NFL News & Analysis

Mac Jones can push for Patriots' starting QB job with Cam Newton away from team

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) drops back to pass against the Philadelphia Eagles during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t close the book on the New England Patriots’ quarterback competition just yet.

Due to what the Patriots announced was a “misunderstanding about (COVID) tests conducted away from NFL facilities,” incumbent starting quarterback Cam Newton must stay away from New England’s facility at Gillette Stadium until Thursday.

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In the meantime, rookie Mac Jones received the Patriots’ first-team quarterback reps at practice Monday and Tuesday. He’s also set to lead the team in Wednesday’s joint practice with the New York Giants before Newton returns Thursday for another combined session with New York.

While Newton is still the favorite to start Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins, a strong performance this week would open the door for Jones, according to sources close to the organization. Jones has +225 odds to take the first regular season snap for the Patriots, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

Jones has wildly impressed the Patriots in practice and preseason games this summer, and his PFF grades reflect that, as well. The Alabama product is PFF’s highest-graded rookie quarterback this preseason (92.4).

Jones is first among all qualified QBs in overall PFF passing grade (93), while kept clean (92.9), under pressure (76.6) and when throwing past the first-down marker (97.4). He’s second to New Orleans Saints QB Jameis Winston in PFF grade while throwing 20-plus yards downfield (94.9).

Jones went 17-of-31 during team drills in a fully padded practice Monday, according to's Zack Cox. The 15th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft was 29-of-36 in shells and shorts during Tuesday’s session, per Cox.

Newton “traveled to a club-approved medical appointment that required him to leave the New England area,” the Patriots announced Tuesday. Though Newton received daily negative COVID tests, he’s “subject to the five-day entry cadence process before returning to the facility.” Newton’s five-day reentry process suggests the QB is unvaccinated, per the NFL’s protocol.

“There is a level of frustration internally with the Cam Newton situation,” sources told NFL Media’s Mike Giardi on Tuesday.

Newton and Jones have shared first-team reps for the Patriots this summer, though Newton has started both preseason games and typically leads off drills.

Jones is 26-of-38 for 223 yards in two preseason games while Newton is 12-of-16 for 152 yards with one touchdown pass and an 83.4 overall PFF grade. Veteran Brian Hoyer is the Patriots’ third-stringer. Jarrett Stidham, who was a 2019 fourth-round pick, is currently on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list after undergoing back surgery.

The Patriots re-signed Newton to a one-year contract and took Jones in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft this offseason. Newton led the Patriots to a 7-8 record and completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 2,657 yards, eight passing touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season with a 67.8 PFF passing grade. He also carried the ball 137 times for 592 yards and 12 touchdowns, posting a 70.9 overall PFF grade.

The Patriots’ quarterback competition has been close all summer. An impressive showing Wednesday, and subsequent strong performances in future practices and New England’s final preseason could allow Jones to close on Newton’s lead.

The Patriots have repeated this summer that Newton is New England’s starting quarterback in the present tense. Head coach Bill Belichick nor offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has said Newton will start Week 1 of the regular season, however.

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