Rookie quarterback Mac Jones and former MVP Cam Newton will battle it out at training camp at the end of this month for the New England Patriots’ Week 1 starting job.
Jones recently signed his four-year rookie deal worth $15.6 million with a fifth-year option.
The Patriots originally selected Jones with the No. 15 pick in April’s draft. He was a solid QB at Alabama last season, throwing for 4,500 yards with 41 touchdowns and four interceptions where he led the Crimson Tide to an undefeated 13-0 season and a national championship.
Newton didn’t find the same success last season after going 7-9 as a starter, throwing for only eight touchdowns with 10 interceptions and an additional 12 touchdowns on the ground.
He’ll be looking to bounce back, starting this month.
Jones Was Superior at OTAs
Jones took the reins at OTAs last month after Newton was absent with a hand injury. He finished the last day of OTAs on a high note, but still has a lot to figure out.
While head coach Bill Belichick is open to Jones becoming the starter, he knows the young QB must earn respect doing his job before he steps into a leadership role.
“I think those things will happen naturally and run their course,” he explained to reporters via NBC Sports Boston. “I think, right now, all of our rookies need to really focus and concentrate on becoming a professional football player, making that commitment in all the areas that they need to make it in, learning the plays, the playbook, the techniques that go with the plays, the adjustments that go with the plays and be ready to execute their assignments and their job. Until anybody can do that, I don’t really think there’s very much leadership that takes place.
“We all have to be able to do our job, and until we can do a good job at what our job is, then it’s hard to earn the respect of the other people that are on the team. So it’s got to start there, and that’s where it is starting. We’ll see how that goes. I think that’ll all happen in some kind of natural pattern, so we’ll see.”
Jones ended his first year as a starter last season ranked first in both completion percentage (77.4%) and yards per attempt (11.2). He enters the NFL on the quest for the same success but understands it’s a completely different ball game.
His takeaways on the transition to the NFL so far have been short but sweet.
“In the NFL, a guy might be open by 3 inches verses 2 feet. Maybe he’s completely covered. It’s just where you put the ball. And you’ve got to work that when you’re doing drills,” Jones said following a conversation with Eli Manning.
Newton Know He’s Has Something to Prove
The former Carolina Panther QB knows he has a lot to prove after a disappointing first-year season in New England. Despite that, there is no doubt he’s still Belichick’s leading candidate for the starting job if he wants it.
Newton opened up about his struggles last season and what he plans to do differently this year.
“I have a constant note that I remind myself each and every day,” Newton said per NESN. “‘Pre-snap comfort will help post-snap results for me.’ Last year, Josh (McDaniels), you know, Josh’s system was something that has worked for decades and decades. So, for me, it was up to me to kind of learn it as much as possible. And I’m so grateful to have another opportunity to learn it as much as I possibly can.”
Newton is well aware it will be a full blown battle at camp, but nonetheless he’s a fan of Jones and has already given him a nickname.
“Mac and Cheese, he’s pretty cool, man,” said Newton. “He’s quiet. And I think he’s trying to figure everybody out, and I’ve been there before. I’ve been a rookie, and I’ve been a first-round pick where it’s just, like, so much is asked [of] you. Coming from a situation where you have a lot of people that are your peers, your same age group, and now… What is Mac? Twenty-one? Twenty-two? I’m 32. And [Brian Hoyer] is 35, 36. So it’s, like, tough.
“He’s doing a great job with being everything as advertised. From a leadership perspective, he’s holding himself accountable. And that’s all you can ask from a young player.”
The Patriots are in an interesting spot with Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater, Dont’a Hightower and James White the only members left over from the team’s last three Super Bowl wins. And Belichick knows he’ll have to hand the keys over to the younger guys but whether or not Jones is ready for that remains to be seen.