Patriots Mailbag: Why Preseason Games Will Dictate QB Competition

Cam Newton vs. Mac Jones kicks off this summer


Jun 18, 2021

The New England Patriots are going on summer vacation, and so will the mailbag.

The Patriots broke for the summer after minicamp ended Wednesday. The mailbag also will be going on break until late July when training camp kicks off.

Read below for all of the answers to your pressing questions.

What does Mac Jones need to do in camp to be the starter?

I actually think the quarterback competition will be settled in the three preseason games.

Why? Cam Newton is never going to wow in passing camp situations. He’s just not that kind of player. Half of his value comes from his athleticism and mobility, and he has no real tangible way to show that during organized team activities, minicamp or training camp when contact isn’t allowed.

Newton is not nor ever has been the best pure passer. It’s just not his game. So, Jones and even players like Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer will probably look as good or better than him in practice scenarios.

For Newton, it’s about showing it in preseason games. Jones also must look significantly better than Newton while placed in similar situations in preseason games to win the starting job.

I think it’s up for grabs. No single quarterback stood above the rest this spring. Even Stidham was on par with Newton and Jones.

Hi Doug, do you expect Gilmore in the Patriots jersey at the first game? Or do you think he will be traded?
Regards from Germany

I do. The sense I get on the situation from talking to different people is that it’s a salvageable situation between Stephon Gilmore and the Patriots. It sounds like the two parties will be willing to work together to find a resolution.

Patriots safety Devin McCourty even said this week that Gilmore is “still part of the team” and kept referencing “when” the cornerback returns. The defensive captain didn’t seem overly worried about the situation.

Do you think there is any chance that Chase Winovich is traded? If so, do you think it would be for a pick or a specific position?

I would say it’s a possibility but not overly likely.

Winovich had a really strange 2020 season. He was the Patriots’ best pass rusher, played all 16 games and started nine of them but also played less than 50 percent of defensive snaps in six contests which came in two different stretches of the season.

The 2019 third-rounder also played a major special teams role with players like Brandon Bolden, Brandon King, Brandon Copeland and Rex (not Brandon) Burkhead out. He finished fifth in special teams snaps behind Justin Bethel, Matthew Slater, Cody Davis and Jake Bailey. Winovich also finished fourth in special teams snaps in 2019 as a rookie behind Slater, Bolden and Nate Ebner.

So, Winovich is a valuable part of the Patriots’ roster. That being said, New England signed outside linebackers Matt Judon and Kyle Van Noy and drafted Ronnie Perkins this offseason. Josh Uche also appears primed for a major role in the Patriots’ defense, and Dont’a Hightower is back.

So, where does Winovich fit in at that point beyond special teams? We’ll find out this summer. The Patriots are better on defense and special teams with Winovich on their roster. They probably shouldn’t trade him. But if they need help at a position like cornerback and think that dealing a player like Winovich could fetch them a potential starter, then yeah, it’s a possibility.

Who’s been the most surprising player at practice? Who’s stood out the most?

Two players’ usages surprised me in practice, and that’s how involved defensive tackles Montravius Adams and Akeem Spence were in the defense. Maybe they’re just placeholders for Christian Barmore, but I wasn’t expecting them to get so much action in the middle of the Patriots’ top defense.

I’d say wide receiver Jakobi Meyers was the top standout on offense, and Uche was the player who popped the most on defense.

What are the chances of Gunnar Olszewski getting in the receiver rotation more consistently next season?

About the same as last season.

I think it would be fun to see Olszewski crack the wide receiver rotation, and it’s possible since he has another year of experience, but let’s not forget that he couldn’t pass Damiere Byrd or N’Keal Harry on the depth chart last season.

Olszewski is a player who is getting demonstrably better every year, however.

Also a second question, do you see Barmore getting more time this season as a passing down defensive tackle or as a 3-4 DE next to Godchaux?

That’s the million-dollar question. I think Barmore has the potential to make more of an impact as a pass rusher, but ultimately, I think his first role will be as an early-down run stuffer.

Playing defensive tackle on third down for the Patriots is about much more than putting your hand in the dirt and getting after the quarterback. New England might not trust Barmore to contain, stay patient and eat up space on third down right away as a rookie.

What are you most looking forward to seeing when the teams are back in practice ( aka after your vacation 😜)

First and foremost, the quarterback competition. I’m interested to see how Jones looks with six more weeks in the Patriots’ playbook.

Beyond that, I’m excited to see New England’s front seven when the pads come on. I think they have a chance to be really dominant up front. The competition between the Patriots’ offensive line and front seven should be fierce this summer.

Hi Doug, hope you and your loved ones are well and staying healthy! I wanna know if you think there is a need to maybe trade some defensive lineman especially with Gilmore holding out. So maybe get some leverage in negotiations by trading for a DB?

Thank you! You too.

I kind of addressed this in the Winovich question, but the Patriots do have really solid depth up front with Barmore, Adams, Spence, Lawrence Guy, Davon Godchaux, Henry Anderson, Deatrich Wise, Byron Cowart and others. I don’t necessarily see any of those players being trade chips, however. The Patriots might be able to get cornerback depth for a player like Cowart, but it would be unlikely for them to yield a potential starter.

Let’s go rapid fire.

Can you unravel the mysterious Yodny Cajuste? He can’t make this team on your latest 53 man roster?

Cajuste has missed two straight seasons since being selected in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He has a major uphill battle to secure a roster spot.

Do you think Bourne and Meyers go for 1K receiving yards this year?

Combined? Yes. Individually? Maybe Meyers.

Is my work meeting ever going to end?

Not with that attitude!

Do you think it’s more improbable to pick a perfect NCAA tournament bracket or predict the Patriots opening day 53 man roster? #askdoug

That’s tough. I think it’s still more improbable to pick a perfect NCAA Tournament bracket.

Thoughts on the Kicker situation? Anyone stood out?

My money is on Nick Folk to win the job, but undrafted rookie Quinn Nordin has a massive leg.

How did N’Keal do during minicamp?

He only really stood out in one practice. I think he’s on the bubble, but my gut says the Patriots ultimately keep him.

Hi Doug, enjoy your vacation! Which recent high draft pick do you think is most likely to get cut or traded and which is most likely to have the biggest impact this year?
-C. Winovich
-A. Jennings
-Joejuan Williams

Very interesting question, Ashley.

I’d pick Winovich for biggest impact and Anfernee Jennings for most likely to be cut or traded.


also, when you pick up a guitar what’s your go-to first song or riff?
This will be my last mailbag until training camp. I’m hopping on my annual summer vacation while the NFL goes through its inactive period. So, I’m excited to get some quality time with the family, bond more with our two-month old, make sure every day of my 3-year-old’s life is a blast and then come back recharged.

And for your second question, that ultimately depends on whether I’m picking up a guitar unplugged, through a clean amp or overdriven. If it’s unplugged, I think I usually just hit a C chord and then go through some chord progressions. If it’s clean, then I’ll play some single-note riff that I’ve written. If it’s on drive, then I’ll usually play a generic palm-muted chord riff.

I’m much better at coming up with my own stuff than I am learning or remembering how to play existing songs.

Thumbnail photo via Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports Images
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