Patriots vs. Washington: Cam Newton praises Mac Jones' work ethic

Mark Daniels
The Providence Journal
View Comments

FOXBORO – Cam Newton likes to have fun. You can tell by the way he dresses and the hats he wears. You hear it in his voice and see it when he’s celebrating or dancing on the football field.

Mac Jones might like to have fun, but right now, the Patriots rookie is all business. He’s working hard to learn a difficult offense and acclimate to the NFL.

The veteran and rookie quarterback are certainly different in their current approaches to the game of football, but their relationship and bond seem strong. After Thursday’s preseason game against Washington, Newton talked about how he’s tried to get Jones to laugh a little and also gave high praise to the rookie for his work ethic.

 “For him, man, for him to come out there, I know he came to me and talked to me and we talked it out about just his expectation. Every young quarterback goes through it, the excitement, the anticipation. He wants to be so perfect, and I see his preparation is always pristine,” Newton said. “That's what I admire about him, being at such a young age he knows how to prepare and knows when Josh asks quick questions or when a person asks quick questions he knows how to kind of have answers for it.

“Everybody is different. Everybody learns different. But for him and today's performance, he's just going to keep getting better, and we're going to be here for each other along this whole process, and that's what we're here for.”

Jones finished 13/19 for 87 yards in five total series in his preseason debut. Newton finished 4/7 for 49 yards in two series.

Newton, who used to call Jones “Mac and Cheese” said his new nickname for the rookie is “McClennan.”

“He's relatively quiet sometimes, and I try to crack the DaVinci Code of the seriousness,” Newton said. “He got a lot of -- I'm not going to say it, but yeah, he's serious sometimes for no reason. I'm like, Mac, so what does Mac come from, is that your first name? He's like no, that's actually my middle name. I didn't know that. I said, what's Mac -- he said McClennan. I think he said that's his mom's maiden name. So there you go.”

Patriots quarterback Mac Jones prepares to throw against Washington during a preseason game Aug. 12 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021.

Rhamondre Stevenson shines in Patriots preseason debut

As Rhamondre Stevenson was sprinting down the sideline, you could see the Patriots veterans on the sideline going crazy.

The rookie certainly made a splash in his preseason debut. Stevenson ran for 127 yards on just 10 carries, averaged 12.7 yards per carry and scored the Patriots only two touchdowns. The fourth rounder's highlight was a 91-yard touchdown run in the late fourth quarter

“Today I learned he’s pretty fast,” James White said of Stevenson. “New guy coming in, ready to work, competing. He’s got a lot of talent – obviously –as you guys can see. Each week we all want to continue to progress and get better and learn. There’s obviously still things he can learn… That’s our job as a group, to push one another to be the best group we can be.”

The Patriots entered this training camp with a loaded running back room. On Thursday, that was seen as Damien Harris and Sony Michel received the work with the starters and then J.J. Taylor was the next in line. By the time Stevenson entered the game, it was a low-scoring affair in the fourth quarter. That changed thanks to the young running back.

The rookie wasted no time, scoring his first touchdown on a 1-yard run at 11:34 of the fourth quarter to give the Patriots a 15-13 lead. Then, while trying to run out the clock, Stevenson took a pitch from Brian Hoyer and took off through the offensive line and down the right sideline. The Patriots sideline, including Cam Newton, went wild as the rookie scampered 91 yards to the end zone.

“That was a great play call first of all,” White said. “Offensive line did a great job blocking – receivers, fullbacks. It was an impressive run for a guy his size. We had a good performance out of him today and hopefully we keep it going.”

Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson (38) runs down the sideline for a 91-yard touchdown against Washington on Thursday.

Matt Judon impacts the Patriots on and off the field

It didn’t take long for Matt Judon to make an impact with the Patriots.

The Pro Bowl pass rusher only played a few series on Thursday night, but it seems obvious why the Patriots signed him to a four-year, $56 million contract. Judon finished with a quarterback hit to go with a run-stuff on a third-and-short against Washington.

On top of that, after that game, Patriots edge rusher Tashawn Bower said Judon is serving as a mentor to the younger defensive players.

“I think honestly, he has speed and power. He's someone that's able to run around the edge and someone who can go up and just bull-rush you as well,” said Tashawn Bower. “And he's been around a little bit so he has so much knowledge to give and me and a lot of other guys are just under his wing trying to take everything in, learn as much as we can from him. So, he brings a lot to the table.” 

We saw the speed on Thursday at 13:22 of the first quarter. On third-and-2, Ryan Fitzpatrick handed the ball off to running back Peyton Barber. Judon came screaming off the edge and dropped Barber 1-yard shy of the first down to force a punt. It was impressive.

It also appeared that Judon avoided an injury. Following a run play, at 10:29 of the first quarter, it looked like Judon was hit low. He was down on the turf for a moment before walking off the field with the Patriot medical staff. He went into the blue medical tent, but was only in there for a moment before walking back to the sideline.

Judon tried to immediately go back in on the field, but the coaches stopped him. He missed just two plays before rejoining his teammates on the game field.   

Foxboro, MA, August 12, 2021 -
Preseason game New England Patriots vs the Washington Football Team at Gillette Stadium.
Patriots linebacker #9 Matt Judon warms up during pre game activities.
[The Providence Journal/Bob Breidenbach]

Quinn Nordin shows promise with the Patriots

Quinn Nordin wasn’t perfect, but the rookie kicker was still one of the star’s of the Patriots first preseason game against Washington.

Leading up to Thursday night, Nordin went 14-for-14 in two in-stadium practices. Of course, that’s different than doing it in a game in front of a bigger crowd. With veteran Nick Folk out with an unknown injury, Nordin took all the kicks for the Patriots against Washington. The rookie was perfect in field goals, hitting all three kicks from 35, 50 and 40 yards outs.

Nordin, however, missed his first extra point attempt before making the second. The rookie from Michigan has an impressive leg, but he’ll have to show to be accurate if he’s going to beat out Folk for the job.

“Yeah, I mean, we'll take a look at it. Hit a couple good ones, missed an extra point,” Belichick said. “It's all about consistency. Quinn has gotten better. He's worked hard. But again, it's really about consistency at that position. We're getting there. We'll see what kind of progress he continues to make.”

Nordin's 50-yard boot, at 12:30 of the second quarter, was very impressive. The rookie showed off his leg strength on that kick, which looked like it would've been good from well beyond 50 yards. Nordin will have two more preseason games to try and beat out Folk. With his potential, it’ll be one of the top storylines to follow this month. 

The Patriots' Quinn Nordin missed his first three kicks Thursday night.

Here's how Mac Jones looked in his preseason debut

Mac Jones jogged onto the Gillette Stadium field to a standing ovation with 55 seconds left in the first quarter on Thursday night.

When it was all said and done, the rookie played in five total drives. He completed 68% of his passes, finishing 3/19 for 87 yards and a 78.2 quarterback rating. The first-round pick put together two scoring drives, which both ended in field goals. 

Jones went 2-of-5 for 20 yards on his first NFL preseason drive. His first pass was ruled incomplete even though Jakobi Meyers argued with officials he caught the ball. It didn’t matter as the rookie then hit Kristian Wilkerson for a 7-yard gain on third-and-5. Jones followed that up with a 13-yard pass to Kendrick Bourne. With each reception, the crowd cheered louder. Jones attempted two more passes on the drive.

His next attempt looked like a beauty, but Wilkerson couldn’t haul in the potential 34-yard touchdown with the ball slipping through his fingers. Jones' last pass of the drive, to Bourne, was off the mark and incomplete.

Quinn Nordin finished the drive. This time the rookie kicker booted a 50-yard field goal at 12:34 of the second quarter.

On his second drive, Jones hit J.J. Taylor for an 11-yard gain to move the chains. On the next play, guard Alex Redmond was flagged for being ineligible downfield and the Pats were placed in a first-and-15 hole they couldn’t get out of. Jones hit Wilkerson (eight yards) and Jakob Johnson (five yards) on the next two plays. On third-and-2, the quarterback tried to rush for the first down, but was brought down a yard shy of the marker.

The first-round pick went 5/8 for 44 yards in his first two series in the first half. The Pats went into halftime down, 7-6, to Washington.

Jones started the second half for the Patriots and put together a solid drive throwing short, quick passes as the unit ran a no-huddle offense. The rookie never completed a pass for more than eight yards, but he got the Patriots into scoring position during this 13-play, 53-yard drive. His best pass came on a third-and-3 when he threw a bullet to Wilkerson, for a gain of eight. Jones finished 8-of-9 for 43 yards and his only incompletion came when he was hit on third down. That incomplete pass came after Jones hit 11-straight completions.

Nordin finished this drive with a 40-yard field goal at 9:48 of the third quarter.

Jones’ final two drives were uneventful. His fourth drive saw three running plays totaling nine yards before a Jake Bailey punt. Jones’ fifth drive was more eventful, but not efficient. It started with a false start on Marcus Martin. Jones then threw an incomplete pass to Wilkerson, was sacked by Bunmi Rotimi and then threw an incomplete deed pass to Gunner Olszewski.

That was it for Jones, who was replaced by Brian Hoyer with 13:40 left in the fourth quarter.

Patriots rookie Mac Jones passes under Washington pressure during the second quarter.

Cam Newton's night ends after two series

In their first preseason game of the year, Cam Newton started for the Patriots and played two series before his night was over.

Newton finished the game 4-of-7 for 49 yards. He put together one drive after a difficult start on Thursday night.

After Damien Harris’s 2-yard run on first down, Newton was under pressure on his next two snaps as both pass attempts fell incomplete. His second pass attempt, on third down, nearly looked like a fumble after he was hit by Chase Young, but officials ruled it an incomplete pass. Young beat Patriots left tackle Isaiah Wynn quickly on the play, which is why Newton had no time to look for his intended target.

The Patriots had more success on the second drive. Newton started this series off with an 11-yard pass to Jakobi Meyers. After back-to-back runs by Harris, Newton picked up two more first downs by hitting Jonnu Smith (16 yards) and James White (17 yards). Momentum was halted after that when Smith was flagged for holding. The Pats were stranded at the Washington 16-yard line, following Newton missing White on a screen pass.

Rookie kicker Quinn Nordin finished the drive with a 35-yard field goal at 3:16 of the first quarter. 

Foxboro, MA, August 12, 2021 -
Preseason game New England Patriots vs the Washington Football Team at Gillette Stadium.
Patriots Qb #1 cam Newton shakes hands with receiver #15 NÕKeal Harry during pre game warmups.
[The Providence Journal/Bob Breidenbach]

Here's who's not playing in the Patriots' first preseason game

The Patriots are without 15 players in their preseason debut against Washington.

The team will be without Nelson Agholor, Hunter Henry, Joe Cardona, David Andrews, Nick Folk, Adrian Colbert, Brandon Bolden and Anfernee Jennings. None of these players are out on the game field warming up. Also missing are Stephon Gilmore (PUP), Chase Winovich (PUP), Jarrett Stidham (PUP), Terez Hall (PUP), Byron Cowart (PUP), Cameron McGrone (NFI) and Joshuah Bledsoe (NFI).

Folk missed the last five practices leading up to Thursday’s game. The veteran started training camp, but hasn’t practiced since Aug. 4. That’s left every kicking opportunity for undrafted rookie Quinn Nordin. He went 14-for-14 in the Patriots’ two in-stadium practices.

Christian Barmore is in uniform, which is a slight surprise. The second-round pick was absent from the Patriots in-stadium practice on Tuesday.

Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater are in uniform, but not playing in tonight's game.

What you need to know before kick-off

With the first preseason game upon us, Patriots rookie players finally have real numbers.

Up until this point, first-year players have worn jersey numbers starting at 50. For example, Mac Jones was No. 50 and second rounder Christian Barmore was No. 51.

On Thursday, that finally changed.

Patriots jersey numbers for rookies:

Mac Jones: No. 10

Christian Barmore: No. 70

Ronnie Perkins: No. 51

Rhamondre Stevenson: No. 38

Will Sherman: No. 68

Patriots numbers for veteran players:Patriots players receive new jersey numbers. Here's a look at who's wearing what.

Tre Nixon: No. 87

Cameron McGrone: No. 45

Joshuah Bledsoe: No. 34

Quinn Nordin: No. 3

Foxboro, MA, July 28, 2021 -
Patriots QB #50 Mac Jones throws a pass during Patriots training camp at Gillette Stadium.
[The Providence Journal/Bob Breidenbach]

Mac Jones and Cam Newton will both play in the Patriots preseason opener

The Patriots quarterback competition has been competitive this summer in training camp. Both Cam Newton and Mac Jones have gone back-and-forth in 12 practices. Of course, that’s been in a practice setting where quarterbacks aren’t allowed to get it.

That’s about to change.

Both Newton and Jones will play in tonight’s Patriots preseason opener against the Washington Football Team, according to ESPN. That certainly makes sense and isn’t a surprise. The Pats only have three preseason games this summer and as we all know, the quarterback play needs to be better this season than it was in 2020.

New England Special Teams:Who will make the Patriots' 53-man roster? Here are 5 under-the-radar special-team players

It’ll be fascinating to see how Bill Belichick splits up the quarterback reps. He’s said multiple times this offseason that Newton is the team’s starter, so we expect him to be the first quarterback on the field. Of course, there’s also a benefit to seeing Jones play against the Washington starting defense.

In training camp, Jones has completed 66% of his passes in team drills to go with three interceptions. Newton has completed 63% of his passes to go with seven interceptions. The veteran does have a better completion percentage (64%) than Jones (63%) in 11-on-11 drills. How these two perform on Thursday night will be the biggest storyline of the Patriots first preseason game.

Foxboro, MA, July 28, 2021 -
Patriot QBs #50 Mac Jones and #1 Cam Newton work through a drill during Patriots training camp at Gillette Stadium.
[The Providence Journal/Bob Breidenbach]

It’ll be interesting to see if Newton and Jones play in all three preseason contests. This week, Belichick was asked how the three preseason games will impact his approach to playing veterans. The Patriots coach wasn’t forthcoming, but said the team’s joint practices against Philadelphia and the New York Giants will add into the equation.

“We'll do what's best for this game and then kind of go from there,” Belichick said. “The scrimmage just kind of adds into it, the joint practice days, they count for something. Not sure exactly what, but they count for something.”

Rhode Island football:Portsmouth's Chris Herren Jr. drops basketball, joins University of Alabama football team

Could a strong performance from Jones this preseason push him ahead of Newton?

We’ll just have to wait and see.

Jakobi Meyers calls his break-out seasons an 'appetizer'

It was clear what the Patriots office wanted to do this offseason with the offseason. At the start of free agency, it was all about making the quarterback’s life easier. That’s why the team signed tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry as well as receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne.

During training camp, we’ve seen those four newcomers impact the offense in different ways. However, the biggest impact this summer has come from a different offensive target. Through 12 days of camp, Jakobi Meyers leads all offensive players in receptions with 26 catches in team drills. Ten of those receptions have come in the last two competitive practices.

Coming off a career-year, Meyers said his 729-yard performance in 2020 was only a prelude to what he can truly do.

“I feel like I showed enough to keep me around for a third year. But I don't feel like I proved anything yet, honestly,” Meyers said. “I still feel like I got a long way to go. That was just a taste, an appetizer, honestly. I didn't really do enough do say, 'Yeah, I'm solidified. I don't need to play in the preseason.' Or, 'I'm solidified, I don't need to go as hard as the other guys are going.' I'm still trying to show everybody how hard I work, how good I can be and hopefully I still got a lot of room to grow.”

As the Patriots open up their preseason on Thursday night, against Washington, all eyes will be on the team’s new-look offense. Don’t be surprised, however, if Meyers continues to stand out and build upon his 2020 performance.

At 6-foot-2, Meyers is built differently than your prototypical Patriots slot receiver, but he’s showing that his route-running ability and solid hands makes for a dangerous inside receiver. This summer, Patriots receivers/returners coach Troy Brown said Meyers benefited from spending the last two seasons with Julian Edelman.

Meyers, however, said that he’s just trying to build off of what Brown did with the Patriots.

“I think Troy might've sold himself short there. We all got it from Troy Brown, honestly,” Meyers said. “He's the originator of the little inside route game. The Patriots inside route game, a lot of that is credited to Troy. Yeah, I do watch Jules, but Jules probably watched Troy. Or he watched Wes (Welker). It's been a long line of slot guys. Honestly, if you want the answers, all you gotta do is just look before you. There's Hall of Famers before me. Just pay attention to them guys, and they give me everything I need.”

Foxboro, MA, July 28, 2021 -
Patriots receiver #16 Jakobi Meyers catches a pass during a drill as former Patriot receiver Troy Brown works with the receivers during Patriots training camp at Gillette Stadium.
[The Providence Journal/Bob Breidenbach]
View Comments