As the Patriots inch toward their first training-camp practice of 2021, one of the biggest questions arising from a significantly upgraded roster (especially on offense) arises from the quarterback position, where 2015 MVP Cam Newton and No. 15 overall pick in the 2021 draft Mac Jones highlight the competition.
Most believe Newton currently has the edge, and most also believe Jones eventually will become the guy. So how long can Newton hold Jones off?
Per a league source, multiple current teammates believe Newton simply isn’t the guy he once was. Given how spectacular he once was, that’s arguably the stuff of Captain Obvious. Regardless, the presence of those thoughts lays the foundation for teammates to have an open mind about the possibility that Jones may be the better option. And the opinions of the other men in the locker room go a long way toward determining whether the decision by the coaching staff as to who will play quarterback will be accepted.
The New England organization has high regard for Newton. If it didn’t, he wouldn’t have been re-signed after a 2020 season that started with promise but then became marred by a bout with COVID. Conversely, if it viewed Newton as a long-term answer, it wouldn’t have drafted a quarterback in the first round for the first time since Drew Bledsoe in 1993.
Newton’s drive, personality, and work ethic have helped fill the leadership void created by the departure of Tom Brady. But those intangibles become meaningless if not complemented by solid performances and ultimately wins. With a better array of weapons around Newton, the wins could come more frequently in 2021. And even if he’s no longer at the level he occupied six years ago, Newton could be good enough to help the Patriots return to the status of serious contender, which could keep Jones on the bench for most if not all of the 2021 season.
Ultimately, it comes down to Newton. How much better will he know the offense? Will he make better decisions on the field? As former Patriots receiver Julian Edelman remarked earlier this year, Cam works hard. He now has to work smart. If that happens, those teammates who know he’s not the MVP he was in 2015 may realize he’s still more than good enough to do the job.
It also doesn’t hurt that Cam has a career record of 2-0 against the quarterback who’s coming back to town in Week Four.