Bill Belichick: 'Cam’s our starting quarterback'
FOXBORO — With training camp ongoing, all eyes are on the Patriots quarterback competition between Cam Newton and Mac Jones. During the offseason, head coach Bill Belichick stated that Newton was his starting quarterback, but he has also mentioned that camp brings a “clean slate” for all players competing, including quarterbacks.
On Saturday morning, Belichick once again reiterated that Newton is the team’s starting quarterback while also making it seem as if that decision isn’t set in stone.
When he was asked about the starting quarterback spot, Belichick said he’s looking for consistency and production.
“Yeah, well, we’ll take a look at the whole situation," he said. "I don’t think we want to evaluate players at any position off of one or two plays or maybe a day.
"From a consistency standpoint, that’s always important. Obviously production. Hopefully, those things will be good and I’m sure it’ll be a hard decision. But we’ll see how it goes. We’ll just let them play and try to do what we feel like is best for the team based on their performance.”
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The fact that Belichick said “it’ll be a hard decision” makes it sound as if the competition between Newton and Jones is a close one. When he was asked if he has a time frame for when he wants to choose his starting quarterback, however, Belichick once again pointed to Newton.
“No. I mean, Cam’s our starting quarterback. I think I’ve said that so …,” Belichick said.
The quarterback battle thus far has been a back-and-forth affair between the veteran and the rookie. Jones had the edge on Day 1, but Newton looked better during the next two practices. On Saturday, Jones had the edge, but the day saw inconsistencies from both quarterbacks.
Despite a hot start by each passer, the red-zone defense stifled both quarterbacks during a dominant defensive stretch in practice.
It wasn’t a terrible day for either quarterback, but the red-zone drills were eye-opening. Heading into the period, Newton was 8-of-9 and Jones was 7-of-8 in team drills. Then the period started with the defense on the goal line. Newton went 2-of-7 in his first stretch, hitting only running back Sony Michel and receiver Kendrick Bourne for scores. When it was Jones’ turn, the rookie went 0-for-4.
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The Patriots ended practice with a similar set of drills. Newton went 2-for-5 to end practice. He finished 12-of-21, completing 57% of his passes. Jones had one of the best stretches of his training camp in this final red-zone drill. The first-round pick completed his last five throws, to finish the practice at 12-for-17 (71%).
The final period was a good one for Jones, who had the slight edge on Newton on Saturday. The previous two days of camp, during which Newton looked better, Jones struggled in the red zone at the end of each session. On Friday, the rookie finished 1-of-4 near the end zone. On Thursday, Jones went 2-for-6. It was clear he was frustrated, so it was positive to see him finish strong on Saturday.
This week, Brian Hoyer put Jones’ struggles in the red area into perspective:
“I said this in the spring — it’s not easy playing quarterback in the NFL. It’s not easy to play it here. [Jones] works his butt off and he cares a lot. I am just there if he has a question, or if I see something that I can bring up with my past experiences and help him out because, like I said, we’re starting in the toughest part of the field against what I would call arguably the toughest red-area defense in the league.
"It’s not going to be easy. You’re not going to go out there and go 9-for-10. Working one day at a time and you can see how much he puts into it. I get text messages from him at 6 a.m. He’s doing a great job.”
So far, in camp, Newton has led off every drill. That certainly indicates that Newton is the Patriots starter. But pads won’t be put on until next Tuesday and, after that, three preseason games will be played.
The competition will only heat up. Time will tell if Newton can hang onto his starting job.
Stidham undergoes surgery
Earlier this offseason, it was expected that Jarrett Stidham would also compete for the starting quarterback job, or at least a backup role.
It turns out Stidham won’t compete at all this summer. According to the NFL Network, Stidham underwent back surgery on Friday after experiencing pain in his right shoulder and back while throwing the football.
Since he is currently on the physically unable to perform list, the Patriots will have the option to return the quarterback to the 53-man roster when he’s healthy. The team could also keep Stidham on the PUP list for the remainder of the season.
It's been a rough last two summers for the 2019 fourth-rounder. Stidham was expected to compete with Newton for the starting quarterback job last summer, but suffered a lower-body injury early in camp. Stidham ultimately appeared in five games last season, throwing for 256 yards to go with two touchdowns and three interceptions in mop-up duty.
With Stidham out, the Pats will continue to practice with Newton, Jones, Hoyer and Jake Dolegala.