Opinion: Patriots should start Mac Jones over Cam Newton at QB — here's why

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

FOXBORO — What more is there left to see?

That was the first thought that crossed my mind after a blazing-hot Patriots practice ended on Wednesday. It marked the 18th day of Patriots training camp and third without Cam Newton, who is due to return to practice Thursday after missing the start of practices this week because of a "misunderstanding" of COVID-19 rules. As the day went on, Mac Jones looked better and better. By the time it was over, the first-round pick looked sensational.

Pitted against the New York Giants' starting defense, the rookie appeared to be a bona fide NFL starting quarterback, completing 35-of-40, or 88%, of his passes. This marked the best day of camp for Jones this summer. He was the best quarterback on the field, looking better than Giants quarterback Daniel Jones — and that wasn’t close.

Jones was smart and decisive. He threw multiple deep, highlight-reel passes. His teammates appear to love him. He works hard and he runs the offense in such a way that is a better match than Newton with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. With one preseason game left (Sunday night at the Giants) and 2½ weeks before the Patriots' regular-season opener against the Miami Dolphins, Jones looks ready.

That’s why Mac Jones should start this season as the Patriots' quarterback.

Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) drops back to pass against the Eagles during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field.
Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) drops back to pass against the Eagles during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field.

Newton’s absence gave Jones an opportunity

According to both the NFL Network and The Athletic, the Patriots are internally frustrated with Newton over the current situation. The quarterback should have known the league’s COVID-19 rules. There’s no reason why he should have missed five days, including three important practices. Of course, that’s no reason to bench him.

Newton looks improved this summer. He’s been solid in practice and looked outstanding during last week's preseason game in Philadelphia, completing 8-of-9 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. Following that performance, Newton clearly appeared to be the favorite to start in Week 1 for the Patriots. Then his apparent misinterpretation of pandemic rules occurred and it paved the way for Jones to spend three practices as the Patriots' top quarterback.

The results have been eye-opening.

Over three practices this week, Jones has completed 88-of-118, or 75%, of his passes in team drills. He was 19-of-23 (83%) in 7-on-7 work and 69-of-95 (73%), with two interceptions, in 11-on-11 drills. These three days have not only shown that Jones can handle the load as the starter, but that he's improving.

On Monday, Jones completed just 55% of his passes in full-team work. On Tuesday, he looked much better, completing 79% of his throws, though there were two interceptions. Then Wednesday happened and Jones completed 85% of his passes against the Giants' starting defense.

That’s exactly what you want to see from a rookie — consistent growth.

Although Jones has had some rookie moments this summer, he has put together far more "wow" plays than Newton. It’s clear he throws a better ball and it’s obvious he already is well-acclimated to McDaniels' offensive system.

Patriots quarterback Mac Jones throws during a joint practice with the Eagles last week in Philadelphia.
Patriots quarterback Mac Jones throws during a joint practice with the Eagles last week in Philadelphia.

Will Belichick start a rookie QB?

Head coach Bill Belichick has never started a rookie quarterback, though he never has been given a reason to before. Will he actually sit Newton, even though the veteran has shown improvement. Would sitting to start the season actually benefit Jones?

There’s an opinion out there that it’s better for a rookie quarterback to sit on the bench for his first NFL season. The rationale is that it's better for a young quarterback to learn the game from behind the scenes and rushing him could hurt his development. There are a lot of examples of quarterbacks sitting and having success later, including Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes.

It's definitely a good point — if a young quarterback isn’t ready, his confidence could be hurt. That being said, if a quarterback is ready, doesn’t it make sense to give him playing experience to help him develop — especially when that quarterback is a first-round pick?

The concept of ruining a young quarterback usually applies to teams that are bad. Most teams that draft quarterbacks early are in position to select that player because of a poor record and poor roster construction. Does it make sense to start a rookie quarterback if your offensive line is horrible or there are inadequate offensive weapons? Of course not.

That’s not the case in New England.

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

After a 7-9 season, Belichick and the Patriots spent the most money in NFL free-agency history to reinforce their roster on both sides of the ball. Their defense looks loaded with the signing of linebacker Matt Judon and the return of colleagues Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy. The offense has new weapons in tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry and wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. That’s along with receiver Jakobi Meyers and a running back depth chart that’s so deep the team could afford to trade Sony Michel.

The Patriots' offensive line looks like one of the best units in the NFL with Trent Brown, Shaq Mason, David Andrews, Michael Onwenu and Isaiah Wynn. You can certainly trust this group to protect a young, talented quarterback.

This team is built to win now. The roster is improved. As this summer has gone on, it’s clearly looked as if Mac Jones is the future of the Patriots franchise.

This week, he’s looked like a capable NFL starting quarterback.

His time should be now. Why wait?

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Why Patriots should start Mac Jones over Cam Newton at quarterback