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Bill Belichick projects ‘hard decision’ at quarterback but still calls Cam Newton the Patriots’ starter

Related: Mac Jones and Cam Newton are ‘going to grow together’

NFL: JUL 30 New England Patriots Training Camp Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New England Patriots will have a competition for the quarterback position this summer, but as of Saturday morning the top spot on the depth chart still appears to be in the hands of incumbent Cam Newton. Speaking to reporters, head coach Bill Belichick was asked about the competition but he reaffirmed Newton’s status.

“Cam’s our starting quarterback. I think I said that,” Belichick said when asked about a timeframe for naming a QB1 for the 2021 season.

His answer is consistent with what he said about the veteran passer throughout all of last season, but the addition of first-round rookie Mac Jones has since added another level of intrigue at the position. Jones has looked solid through offseason workouts and training camp, seemingly putting himself in a position to challenge Newton’s standing over the course of training camp.

Belichick continuing to refer to Newton as his team’s starter could mean a lot of things from a messaging perspective, but one thing is clear: New England will not be handing over the keys to Jones just because of his draft status or any upside he may show.

The first three days of training camp reaffirmed this. Newton led off the majority of team and individual drills, followed by Jones.

Of course, Belichick’s “Cam’s our starting quarterback” answer also came just seconds after he talked about a potentially difficult decision being ahead.

“We’ll take a look at the whole situation,” Belichick said. “I don’t think you want to evaluate players at any position off of one or two plays, or maybe days. From a consistency standpoint that’s always important, and obviously production. Hopefully, those things will be good and I’m sure it’ll be a hard decision, but we’ll see how it goes. Just let them play and try to do what we feel is best for the team based on their performance.”

For the time being, though, Newton still remains the player to beat at quarterback. After all, he has the experience in the system and proven production at the NFL level — two things Jones naturally lacks.

There is a chance the rookie will quickly make up ground over the coming days and weeks and put pressure on Newton, but for the time being he has yet to prove himself compared to the former league MVP. He did not explicitly say that on Saturday, but Belichick made it pretty clear.