Seven session into their training camp, all eyes remain on the New England Patriots’ quarterbacks. One key element when it comes to assessing the competition between incumbent Cam Newton and first-round rookie Mac Jones is the number of opportunities each of them receives during each practice.
As charted by Jeff Howe of The Athletic, Newton has attempted 122 passes in competitive team drills compared to Jones’ 132. Against the starting defense in 11-on-11 situations, the veteran has thrown the ball 58 times with the youngster checking in at 50.
As offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels pointed out after Wednesday’s session, however, the rep count does not necessarily reflect who is up leading the race for the starting quarterback position — or any other on the roster, for that matter.
“The rep count is so high in training camp that we’ve never given one player at this position all the reps,” McDaniels said. “Look, they know they’re not going to come out here and get 75 reps every day. The ones that they get, you have to make them count. If Cam’s in there, the other guys are not getting them. If Mac’s in there, Cam’s not getting them. If Hoyer’s in there, neither one of them... So, it’s part of the process.”
McDaniels added that the Patriots are currently still in the teaching period of camp. As a result of this, the main focus is on giving all players opportunities to prove themselves in different settings.
“There’s no way to build the depth on your football team without giving them realistic reps in training camp,” he said. “We can sit here and say, ‘Man, shouldn’t we give, you know, N’Keal Harry all the reps at X?’ Well, then Nelson Agholor wouldn’t get any reps. So, it’s really impossible to do that.
“Our goal at the end of training camp is to prepare the entire team, which means that there’s going to be a few quarterbacks, a few receivers, a few tight ends, a bunch of linemen on the roster, a bunch of backs. We don’t know which guys are going to be healthy and ready to play Week 1 or not, so we have to do a good job of giving everybody an opportunity to learn and improve in camp.”
As far as the quarterbacks are concerned, they have received their fair share of opportunities — at least the top two options on the roster. Brian Hoyer and especially Jake Dolegala, meanwhile, have seen only limited opportunities with the starting groups on both sides of the ball.
Nonetheless, McDaniels insisted on Tuesday that the focus would be on teaching above all else.
“Right now, everybody’s in a learning phase. What we’re trying to focus on is everybody getting enough reps at the core foundational things in our offense,” he said.
“Eventually, as we all know, we’re going to end up whittling down the team, and those guys will get more reps together. But, right now, everybody’s taking reps and trying to build our foundation so that we can carry ourselves the entire length of the season which is really what this time — to me — is all about.”