Not that it should have been expected otherwise, but Cam Newton is not going into this season with any preconceived notions. He knows that in order to be behind center for the New England Patriots in Week 1, he has to beat out everyone else.
Pats head coach Bill Belichick declared Newton as the guy back in April after drafting Mac Jones. He softened that stance at the beginning of training camp, and Newton is fully aware that his job is anything but guaranteed.
“Ever since I’ve been here, there’s been a quarterback competition,” Newton said Friday. “I think in essence, that’s the underlying Patriot Way. Every position has a competition there, and the quarterback position is no different.
“Brian Hoyer is supposed to make me better. I’m supposed to make Mac Jones better. Mac Jones is supposed to make Brian Hoyer better. And you can’t forget about (Jake) Dolegala and even (Jarrett Stidham), that’s in the balance. Shout out to him, hopefully everything went good for him. But for us, it’s just the mentality to have that championship mental toughness each and every day, and the desire to get better.”
The main competition, obviously, is between Newton and Jones.
It seems like Newton is aware he is not in the Patriots’ long-term plans — otherwise they wouldn’t have taken a quarterback in the first round. But whereas things in, say, Green Bay, appear adversarial between Packers legend Aaron Rodgers and his heir apparent, Jordan Love, Newton seems more than happy to mentor Jones however he can.
That’s a feeling-out process, one that very much is in progress three days into camp.
“It?s still a learning process,” Newton said. “And I told Mac this (Thursday). He doesn?t know me yet, I don?t know him yet, as far as comfort. I?ve been around Brian long enough for him to know how to get me going. Obviously, Stiddy, and us. So just a couple months with Mac, he?s a person that over time you?ll get to understand and know”
Newton expounded on his message to the Alabama product.
“As a young player, man, you know what your expectations are, and you know you?re better than what you?re producing. And it still happens with me. It doesn?t matter if you?re 11 years in, one year in, 14 years in, for us, it?s knowing that we have a standard we have to meet each and every day. And of course, there?s going to be disappointment when you don?t meet it, and yet, Mac has been great, Brian has been great. Everybody is just trying to learn each other and just try to be the best teammates you can as much as possible.”
So, what has been Newton’s impression of the 22-year-old so far?
?Cool like the other side of the pillow,” Newton said.
“You never know when he’s really down on himself. You don’t really necessarily know when he’s up, either. He’s real cool. I’m surprised, his knowingness of hip hop music. Catch them in a locker room every time, quoting some Future, some Baby. Those are the things that you?ve just got to learn with time.
“We had an opportunity to meet during the OTAs. But you don?t really get it, and then it’s still another curve that’s gonna get during game times. It’s good that we get preseason games and things like that. So you?ll would know, these are live bullets. I’m pretty much here for him. just like Brian is here for him. I hope — well, I know. It’s reciprocated on all fronts.?
A number of compounding factors ultimately railroaded Newton’s debut season in Foxboro. He was signed late, and COVID-19 protocols impacted his ability to really immerse himself in the Patriots offense.
Perhaps most concerning for the Patriots was Newton’s inability to effectively throw the ball. It was at times perplexing how poorly he was executing passes, which in turn basically made New England’s offense one-dimensional.
The 32-year-old is hoping to put that issue in the rear-view.
“To not overthink things,” Newton responded when asked about what he has to remind himself about his mechanics. “You just have a self-diagnostic check in with yourself. Where you don’t feel certain things are hitting the way they’re supposed to, as far as pop, zip on the ball, feeling your feet on the ground, understanding that you’ve got to a little more power to uncoil. … You still have to check in with yourself and know that: “All right, are my feet planted? Is my shoulders and my feet involved, and not just throwing it with my arm?’ So, it’s a full body type of technique that the arm gets credit for.”
We’re a long way away from a resolution on the Patriots’ quarterback competition. Last season Newton won the job over Jarrett Stidham with relative ease. That won’t be the case this season, as Jones is going to push Newton real hard for the gig, even if it is the vet that ultimately wins it.
For a Patriots team that needs life on offense, that is a good development.