Mac Jones officially is QB1 in New England.
The Patriots released veteran quarterback Cam Newton on Tuesday, according to multiple reports. Jim McBride of The Boston Globe was the first to report Newton’s release.
Jones, the 15th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, will start against the Miami Dolphins in Week 1.
Newton started all three of the Patriots’ preseason games and took first QB reps in practice throughout training camp, but Jones showed consistent improvement over the course of his first NFL summer. The 22-year-old Alabama product completed 69.2 percent of his passes for 388 yards and one touchdown in the preseason, finishing as Pro Football Focus’ third-highest-graded quarterback.
Jones’ final preseason performance was his best yet, as he completed 71.2 percent of his passes (10 for 14 with two drops and one pass batted at the line) and averaged a personal-best 11.1 yards per attempt against the New York Giants. Four days prior, Jones carved up the Giants’ first-team defense during a dominant joint practice while Newton was sidelined following a COVID-19 protocol “misunderstanding.”
That off-field slipup forced Newton, who is not vaccinated, to miss three practices during a key stage of the preseason. The 32-year-old started 15 games for the Patriots last season.
Veteran journeyman Brian Hoyer likely will make the roster as Jones’ primary backup, with 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham beginning the season on the physically unable to perform list as he recovers from back surgery.
Hoyer was one of several Patriots veterans to speak highly of Jones in recent weeks.
“I definitely think that he has taken every opportunity and taken advantage of it,” Hoyer said Wednesday on WEEI’s “Ordway, Merloni & Fauria.” “I think the one thing that I would say is not many rookie quarterbacks have ever gotten the reps and the opportunity that he has, and he has embraced it full-on, head-on. He goes out there every day and does the best that he can and has earned the respect of his teammates, which I think is huge.”
Linebacker Dont’a Hightower also said he was impressed to learn Jones had been studying the Patriots’ defensive plays to help prepare himself for practices. Special teams captain Matthew Slater called the QB “a great young man” whose “family should be proud of the way that they raised him.”
Jones’ first NFL start likely will come against former Alabama teammate Tua Tagovailoa, whom the Dolphins drafted fifth overall last year. Jones backed up Tagovailoa before taking over as the full-time starter in 2020 leading the Crimson Tide to a national championship, throwing for 4,500 yards and 41 touchdowns with just four interceptions.
The Patriots must trim their roster to 53 players by 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday.