Cam Newton and Mac Jones both played well in competitive team drills during Sunday’s Patriots training camp practice in Foxborough. Minus one blemish: each threw an interception during 7-on-7s.
First, the picks. Newton apparently didn’t see Devin McCourty crossing the field, as the veteran safety jumped the route on a pass intended for Jakobi Meyers. Jones’ pick was a throw off the mark into tight coverage by cornerback Michael Jackson, who picked off the pass intended for receiver Marvin Hall.
Newton led off the reps in all team drills and ended up 12-of-13 in 11-on-11. His lone incompletion was an overthrow of receiver N’Keal Harry deep down the field. Jones was 17-of-22, with four pass breakups. Jackson broke up two passes in this period, while cornerback Dee Virgin also got a hand on a pass intended for Kristian Wilkerson. J.C. Jackson also broke up a pass in the end zone that was intended for Wilkerson.
It seemed like the Patriots secondary had enough of Wilkerson, who caught five passes in 11-on-11s prior to the first pass breakup. Wilkerson has had a solid camp overall, but struggled to hold onto the ball last Wednesday in heavy rain. He has an outside chance to sneak onto the 53-man roster as a receiver with special teams potential.
Wilkerson caught what turned out to be the throw of the day from Newton, a 50-yard rainbow down the right sideline that the receiver hauled in over his shoulder. Most passing plays on the day were of the short variety, however, but that made the Newton-Wilkerson play stand out more.
Jones’ best throw of the day was an out route to Meyers that looked to be about 10-15 yards. Jones showed great anticipation on the play, releasing the ball just as Meyers came out of his break at the top of the route.
Belichick gave the rookie another extended look on Sunday, possibly preparing him for the Patriots’ first preseason game against the Washington Football Team, in which Jones figures to get more playing time than Newton. The Patriots also have joint practices before their second and third preseason games against the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants.
If Belichick didn’t decisively declare Newton the starting quarterback during camp, and lead him off with the starters in all team drills, then the Patriots’ quarterback competition would be impressively close through 10 practices. But “close” likely isn’t good enough for Jones to sniff the starting job in Week 1, perhaps even for the first month of the regular season. Still, all bets are off once the season starts. Newton almost certainly has to perform well in real games in order to fend off Jones, who has shown well since struggling in the team’s first padded practice, for the balance of the 2021 season.
Next QB watch comes after practice on Monday.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.