The Patriots are hosting a quarterback competition for the second consecutive offseason, and so far, nothing has been settled. Take Cam Newton’s word for it.
When asked ahead of Thursday’s Patriots-Eagles preseason game if coach Bill Belichick had told him who would start Week 1, Newton was taken aback.
“You know the answer to that question,” Newton said to reporters through a smile. “Y’all sitting up here asking silly questions to me. I don’t know what you want me to say. You know he hasn’t said that.”
Soon enough, though, Belichick will have to decide. After all, there is just one preseason game remaining.
But is there enough separation between Newton and Mac Jones to declare a winner right now? Here’s where things stand in New England’s quarterback battle after the team’s 35-0 preseason Week 2 victory over Philadelphia.
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Breaking down 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 Thursday night and led the team on two touchdown drives.
Granted, the first score came on 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 on eight plays 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 weren’t playing their starters on the defensive line, so that’s part of why Newton wasn’t under much pressure. Still, he made the most of his opportunities and was able to read the field well thanks to the extra time in the pocket. That’s how he found Jakobi Meyers on his third and final drive of the night for a touchdown.
Newton finished completing 8 of 9 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. He didn’t record a rushing attempt. The veteran showed something fans didn’t see from him often last year: a willingness to throw the ball downfield.
Cam Newton completed 3 passes of at least 10 air yards in New England’s 2nd series today.
Newton only completed 3 passes of 10+ air yards in a single drive twice in all of 2020, both against Seattle in Week 2. pic.twitter.com/Wh3dToo3d2
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 20, 2021
MORE: Will Cam Newton start for the Patriots in Week 1?
Breaking down Mac Jones in Patriots vs. Eagles
Newton’s solid outing put pressure on Jones. The rookie entered the game for the Patriots’ fourth drive, which started on their 9. He promptly led the team on a 91-yard touchdown drive.
Jones had to throw from his end zone on third-and-13 early in the drive to move the chains. He found N’Keal Harry over the middle for a 19-yard gain.
From there, the Patriots marched down the field for a 17-play, nine-minute drive.
Jones did have a blip or two on the series, though. He almost threw an interception on his second play as he stared down his receiver and linebacker T.J. Edwards broke on the ball.
With less than a minute remaining in the first half, Jones almost had a 55-yard TD completion to Harry. He threw the ball on target, but Harry couldn’t reel it in.
Absolute dime from Mac Jones and a good route on the go ball from N’Keal Harry. Hope he’s alright but this has got to be caught. Two weeks in a row now Mac has dropped one in the bucket up the left sideline. pic.twitter.com/Xy29MBnx2h
— Ryan Spagnoli (@Ryan_Spags) August 20, 2021
Though it wasn’t a touchdown, the throw still showed off Jones’ accuracy. He hit his receivers in stride and put them in position to make plays throughout the evening. He also fit throws into tight windows, such as this completion to Gunner Olszewski.
Jones did everything well Thursday. He threw in rhythm, climbed the pocket to avoid pressure, and displayed good velocity. He finished with 13-of-19 passing for 146 yards. He also had a 3-yard run.
While Jones didn’t throw a touchdown pass, he had two potential TDs dropped by Harry and Devin Asiasi. And three of Jones’ four drives ended in touchdowns anyway.
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Which quarterback has the edge in the Patriots’ QB battle?
Things are even through two preseason games. Both QBs passed the eye test against the Eagles and their statistical performances are similar.
Jones has more passing yards but he also has played more. Newton has one touchdown pass while Jones hasn’t thrown one. That said, Jones has led multiple scoring drives, so the TD numbers don’t tell the whole story.
If things stay like this, Belichick will face a difficult decision. Neither passer has pulled away in the competition, and Belichick, as expected, didn’t tip his hand after Thursday’s game.
But if all else is equal, Belichick will probably roll with Newton. Why? Because that has been Belichick’s plan all along.
Even after the team drafted Jones 15th overall in April, Belichick said, “Cam is our quarterback.” He doubled down on that stance during training camp.
“Cam’s our starting quarterback, I think I’ve said that,” Belichick reiterated on July 31.
Could he change his mind? Sure, but after starting both preseason games, Newton should be viewed as Belichick’s preferred choice as the Week 1 starter.
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