Mac Jones reflects upon how he’d feel if he didn’t start Week 1

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New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones watched from the sideline as Cam Newton took the field on Thursday for the first set of competitive reps against the New York Giants defense. The message was clear: Newton is QB1, even after missing five days of practice after a misstep with the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols. In Newton’s absence, Jones was excellent, making a solid case to win the starting job, with a particularly impressive day on Wednesday.

The job is still Newton’s. And Jones is still gunning for it. The rookie quarterback and 2021 15th overall pick, Jones was asked how he’d feel if he was not picked to start against the Miami Dolphins in Week 1.

“That’s beyond my control. I can just control my effort every day, and I’m trying. I’m putting in a lot of work, and every else is,” Jones said after practice on Thursday. “So at the end of the day, there should be no dropoff, because in the quarterback room — and it’s something Josh (McDaniels) always talks about — there’s a high standard that we have to play to in New England. It doesn’t matter if you’re first-string, second-string, third-string. There’s a standard. And I feel like today I could have done better with that, playing up to the standard. Definitely good progress and a lot of reps, so it was fun. But we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

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There’s no doubt Jones is preparing as if he’ll someday be the starter. And there’s also no doubt: someday he will be the starter. It’s just a question of how soon. His performance was uneven on Thursday, with a handful of drops that lowered his completion percentage (11/24) for the day.

Jones’ preparedness, however, has been consistently impressive. Linebacker Dont’a Hightower was impressed with Jones’ preparedness, with the rookie quarterback taking to studying the defensive playbook to see what he can glean.

Ultimately, Jones will have to outplay Newton, who has yet to falter on the field — even if he misunderstood the COVID-19 protocols and had an off-field misstep.

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Instant observations of the Patriots' 2nd joint practice with the Giants