Future Hall of Famer Bill Belichick has coached a total of 377 games with the New England Patriots between the regular season and playoffs. He has started a rookie quarterback in exactly two of those 377. That's 0.005 percent of the time. Yet, according to Mike Giardi of NFL.com and a few other reports, there will be a legitimate competition in training camp starting late next month between rookie Mac Jones and incumbent starter Cam Newton. SportsLine offers early odds on the projected Week 1 starter vs. Miami. The Pats are early 2.5-point favorites at William Hill Sportsbook.
Jones reportedly looked good in OTAs and mandatory minicamp and got more first-team reps than perhaps he would have otherwise because Newton injured his hand, although nothing serious. According to Patriots beat writers, Jones was the better quarterback until the final day of minicamp when the former Alabama star struggled a bit. Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer echoed Giardi's report by writing that Jones "has done enough in the spring to merit a real competition with Newton in the summer."
Belichick has previously said that Newton was his starting quarterback but didn't rule out something changing. A couple of weeks ago, Belichick said Newton was "way ahead of where he was" during the 2020 offseason.
The only rookie quarterback to start under Belichick in New England was Jacoby Brissett, who was a 2016 third-round pick. He was forced to start two early-season games that year because Tom Brady was suspended the first four due to Deflategate and then backup Jimmy Garoppolo was injured.
Brissett went 1-1 in his starts and of course was eventually shipped off to Indianapolis. He's now the backup to Tua Tagovailoa in Miami, so it's not out of the question that Brissett also plays in Week 1 if Tua gets injured in camp or in that opener …. or if he keeps throwing five interceptions in practices.
One advantage Jones perhaps has over any previous rookie QBs under Belichick is that he's the highest-drafted one with the Patriots, selected at No. 15 overall. Garoppolo had been the previous highest-drafted one as a 2014 second-round pick.
Last year, Newton started 15 games and was 7-8. He completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 2,657 yards with eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions (82.9 rating), ranking 34th out of 35 qualified quarterbacks in touchdown percentage (2.2). Newton is still a dangerous runner, however, as he rushed for 592 yards and 12 touchdowns.
One knock on Jones is that he's immobile. He actually has yet to sign his rookie contract, either, but that's not expected to become an issue. In this picture attached to this story, Jones is wearing No. 50 at minicamp – a unique system the Pats use for where a player was drafted -- but obviously that won't be his number once training camp starts. At Alabama, Jones wore No. 10, which is unclaimed currently by any of New England's veterans.
Via SportsLine oddsmakers: Who will be the Patriots' starting QB Week 1?
- Cam Newton -250
- Mac Jones +180
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