Is there a real QB competition brewing in training camp for the New England Patriots? Many would suggest there is, but don’t count Bleacher Report’s Chris Roling amongst those who believe Mac Jones is a threat to start over Cam Newton.
Roling took just about all of the suspense out of the situation with his definitive take on Jones’ chances to make an impact as a rookie.
He does believe Jones could be ready to take over if Newton struggles during the season, but he doesn’t see it as a training camp decision.
The Patriots are going to roll with the former MVP (Newton) while the rookie learns, though if the former struggles by the midseason point, fans could see the passer who completed 74.3 percent of his attempts with 56 touchdowns and seven interceptions over three collegiate seasons. But for now, Jones remains perhaps the only guaranteed backup on the list.
The “guaranteed backup” piece might sound like an insult, but it’s not. In Roling’s article, he is comparing the five prominent rookie quarterbacks: the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Trevor Lawrence, New York Jets’ Zach Wilson, Chicago Bears’ Justin Fields, San Francisco 49ers’ Trey Lance and Jones.
He is evaluating which player is best positioned to make an impact as a rookie. Jones and Lance are landing with teams that have established veteran starters–albeit not guys coming off All-Pro seasons.
This concept comes down to situation, and Lawrence (who has been earmarked as a Day 1 starter for years), Wilson, and even Fields who will likely start the season behind Andy Dalton, are going into circumstances that will likely put them on the field before Lance and Jones.
Mac Jones Doesn’t Sound Like He’s in a Hurry to Start
Earlier this month after a particularly tough day in camp, Jones talked about improving as a rookie.
You’re gonna have good days, you’re gonna have bad days, but honestly you just gotta take it day by day and don’t look forward to tomorrow and don’t look back at yesterday, be where your feet are. I’ve got a chance to meet and obviously be with all the rookies and that’s been a lot of fun and we’re kinda all going through it and the veteran players are all setting the example so we’re all just trying to be the best Patriots we can be.
That sounds like a kid who is still trying to learn how to be a professional and grasp an NFL offense, and not like a rookie ready to unseat a talented and charismatic veteran like Newton.
Belichick Has Been Consistent
The day after the Patriots selected Jones with the No. 15 pick, Belichick said Newton was his quarterback, and that wouldn’t change unless Jarrett Stidham or Jones could prove to be better than the 2015 NFL MVP.
There is nothing that suggests anything close to that has happened.
During a June 10 meeting with the media, Belichick was asked what he thought about Jones’ development in OTAs and minicamp. Belichick said:
Well, I think everybody is coming along. Again, there’s a lot of teaching, a lot of instruction for any player that hasn’t been in this system, and there’s plenty for the ones that have, but they’re all working at it. Mac’s working at it just like everybody else and there’s a lot for all these guys to learn and absorb and it just keeps piling up each day but as a group, they’ve worked hard and we’re making progress. So, we’re certainly not anywhere near where we need to be, but we’re further ahead than we were yesterday or the day before or last week and so, things are moving in the right direction.
Belichick isn’t the kind of coach to show his hand, but he also hasn’t been the kind of guy to make a strong commitment to a starter only to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes afterward.
Barring an injury or significant falloff from Newton, Roling is right, Jones is almost guaranteed to be in a backup role in 2021.