.
Belichick will always let the best 22 players take the field, and he won’t handle the quarterback position any differently.