Patriots Training Camp: Quarterbacks Preview

After twenty years of elite quarterback play, Patriots fans finally experienced what the other 31 franchises have endured during that time period. Life is hard without a franchise quarterback.

The Patriots had the epitome of a franchise quarterback in Tom Brady but as year one of the Post-Brady era reminded us, you cannot win championships without elite level quarterback play.

No one envisioned Cam Newton of all people being Brady’s successor but after trading away Jimmy Garoppolo in 2017 and realizing the Jarrett Stidham wasn’t a franchise quarterback, the Patriots were left with no choice but to sign veterans in Brian Hoyer and Newton.

Newton signed late and with no off-season program, the experiment was doomed from the start. Factor in Newton’s lingering physical issues and you see why the Patriots struggled so much offensively last season.

Newton got off to a good start in Weeks 1 and 2 but then missed the Chiefs game after testing positive for COVID-19. Newton ended up missing two weeks and when he returned, he was not the same quarterback. Newton especially struggled throwing the football. He looked like he was still dealing with shoulder issues soreness. Between that and an obvious lack of chemistry, Newton’s first season was abysmal.

Surprisingly enough, Bill Belichick opted to bring Newton back but on a team friendly deal. Despite bringing Newton back, the Patriots did draft Alabama’s Mac Jones with the 15th pick of the first round in April’s draft.

At 6-2 1/2 217, Jones doesn’t have prototypical measurables but he has enough size. He throws an accurate ball in all three levels and is poised and mature beyond his years. Contrary to popular belief, Jones didn’t win at Alabama simply because he was surrounded with elite talent. He won in part because he had the physical tools, mental toughness and leadership skills it took to quarterback an offense that talented.

Belichick has refrained from calling it a competition but when you look at the snap distribution thus far at training camp, it is a quarterback competition. Newton has the edge because of his experience but it is far from his job.

Newton is going to have to earn it outright. He didn’t do enough last season to be in the proverbial drivers seat. Not only that, but Jones is talented enough to start as a rookie. The question is, will Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels be patient with him? He will make mistakes. Can they live with them in a year where the expectations are so high? We shall see.

Newton is the odds on favorite to start but I don’t see him having the leeway he had last season. Jones will only get better as the season goes on so even if Newton wins the job, it is far from his. He will have to play well to keep it.

As far as the other quarterbacks, Hoyer is back but it will be a stretch for him to make the team. The aforementioned Jarrett Stidham could be sidelined for up to 12 weeks after having shoulder surgery.

The focus will not be on those guys. It will be on Newton and Jones. The competition that doesn’t exist according to Belichick will go on all season long. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.