Patriots: Tough schedule could mean rookie struggles for Mac Jones

The New England Patriots made the most stunning move of cut day in the NFL, releasing Cam Newton in order to make Mac Jones the unquestioned starting quarterback for the 2021 season opener.

After Newton’s COVID-19 fiasco and Jones’ strong preseason, Bill Belichick chose to turn the page.

Jones’ two big concerns coming out of college were his ability to fit the ball into tight windows and his mobility when the pocket collapses.

Based on what we’ve seen so far, Jones looks ready not only to start in the NFL, but to produce at a high level.

Rather than keeping Newton as the starter, ditching him when Jones has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is ready to become the No. 1 guy, Belichick is throwing Jones to the wolves immediately … and the rookie will have a very tough opening set of games.

Jones is not going to get eased into action, as his first game will be against the division-rival Miami Dolphins, led (for now) by former college teammate Tua Tagovailoa. That’s followed up with another divisional game against the Jets, a matchup against a deep Saints team, and the mighty Buccaneers coming to town right after.

Mac Jones could be in for a rough start with the Patriots.

While Miami has their own quarterback questions, that defense is as legit as they come, and it will be tough for a rookie to navigate that secondary. The Jets game will likely be a win, but they won’t be as much of a pushover given the offseason overhaul they made after the firing of Adam Gase.

New Orleans will put Jameis Winston’s arm talent in Sean Payton’s offense, which will complement a defense laden with a ton of stars. In Jones’ fourth NFL start, he’ll have to take on the defending champion Buccaneers in a game that will be best known for Tom Brady’s return to New England.

Luckily, Jones might be able to beef his stats back up in the few games after. With the lowly Texans, defense-deficient Cowboys, rebuilding Jets a second time, and mysterious Panthers making up four of New England’s next five games after Tampa Bay, Jones could find his footing during that span.

The former Alabama gunslinger is going to get a bit of a trial by fire here because the Patriots have some difficult defenses right off the bat. However, if he’s as good as New England believes he is, we could be in for a pleasant surprise.