Mac Jones has earned his teammates' respect. Will the rookie win the Patriots' QB job over Cam Newton?

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – As soon as the ball was snapped, Mac Jones was under pressure. The quarterback rolled out of the pocket before quickly hitting Jakobi Meyers for a short gain. As soon as the play was over, Matt Judon ran up to the rookie. Although the conversation couldn’t be heard, it appeared the Pro Bowl pass rusher was letting Jones know he thought he would’ve sacked him.

It could also be seen that Jones went right back at Judon with some words of his own.

“That’s just a little teammate banter,” Judon explained after practice. “You know, Mac is a good quarterback. He’s reading stuff well, so I just talked trash.”

As Jones has grown more comfortable in the Patriots' system, the rookie has become more vocal. The trash talk with Judon was a good example of how Jones has grown this summer in Foxboro.

With Cam Newton out until Thursday due to what the team called a "misunderstanding" with COVID-19 rules, Jones has been put into the spotlight. Following his second day of practice as the Patriots' top quarterback, it’s clear this rookie has already earned respect from his veteran teammates.

“Well, I think he’s a great young man. Character really counts when you talk about what we do off the football field, the way we carry ourselves,” veteran special teams standout and wide receiver Matthew Slater said about Jones. “The way we approach our profession. The way we do things in the community. That translates to the football field. And I think Mac is a fine young man. His family should be proud of the way that they raised him, and the way he carries himself. The way that he commands respect of even guys like myself — older guys that have been here for a while.

Patriots quarterback Mac Jones prepares to throw against Washington during a preseason game Aug. 12 at Gillette Stadium.
Patriots quarterback Mac Jones prepares to throw against Washington during a preseason game Aug. 12 at Gillette Stadium.

“And he’s earned that respect by the way that he’s gone about his craft. So, he’s been a joy to work with. This rookie class has really been fantastic. They’ve all carried themselves with a great deal of humility, and just come out here and worked each and every day. As a veteran player on this team you kind of appreciate rookies like that.”

Jones has impressed this summer while battling with Newton for the Patriots' starting quarterback job. Newton entered this week as the favorite to start Week 1, but the quarterback has been forced to sit out due to COVID-19 protocols. That opened up a gigantic opportunity for Jones to work as the Patriots' starting quarterback for three practices, including Wednesday’s joint session with the New York Giants.

Monday’s practice didn’t go well with Jones completing just 17 of 31 (55%) passes in full-team drills. On Tuesday, however, the rookie looked much, much better, completing going 30-of-38 on the day. Although there were two interceptions by Devin McCourty and JC Jackson, Jones ended practice by beating the starting defense for two touchdowns. This prompted the defensive players to drop down for two sets of pushups.

“I think he understands when he needs to be assertive and when he doesn’t, when he needs a talking and he doesn’t, but I don’t really get to spend a lot of time with him asides from the meeting room, but from that, that what I seen,” Judon said of Jones. “Everything they’ve been giving him, he’s took it in stride. He’s handled everything well.”

On Tuesday, his favorite targets were Jakobi Meyers, who had a team-high seven catches, and Smith, who finished with five catches, including two touchdowns from Jones. After practice, Smith gave the rookie quarterback a glowing review.

“I think he’s been progressing really well, just taking everything from the media rooms, on the fields, and just executing it,” Smith said. “You can just tell he’s getting comfortable, and he’s settling in. Everything’s going to work out for him. He’s a hard worker, so I’m looking forward to seeing him do great things.”

New England Patriots' Mac Jones, right, and New England Patriots' Harvey Langi head to the locker room before last Thursday's preseason game in Philadelphia.
New England Patriots' Mac Jones, right, and New England Patriots' Harvey Langi head to the locker room before last Thursday's preseason game in Philadelphia.

Jones is settling in with Newton away from the team. Could he potentially steal the veteran’s job? If that’s the case, the Patriots seem confident in the 2021 first-round pick.

“Whoever’s going to be out there, they’re going to be ready to go,” Smith said. “They’re going to be ready to go, and we’re going to put whoever is best for the team in that position. I know I’m confident they’ll be ready to go.”

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Could Mac Jones unseat Cam Newton as Patriots' starting QB?