What insiders, experts are saying about the Patriots’ quarterback situation ahead of OTAs

Will Cam Newton or Mac Jones be the Patriots' Week 1 starter?

Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
Could Mac Jones replace Cam Newton as the Patriots' starting quarterback as soon as Week 1?

After an offseason of great spending, one question lingers for the Patriots entering the 2021 season: Who will be the team’s starting quarterback?

As you likely know by now, Cam Newton is back in Foxborough, signing a one-year deal after struggling for much of his first season as a Patriot. While it looked like the Patriots were going to mostly stand pat at quarterback after not bringing in a veteran, they made their biggest headline in the offseason at the draft. They selected Alabama quarterback Mac Jones.

Now with Jones in the mix and Jarrett Stidham still on the rosterr, the Patriots could have a real quarterback competition when training camp opens in July.

Moments after drafting Jones, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Cam Newton’s still the team’s starting quarterback, saying, “Somebody would have to play better than he does” to take over.

Recent reports suggest that is still the case. Belichick is “bullish” on Newton and won’t make Jones the starting quarterback until his on-field play becomes “undeniable,” according to ESPN NFL insider Jeremy Fowler.

NBC Sports Boston’s Patriots beat reporter Tom Curran is also expecting Newton to be the team’s starting quarterback. He also thinks that with the moves the Patriots made this offseason, Newton’s in a better spot to succeed this year.

“This team building a buoy offensively says to me — and these guys are gonna be here longer than Cam, so it doesn’t really matter, Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, etc. — but it does set up nicely for Cam Newton to put himself in there for the long-term at quarterback,” Curran said on the “Patriots Talk Podcast.” “But you still have to be able to throw with accuracy. And it also sets up for Mac Jones. So the Patriots might have an answer either way.”


The recent reports are consistent with many others this offseason. Prior to re-signing him in March, Belichick did “nothing but rave” about Newton internally, The Boston Globe’s Ben Volin reported in February.

Someone that’s been in the building before may have the answer as to who the Patriots will start Week 1. Former Patriots linebacker turned NFL analyst Tedy Bruschi believes Newton will be the guy under center when the Patriots take on the Dolphins in Week 1.

“From what I’m hearing, I’m very excited to see Cam in terms of what he can do with who they got for him,” Bruschi said on ESPN’s “Get Up!” on Thursday. “The two tight ends, more throws in between the numbers, which is better for Cam, and they’ve got the players that can do that. And once in a while a shot, which they’ve got some receivers that can go deep now, too.

“So, they’re excited to see what all of these additions along the offensive line with Trent Brown coming back, Cam being their best running back and him hitting throws, high percentage throws, they’ve got the right people for it. So they’re excited to see him.”

Former Jets and Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington agrees that the Patriots should start Newton for the beginning of the season at least. Pennington, who was a first-round draft pick in 2000, sat behind Vinny Testaverde for two seasons before becoming the starter and thinks Jones could benefit from a similar situation.


“It was everything for my career,” Pennington told Curran on “The Patriots Talk” podcast about backing up Testaverde. “We don’t put enough emphasis on a young quarterback just learning how to be a professional. And a lot of that has nothing to do with the scheme and what’s happening between the white lines. It’s just learning how to take care of business across the board in every aspect of your life. We’re coming from college where all we do is train, go to school, and play ball. That’s it.”

Even though most insiders and experts suggest that Newton will or should be the Patriots’ Week 1 starter, ESPN NFL analyst Dan Orlovsky thinks it will be Jones instead.

“I’d say Mac Jones, and it’s because it’s about third down,” Orlovsky said on “Get Up!” earlier in May. “Number one, I think the selection of Mac Jones tells me that Josh McDaniels and the Patriots want to go back to their old school offense a little bit, the offense that they ran for obviously such a long time with Tom Brady. And I think the second thing is this football team is going to be a ground-and-pound football team. This is a top five offensive line in the NFL, and they are going to run the rock.

“Now when you do that, third down becomes paramount. Third-and-5 or less is gonna be about decision-making and accuracy. And you’re going to have to continue to make those third-down throws to continue to keep the ball on the field.”

The Patriots begin OTAs later in May and will hold mandatory minicamp from June 15-17. Jones participated in the Patriots’ rookie camp that was held this weekend.

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