When the New England Patriots drafted Mac Jones, my first thought was that they should use the Kansas City model. I’m referring, of course, to when KC traded up for Patrick Mahomes, and then let him sit behind Pro Bowler Alex Smith as a rookie, letting him start Week 17, when they had already clinched the playoffs.
I wasn’t alone in this thinking, but Jones continues to show us that he might be ready to start right away.
Does Bill Belichick feel the same way? Thursday’s joint practice with the New York Giants may go a long way towards giving us that answer.
Belichick has said that the players who are playing with the starting units shouldn’t matter, and that neither the players nor fans and media should not read into that. However, it’s hard not to see that Cam Newton was consistently getting the QB1 snaps. He was routinely in with the first team offensive line and receivers. He was taking the first snaps of each team drill, and he was the starter.
During his three-practice hiatus, however, Mac Jones has taken almost all the snaps. This, as Belichick pointed out, gave him an opportunity to prove himself in front of his coaches, and did he ever.
The coaches threw everything they had at him, and, while it wasn’t perfect, he handled himself like a veteran at practice these last two days, putting together the best day either QB has had all camp during yesterday’s joint session with the Giants. I keep saying it, but it is his response to adversity and struggle that has impressed me the most so far.
The very first day of full pads, he was terrible. He was so bad, some morons even declared the QB competition over:
If anyone is questioning who the starting QB for the #Patriots is right now, they’re not at camp. Mac isn’t ready for the speed of the NFL yet. Can he be ready by week 1? We’ll see, but I doubt it— Pat Lane (@plane_pats) August 3, 2021
How did he respond to that? He put together two fantastic days in a row right after. Then, on Monday, his first practice without Newton, he struggled in the first half of practice. Again, he responded by finishing on a solid note, and then doing what he did the last two days.
It’s not just Jones’ play on the field that has impressed. He has started to command the huddle when he’s in it. He has started to bring some of that fire and passion we saw from Tom Brady where he pushes others to be better.
His leadership has really been solid as well, and drawn the attention from veterans such as Matthew Slater.
On Wednesday, as Bob Socci pointed out, the linemen had to run a lap after a heated baseball discussion with the Giants. Jones jumped in and ran with them, even though he wasn’t in the drill:
Before Mac Jones shined in team drills today, the rookie undoubtedly earned respect from teammates after the early-practice skirmish between @Patriots & @Giants linemen. Once order was restored, the two groups ran a lap. Who joined the Pats’ big bodies on their run? Their QB.— Bob Socci (@BobSocci) August 25, 2021
Jones is starting to show that he might be capable of everything that goes along with being a starting NFL quarterback.
Where does that leave me? I feel as though Mac Jones has proven that he is the best QB on this team right now. He has continued to impress, no matter what situation has been thrown his way.
That, however, may not matter to Bill Belichick. He may believe that Newton is the team’s starter, and he won’t want to budge on that.
However, Thursday’s practice can give us some insight into what he is thinking. If the snaps are split up the way they have been all camp, that should be a sign that nothing has really changed in Belichick’s eyes. Newton is the starter, and Jones looks like he’s going to be a good NFL QB next year. If some of those first-team reps start going to the rookie, however, that could be a sign that Belichick may be considering moving to him as his starter.
No matter how many snaps Cam Newton gets today, it is going to be tough for him to match what Mac Jones did on Wednesday. Newton certainly gives the Patriots a different dimension with his ability to run the football — something that Jones simply can’t do — and his experience in the system.
Jones, however, has consistently been the better passer in camp, and his quick release should remind people of Jimmy Garoppolo and another quarterback who had some success in New England for a while. This competition still isn’t over, but Mac Jones is making it more and more difficult to choose anyone but him as the winner.