“Somebody would have to play better than he does,” the head coach said when asked how long Newton will sit atop New England’s depth chart.
Perhaps Jones, the first quarterback taken by the Patriots in Round 1 since 1993, proves himself enough in organized team activities, minicamp, training camp and the preseason to start over Newton come Week 1 of the regular season. But the more likely scenario is Newton begins the 2021 campaign as New England’s starter, with Jones — and Jarrett Stidham? — waiting in the wings amid his development.
“I don’t think Mac Jones sees the field for a while,” an evaluator told Mike Sando of The Athletic. “I’ll have a better feel when we see the schedule, when the bye falls, when their division games are, when the Tampa game is, those things. Is he starting by November? No, he’s not. Because Cam (Newton) wasn’t bad early in the year and they really should have won more of those games, and he just wasn’t the same after getting COVID. I think Cam is going to be entrenched there for a little bit.”
Newton, who re-signed with the Patriots on a one-year contract this offseason, is coming off an underwhelming 2020, although his struggles admittedly coincided with a difficult set of circumstances. Still, he showed enough — particularly from a leadership perspective — last season that Belichick was comfortable bringing back the 2015 NFL MVP for another go-round in 2021.
Whomever starts at quarterback for the Patriots this season will have much more talent to work with, as New England splurged in free agency. The Patriots’ offensive additions include tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith and wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne.
Sando wrote in his piece Friday that another executive thought Jones would supplant Newton as the Patriots’ starting quarterback around Week 6. Ultimately, however, the exact timeline likely will depend on how Newton performs and whether Jones looks ready to step in as a rookie.