Mac Jones had a shot in front of him in the final week of preseason. Even Bill Belichick admitted it.
After Cam Newton had a “misunderstanding” related to NFL COVID policy that caused him to miss five days of practice, Jones took most of the Patriots’ first-team replays. By all accounts, the rookie was good.
As New England’s third and final preseason game approached, questions were raised about whether he would be able to do enough to unseat Newton as the team’s suspected starting quarterback.
Jones’ play in a 22-20 win over the Giants Sunday, combined with Newton’s lackluster exit, may have given the Patriots something to think about.
MORE: How Cam Newton’s COVID Absence Affected Mac Jones
Cam Newton’s performance in Patriots vs. Giants
Newton had possibly his weakest performance of the preseason.
The Patriots’ starting starter completed just 2 of 5 passes for 10 yards and didn’t run the ball. He threw an interception, the first of the preseason by either quarterback, but it wasn’t so much a bad pitch as a great play by linebacker Blake Martinez.
However, Newton left the door open for Jones, although getting through it would not be easy. Belichick said on “The Greg Hill Show” on Boston’s WEEI radio station that Jones would have to overtake Newton to win the job.
“The fact that Cam started last year, and he’s here, someone would have to play better than him,” Belichick said. “We’re not going to take a job and say, ‘Okay, this is gift wrapped for someone.’
Jones did his best to earn the job during his last preseason action of 2021.
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Mac Jones performance in Patriots vs. Giants
Jones saw a lot of action Sunday night. The first-round rookie played five series and led the Patriots to 16 points.
Jones was stable in the first half, but much better after halftime. On the first drive of the second half, he threw a downfield strike to Kristian Wilkerson, using great footwork to prepare for the pitch.
Later on the drive, Jones threw another pinpoint zipper ball into a narrow window. He hit Isaiah Zuber for a 17-yard touchdown pass with three defenders nearby.
Jones also threw a deft pitch to Devin Asiasi in the third quarter. He saw that he could hit Asiasi for a big profit if he threw the ball to his back shoulder. The pass was not the best of the night for Jones, he was under pressure and the pitch lost steam on its way to his tight end, but the decision was good.
Jones was 10 of 14 for 156 yards and a touchdown, his first in the preseason. He showed poise in his pocket and the talent of his arm to be a quality starter in the NFL.
It should be noted, however, that Jones’ best series came after the Giants eliminated their defensive starters. That could affect the way Belichick and company evaluate their performance. He was also sacked four times in the contest.
MORE: What Bill Belichick Has Said About The Patriots’ QB Competition
Did Mac Jones do enough to beat Cam Newton?
Was Jones’ performance on Sunday night enough to top Newton on the depth chart? The answer boils down to another question: Did Jones outperform Newton enough during the preseason?
It’s hard to tell by looking at your numbers. Both passed the eyesight test and posted similar stats, although Jones played more than twice as many units as Newton.
Jones was always fighting an uphill battle to win the starting job. Based on what Belichick has said, it appears Newton still has the upper hand.
But Jones has apparently given Belichick something to think about. The coach said after the game that he hadn’t decided who would start Week 1 against the Dolphins.
“We still have a lot of decisions to make,” he said.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.