How Ex-Patriots Exec Believes New England Should Handle Mac Jones

'You're better off letting the crops in the field grow'

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Should Mac Jones open the season as the New England Patriots’ starting quarterback? Only if they’re certain he’s ready, Michael Lombardi said.

Lombardi, who worked alongside Patriots head coach Bill Belichick in New England and Cleveland, discussed the Jones-Cam Newton QB battle on the latest episode of his “GM Shuffle” podcast. He preached the importance of patience when considering when to play a rookie signal-caller.

“If you’re Belichick, do you put Mac in to start the season?” Lombardi asked. “And then if Mac struggles and doesn’t look good, are you going to bench him? And then how will you get him back again? How do you renew his confidence? You’re better off being patient. You’re better off letting the crops in the field grow. You’re better off letting it have a little more time to sink its roots.”

As the 15th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Jones is the Patriots’ quarterback of the future. The former Alabama star will leapfrog Newton on the depth chart at some point. But so far this preseason, the lion’s share of first-team reps have gone to the veteran, who started 15 games for New England last season.

In last week’s preseason opener against Washington, Newton started and played two series with New England’s top offensive line. Jones then played one series with starters and four with reserves. Newton also has taken first QB reps in nearly every drill since the start of spring practice.

The Patriots will face the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night in their second of three preseason games. They joined the Eagles for a pair of joint practices earlier this week, one of which Lombardi attended.

“I think Week 2 (of the preseason), in talking to the coaches — I spent Tuesday (with) the Patriots, talking to the coaches from there, talking to the Eagle coaches — they’ve got to get their guys ready to go,” Lombardi said. “Some of these preseason games are going to be a little bit more — especially the third one — a little bit more eye-opening than perhaps we saw in the past.”

Jones opened Tuesday’s red zone-focused practice with an ugly interception, but he and Newton both were highly efficient overall, going 13-for-14 and 13-for-15, respectively, in competitive team drills.

ESPN’s Jeff Darlington reported the Patriots have seen “steady progress” from their rookie signal-caller, with a team source calling Jones “very smart” and a “very hard worker.”

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