The first day of padded training camp is always a big deal for an NFL team. It’s one thing to shine in a t-shirt and shorts. It is another to do it on the field with pads. On Tuesday, the New England Patriots put on the pads, Cam Newton put on a show, and Mac Jones struggled.
According to Pat’s Pulpit’s Ryan Spagnoli and Bernd Buchmasser, Jones was one of the biggest losers at Day 6 of Patriots training camp.
How much did Jones struggle? Not enough for any logical person to think he’s going to be a bust, but enough to suggest this “QB competition” might already be over.
Mac Jones Struggles With Command and Accuracy
Jones is a rookie, so we shouldn’t be surprised when he reminds of his lack of experience. Tuesday was one of those instances. According to reports from Patriots beat writers who were present for practice, Jones completed just 1 of 6 passes in 11-on-11 drills.
Jones’ inaccuracy included an “ugly interception” that might have gotten him benched during the regular season. The Athletic’s Jeff Howe wrote:
Jones followed with an ugly interception. Bourne was running an in-cut from the left side, and Ja’Whaun Bentley read the play and dropped into his lane. Jones must have never seen him because the ball was thrown directly to the linebacker. The rest of the period was monopolized by running plays. The important thing now is for Jones to avoid a pattern of turnovers. He was intercepted on back-to-back days to close minicamp, almost at nearly identical points of each practice. This is worth pointing out whenever it comes up: Whether or not Jones is going to make up ground on Newton, the most surefire way for a rookie to take himself out of the running would be to develop a habit of turnovers.
Without a question, most NFL coaches–but especially the ones in New England–will not tolerate poor ball security.
Meanwhile, Cam Newton Had Arguably His Best Practice as a Patriot
While Jones was struggling, the veteran he is chasing on the Patriots’ depth chart was busy having what some called the best day of practice Cam Newton has had with New England.
Newton completed 5 of 7 passes in 11-on-11s vs. the Patriots’ defensive starters, and those numbers are significant considering the team was in pads, and going against a much-improved New England defense.
Howe added this overall assessment of the day for the 2 quarterbacks.
Coach Bill Belichick, of course, recently noted Newton is the starter at the moment, and there’s no disputing that based off Newton leading off every competitive team period. But this was the first time Newton had a distinct advantage in reps with starting-caliber teammates around him on offense and defense. Newton was 5 of 7 in 11-on-11s against the starting defense, while Jones was 0 of 4 with an interception in 11-on-11s against the starters and 1 of 2 against the backups. Newton played well — maybe even his best practice of camp — in the highest-intensity practice to date, while Jones looked like a rookie for the first time. Jones had been coming off his two best practices, too, completing 33 of 45 passes over those pair of workouts. How quickly will he adjust to the speed and improve? Has Belichick already drawn a line in the sand to give Newton the extended work with the starters? These trends will be important to monitor in the coming days.
I’m not sure why so many continue to imply Belichick is saying Newton is the starter “for now.” Belichick has never added the disclaimer that many seem to be having a hard time letting go.
If we take Belichick at his word, Newton’s performance should only confirm what the coach has been saying since he drafted Jones with the No. 15 pick in the draft back in April.