The Patriots are hosting a quarterback competition for the second year in a row, and nothing has been resolved yet. Take Cam Newton’s word for it.
When asked, ahead of the Patriots’ preseason game against Eagles on Thursday, if Coach Bill Belichick had told him who would start in Week 1, Newton was stunned.
“You know the answer to that question,” Newton told reporters with a smile. “You sit up here asking me stupid questions. I don’t know what to say. You know he didn’t say that. “
However, Belichick will soon have to make a decision. After all, there is only one preseason game left.
But is there enough separation between Newton and Mac Jones to declare a winner now? Here’s where things are in the New England quarterback bout after the team’s 35-0 preseason win over Philadelphia in Week 2.
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Breaking Cam Newton in Patriots vs. Eagles
Newton’s performance against the Eagles was much better than his debut against the Washington Football team. He played three series on Thursday night and led the team on two touchdown drives.
Granted, the first score came from a short field thanks to an Eagles’ turnover. But on the other two drives, Newton gave the Patriots scoring opportunities.
Newton’s second drive was strong. He helped move the Patriots 56 yards in eight games and set up a field goal attempt that Quinn Nordin missed. Newton had a nice throw to Kendrick Bourne on the drive and looked very comfortable in the pocket.
The Eagles didn’t play their starters on the defensive, so Newton wasn’t under much pressure. Nevertheless, he used his chances and was able to read the field well thanks to the additional time in his wallet. So he found Jakobi Meyers on his third and last drive of the night for the touchdown.
Newton finished 8 of 9 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. He did not register a rush attempt. The veteran showed something over the past year that fans don’t often see of him: a willingness to throw the ball into the field.
Cam Newton made 3 passes from at least 10 air yards in New England’s 2nd series today.
Newton only completed 3 passes from 10+ airyards in a single trip twice throughout 2020, both against Seattle in week 2. pic.twitter.com/Wh3dToo3d2
– ESPN stats and info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 20, 2021
MORE: Will Cam Newton start for the Patriots in Week 1?
Interrupting Mac Jones in Patriots vs. Eagles
Newton’s solid performance put Jones under pressure. The rookie entered the game for the Patriots’ fourth drive, which started on their 9th. He immediately led the team on a 91-yard touchdown drive.
Jones had to throw from his end zone to third and 13 early in the drive to move the chains. He found N’Keal Harry across the middle for a 19 yard win.
From there, the Patriots marched across the field for a nine-minute drive of 17 games.
However, Jones had a mistake or two on the series. On his second play, he almost threw an interception as he stared at his receiver and linebacker TJ Edwards broke on the ball.
With less than a minute remaining in the first half, Jones nearly had a 55 yard TD degree for Harry. He threw the ball on target, but Harry couldn’t reel it in.
Absolute dime from Mac Jones and a good route for N’Keal Harry’s go-ball. I hope he’s fine, but this has to be caught. Two weeks in a row, Mac has dropped one in the bucket on the left sideline. pic.twitter.com/Xy29MBnx2h
– Ryan Spagnoli (@Ryan_Spags) August 20, 2021
Although it wasn’t a touchdown, the throw still showed Jones’ accuracy. He slapped his earphones calmly and positioned them to play throughout the evening. He also fits litters in narrow windows, like this addition to Gunner Olszewski.
Jones did everything well on Thursday. He threw with the rhythm, climbed into the pocket to avoid pressure, and showed good speed. He finished with 13 of 19 passes for 146 yards. He also had a 3 yard run.
While not throwing a touchdown pass, Jones dropped two potential TDs from Harry and Devin Asiasi. And three of Jones’s four drives ended in touchdowns anyway.
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Which quarterback has the edge in the Patriots QB fight?
Things are even through two preseason games. Both QBs passed the eyesight test against the Eagles and their statistical performances are similar.
Jones has more passing yards, but he’s also played more. Newton has a touchdown pass while Jones has not thrown one. Jones has run multiple scoring drives, however, so the TD numbers don’t tell the full story.
If it stays that way, Belichick will face a difficult decision. None of the passers-by got away in the competition, and Belichick, as expected, did not give up after Thursday’s game.
But if all else is the same, Belichick will likely roll with Newton. Why? Because that was Belichick’s plan all along.
Even after the team designed Jones 15th overall in April, Belichick said, “Cam is our quarterback.” He doubled this posture during training camp.
“Cam is our starting quarterback, I think that’s what I said,” repeated Belichick on July 31st.
Could he change his mind? Sure, but with the start of both preseason games, Newton should be seen as Belichick’s preferred choice as a week one starter.