Mac Jones may not be getting as many starter’s reps at Patriots training camp, but the rookie quarterback is looking and sounding more confident with each practice.
For the second straight day, Jones audibly asserted himself running the offense in 11-on-11 drills. He’s been noticeably louder when calling out plays and directing his teammates to their spots. And his assertiveness is translating to more eye-opening plays, too.
Jones’ most impressive pass was a short strike to Kendrick Bourne, but the impressive part was everything that came before the throw. The quarterback loudly called the play, then after the snap, he slid left to buy time and pointed Bourne toward a soft area of the field before delivering the ball.
The rookie said last Thursday that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels had recently pulled him aside and advised him to raise his voice.
“It starts with the QB, so in terms of the standard, one of the first things we talk about is being loud and confident, so, obviously, your confidence comes with playing and getting the reps, but, if you know what to do, just be loud,” Jones said. “And if you don’t know what to do, be loud. So, either way, be loud, and be loud together. That’s what I’ve kind of learned. But, like I said, I just gotta keep on it, stack some days up, take it day by day, stick to the process and kind of go from there.”
Overall, Jones was 11-of-14 passing in team drills. His incompletions were a drop by receiver Kristian Wilkerson, an overthrow of N’Keal Harry deep, and a third that fell due to tight coverage by Jalen Mills on Wilkerson in the end zone.
Cam Newton, meanwhile, was 11-of-17 with an interception by safety Adrian Phillips. Linebacker Josh Uche also appeared to burn right tackle Trent Brown for what could’ve been a sack on the play, but Newton got the ball out intended for Jonnu Smith as Phillips jumped in front of him. Phillips has been a training camp standout on the Patriots defense.
Phillips also broke up a pass from Newton intended for Smith in the end zone. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy added a pass breakup near the line of scrimmage on a Newton pass intended for Wilkerson.
Both quarterbacks received seven passing reps with the starters during 11-on-11s, with music blasting to simulate crowd noise. Both went 4-for-7 in this period, but this was when Newton threw his interception. As has been the case throughout camp, both guys got a heavy dose of rock music. Nirvana, Green Day, and Rush for Newton, Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” for Jones.
Newton ran the starting offense during the two-minute drill late in practice, while Jones ran with the backups. Newton was 2-of-5 during this period, while Jones was 4-of-4.
Jones edged out Newton in terms of overall performance in Monday’s practice, but Newton had the single best throw of the day when he dropped one over James White’s shoulders on a wheel route down the right sideline. White made an equally impressive catch on the play.
Based on reps and Bill Belichick’s own words (“Cam’s our starting quarterback”), Newton remains the clear starter as the Pats gear up for their first preseason game on Thursday night against the Washington Football Team. But Jones’ rapid improvement seems to indicate that he’ll be legitimately pushing Newton for the job once the regular season starts.
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.