The New England Patriots have yet to officially name their Week 1 regular season starting quarterback. Presumed starter Cam Newton had to begrudgingly admit that his role isn’t yet secure last week.
On Monday, spectators quickly noticed that Newton was absent from practice. Shortly thereafter, the Patriots announced that he would be out of camp until Thursday as a result of a “misunderstanding about (COVID-19) tests conducted away from NFL facilities.”
“On Saturday, Cam Newton traveled to a Club-approved medical appointment that required him to leave the New England area,” the official statement read.
“He received daily Covid tests, which were all negative. Due to a misunderstanding about tests conducted away from NFL facilities, and as required by the NFL-NFLPA protocols, Cam will be subject to the five-day entry cadence process before returning to the facility. Cam will continue participating virtually in team activities and return to the club facility on Thursday, August 26.”
Understandably, many are now wondering if this opens the door for rookie Mac Jones to step in and steal the starting gig away from Newton.
Although Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has remained steadfast in his seeming desire to have Newton start, he did acknowledge this week that he wouldn’t close the door on a quarterback platoon situation.
“I am going to do whatever I can to help the team win,” Belichick said on WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show. “So, if that’s playing a guard in the backfield, then we’ll play a guard in the backfield. If it’s putting 10 defensive backs on the field, if that’s what it is, maybe we’ll put 10 defensive backs on the field. I am not going to rule out anything. If I think something would help us win, I would consider it.”
Beyond that, Belichick maintained that if Jones wanted to take Newton’s job – he’d have to really earn it.
“Well, I think the fact Cam started last year and he’s here, somebody is going to have to play better than him,” Belichick continued. “We’re not going to take a job and say, ‘OK, here, this is gift-wrapped for somebody.’ But, training camp is all about competition. There’s an element of who the starter is, but there’s also the competition and in the end the competition is going to decide how things go in any given year.”
Jones has had a strong preseason thus far. In Week 2 he went 13-of-19 for 146 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles. Between this outing and his Week 1 showing against the Washington Football Team, he has gone 26 of 38 for 233 yards with no passing touchdowns or interceptions. There is a decent case to be made that he has either been the best rookie quarterback thus far, or second-best after Zach Wilson of the New York Jets.
Ana Montana gets brutally honest about LaMelo Ball. https://t.co/68kaZAvlBs
— Game 7 (@game7__) August 23, 2021
Between how good Jones has looked, and the fact that opposing teams were publicly mocking the Patriots last year when Newton was the starting quarterback, it’s not particular difficult to envision a scenario where Jones takes over sooner rather than later. There’s a reason why Newton has been so sensitive as of late. He’s feeling the pressure.
One way or another, even if Jones doesn’t begin the year as the Patriots’ starting quarterback – there’s a very good chance he’ll end up in that role before the season ends.