When the New England Patriots take the field for organized team activities next week, all eyes will be on the quarterbacks. Julian Edelman will be watching as well.
Can Cam Newton maintain his grip on the starting spot after a shaky first season in New England? Or will first-round draft pick Mac Jones unseat him?
Edelman will watch that highly anticipated roster battle from afar after announcing his retirement earlier this offseason. The former Patriots wide receiver shared his thoughts on Cam v. Mac this week during an appearance on PodcastOne’s “Michael Irvin Podcast.”
“He’s probably been working hard,” Edelman said of Newton, who started 15 games for New England in 2020. “That’s his M.O. Cam works hard. Now we’ve got to see if he can work smart in the right areas, and if he does that, he’s going to give himself an opportunity to do well. But he?s also going to have to beat out the young gun, because the young guy is there — little Mac Attack. This kid, that’s a first-round draft pick. That’s, like, a real first-round draft pick.”
Jones, the 15th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, was the first QB selected by the Patriots in the first round since Drew Bledsoe went first overall in 1993. Before Jones, head coach Bill Belichick had not drafted a signal-caller higher than 60th (Jimmy Garoppolo, 2014), since taking over New England’s football operation in 2000.
“When you play on Bill teams, (first-round picks) are usually defensive ends,” Edelman said on Irvin’s podcast. “Those are usually corners. We usually have the 28th pick or something; we’re getting a defensive player. That’s how Bill builds a team. But if you come in and you’re a quarterback drafted by Bill Belichick, I mean, let’s go, buddy.”
Jones led Alabama to an undefeated season and a national championship last season, setting an NCAA record for completion percentage (77.4 percent) while throwing for 4,500 yards and 41 touchdowns with just four interceptions. What will he need to succeed at the NFL level?
“He needs to have that eye,” said Edelman, who is joining the cast of “Inside the NFL” this season. “He needs to have that confidence. … What are you going to do? This kid, it’s not easy playing in New England, especially after Tom Brady, if he gets the opportunity and beats out the other guy. This ain’t going to be easy. This town is tough. This town is mean. This town is blue-collar. Boston people, the New England people, they want winning. They’re used to that in all sports. The kid’s going to have a lot of pressure.”
There also will be an interesting undercard battle at the quarterback position this summer. Veteran backup Brian Hoyer re-signed with the Patriots earlier this week and will compete with fellow reserve Jarrett Stidham for a roster spot.