Has Cam Newton secured the New England Patriots' starting quarterback job?

Mark Daniels
The Providence Journal
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Sure, the Philadelphia Eagles didn’t play their starting quarterback, most of their star defensive players or most of their starters on Thursday night. However, the Patriots have to be happy with how they performed in their second preseason game.

The Patriots clearly had more talent — and starters — on the field, but the team went to work in this 35-0 drubbing of the Eagles in Philadelphia.

There was a lot to digest on both sides of the ball. The running backs stole the show with four touchdowns. The quarterbacks couldn’t be stopped, completing 23 of 30 combined passes for 279 yards and a touchdown. On defense, the secondary stymied Philadelphia’s backup quarterbacks, who threw for a paltry 81 combined yards and were sacked four total times and intercepted twice.

It was complete domination from start to finish Of course, not everything went smoothly. Here are five takeaways from the Patriots' big night in Philly.

Patriots quarterback Cam Newton drops back to pass against the Eagles during the first quarter Thursday night.

Cam Newton may have secured the starting quarterback job

Newton was good. Really good. The Patriots' veteran quarterback had a solid week during joint practices and looked like a starter on this night, completing 8 of 9 passes for 103 yards and one touchdown. Newton was on the field for three series. The Pats scored two touchdowns and missed a field goal (more on that later).

Did he secure the Patriots starting job? It appears possible. Newton has started the Pats' first two preseason games and continues to lead off quarterback drills in practice.

Newton looked like a more efficient passer than perhaps he did all last season. His first series was an easy one. Following a Jalen Mills fumble recovery, it took the Patriots two Damien Harris run plays to get in the end zone. After that, Newton’s first three throws resulted in three first downs — Jakobi Meyers for 18 yards, Kendrick Bourne for 23 yards and Meyers again for 10 yards. Newton went 4-of-5 for 56 yards on that drive and 4-of-4 for 47 yards in his final series. The highlight on the last sequence was a 28-yard touchdown pass to Meyers.

Patriots quarterback Mac Jones throws a pass against the Eagles during the fourth quarter Thursday night in Philadelphia.

Mac Jones has a bright future

The Patriots must be thrilled about their quarterback outlook. They have a veteran, Newton, who’s playing well and looks improved from a year ago. They also have a first-round pick who’s processing this offense rapidly.

Jones was great on Thursday night. He finished 13-of-19 for 146 yards and a 91.1 quarterback rating. That includes three drops from his offensive targets and a spike to stop the clock. The rookie played in four series with the Patriots scoring three touchdowns.

The most impressive moment happened in the first drive. The Pats were sitting at their own 6-yard line on third-and-13. Jones dropped back deep into his own end zone and fired a perfect pass to N’Keal Harry for 19 yards. That jump started a 17-play, 91-yard touchdown drive.

Harry dropped a deep ball and Devin Asiasi dropped a touchdown pass, but Jones was efficient. He had a lot of help from his running backs, but once again, he looked great in the Patriots' hurry-up offense coming out of halftime.

Patriots running back J.J. Taylor runs the ball against the  Eagles during Thursday night's third quarter.

The Patriots running back depth is ridiculous

It doesn’t seem fair. Whoever the Pats hand the ball off to has had success this preseason. On Thursday night, the Pats averaged 4.7 yards per carry, running for 207 yards with four total touchdowns from three different running backs.

It was a dominant effort for the offensive line and the run game.

Damien Harris started the game off with a touchdown. Next up, Sony Michel averaged 4.9 yards per carry (seven carries on 34 yards). Michel also played a big role in the passing game with four receptions on four targets for 37 yards. That’s a big development for the Pats.

J.J. Taylor was another star, rushing for 93 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown. He averaged 7.8 yards per carry. He also caught three passes on three targets for 18 yards.

Rhamondre Stevenson continues to impress as well. After rushing for 127 yards and scoring two touchdowns last week, the rookie scored two more touchdowns on Thursday. Stevenson rushed for 66 yards on 15 carries (4.4 average) to go with one catch for eight yards. The rookie, however, did have a fumble.

Can the Pats keep all these back on the roster? That’s a big question heading into the end of this month.

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

Nordin vs. Folk: The kicker competition is over

Quinn Nordin was a great story to start training camp. The undrafted rookie, with Nick Folk out due to an unknown injury, showed off a massive leg and potential. However, all that came crumbling down on Thursday night.

Nordin missed his first three kicks — a short field goal and two extra-point attempts — in Philadelphia. He finished by hitting an extra point and a 24-yard field goal, but it wasn’t a great night for the rookie. Simply put, it was a disaster and would be a surprise to see him unseat Folk (as long as the veteran is healthy).

The trouble started instantly for Nordin. He missed a 36-yard field goal, wide right, in the first quarter. It only got worse after that. He also missed his next kick (an extra point attempt) with 11 seconds left in the first quarter. Then at 11:50 of the third quarter, Nordin missed another extra point, again wide right.

Nordin finally hit one — an extra point — at 2:12 of the third quarter. He added a 24-yarder with 9:03 left in the game.

Last week, Nordin hit all three field goal attempts from 35, 50 and 40 yards out. However, he missed 1-of-2 extra point attempts.

The Patriots' Matt Judon, right, runs at Eagles quarterback Joe Flacco during the first half on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021.

The Patriots' front seven changes everything

The Patriots defense finished 27th in the NFL in total sacks (24) and 26th in rushing yards allowed in 2020. That shouldn’t be an issue this season.

The Pats front seven looks loaded and we saw a handful of highlights on Thursday.

On the first series, a bad snap went over Joe Flacco’s head. Matt Judon gave chase and forced a fumble on the quarterback. Jalen Mills recovered the ball, which set up Harris’ touchdown. Judon has looked dominant this summer. He had two pressures, including a quarterback hit, in the Eagles' third drive. The Pro Bowler also drew a holding penalty.

On the second Eagles drive, Philadelphia was faced with a third-and-1. Jordan Howard received the handoff but was stuffed by Kyle Van Noy. That play was a nice snap shot of how improved this Patriots defense can be from last season, when they allowed the third-most rushing yards in the Bill Belichick era.

Chase Winovich also made his preseason debut and finished with two quarterback sacks and a forced fumble. Linebacker Harvey Langi also added a sack and interception.

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