Bill Belichick throws a big ol’ wet blanket on Patriots’ QB situation
It had been a little while since Bill Belichick declared Cam Newton the Patriots’ starting quarterback for the 2021 season. But the head coach repeated on Saturday what has remained the case, even after the start of training camp.
Asked whether he has a time frame in mind for naming a starting quarterback before the start of the season, Belichick replied: “No. I mean Cam’s our starting quarterback. I think I’ve said that, so.”
That much is obvious just in the reps. Newton has led off every competitive 11-on-11 session, despite a near-split in overall snaps between him and rookie Mac Jones.
But Belichick’s reiteration of the starting QB situation seems to indicate that Jones would have to do more than just edge Newton out in order to become the starter. It would have to be a landslide. And that certainly hasn’t been the case through four days of camp.
On Saturday, Newton went 17-for-25 in 11-on-11 team drills, while Jones went 14-for-20. Several of these reps may not qualify as “competitive,” especially early, which included sharp starts for both QBs at half-speed. The early highlight was a Newton deep ball caught by Nelson Agholor in the back corner of the end zone.
But as Saturday’s practice went on, the defense started to surge. In one red zone period, Newton went 2-for-7 while Jones went 0-for-4. Newton had to throw one ball away into the turf, which is certainly better than forcing the ball into an interception, but not a great sign for the receivers’ ability to get open. Michael Jackson had a pass breakup on Agholor, while nose tackle Davon Godchaux batted a Jones pass at the line.
Newton and Jones turned it around a bit in the final 11-on-11 red zone session. Newton went 3-for-5, with one incompletion due to Damien Harris catching the ball out of bounds. Harris did catch it, though, and hurdled a trash barrel in the process. Jones completed his final five passes in a row, including a dime to Jakobi Meyers in the back of the end zone that drew a loud cheer from fans in attendance.
If the QB race in Foxborough is going to remain even, or close to it, then Newton will maintain a clear advantage. Newton and Jones both spoke to reporters on Friday, and sounded like they both already know the deal: barring an injury or a precipitous drop-off in future practices, Newton will be the starter to begin the 2021 season. And Belichick seems willing to ride that as long as he can.
The Patriots appear built to win games mainly on defense and special teams, anyway, as they did in 2019. Offensively, they should be markedly improved from 2019-20, just by virtue of populating the roster with established NFL wide receivers and tight ends.
But no matter how they look early on, it remains clear who’s going to be throwing them the ball.
Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @mattydsays. You can also email him at email@example.com.