Patriots

Report: Mac Jones playing like ‘what Patriots thought they were getting’

The Patriots appear set to give the first-round pick a chance to win the starting quarterback job when training camp begins next month.

Mac Jones Patriots
Mac Jones. Steven Senne/AP
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The New England Patriots almost certainly will have a real quarterback competition on their hands when training camp kicks off next month.

A strong spring from rookie quarterback Mac Jones — whom the Patriots reportedly are very impressed with so far — suggests he could push incumbent Cam Newton to start Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins. Whether or not the rookie will win — or if he’s truly ready to make that leap yet — remains to be seen.

But Sports Illustrated NFL writer Albert Breer wrote in his Monday Morning Quarterback column the Patriots are more than satisfied with their early returns on their investment.

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“The feedback I’ve gotten on Jones is that he’s what the Patriots thought they were getting when they took him 15th—which is to say he’s a heady field general, if somewhat limited physically,” Breer said.

Jones’s 13 spring practices — including the six media were allowed to attend — confirm those thoughts. The first-round pick out of Alabama looks like an ideal fit for the Patriots offense, showing flashes of potential as an accurate passer with the ability to process pre-snap reads and post-snap progressions quickly.

He doesn’t have great arm strength — though it’s far from bad — nor is he particularly mobile. But he should be able to succeed as a pure pocket passer given time to hone the mental aspect of his game and eliminate turnover-worthy throws.

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But Breer warns not to read too much into the spring practices, echoing Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels’s insistence that the real evaluation hasn’t begun yet.

“I would not make much of who he’s lined up with during the spring,” Breer wrote. “More than a couple of people who know that program well, both in reference to Jones and other guys, have mentioned to me how Bill Belichick works reps this time of year. And really, it reflects that the Patriots aren’t in a spot where it’s ‘competitive’ for jobs yet. Belichick uses May and June for teaching, fundamentals and conditioning, and mixes and matches players throughout. And he’s never been above using the sessions that are open to the media for his own purposes.”

That last part is especially interesting. Could Belichick have purposefully put Jones on display during mandatory minicamp — especially last Tuesday when Jones got more reps than all the quarterbacks, even Newton — simply to generate buzz and create doubt about the Patriots quarterback situation through the media? Who knows?

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If so, let’s just say that plan has gone masterfully so far. Everything about the number of reps Jones got and which unit he took them with during spring practice has been and will be dissected during the Patriots’ early summer layoff.

But the “real test,” as Breer puts it, still won’t come until the pads come on at training camp.

“If Jones is out there with the first offensive-line group then, even if it’s just a percentage of those snaps, then I’d say we know something is afoot,” he added. “And my sense right now is that Jones has done enough in the spring to merit a real competition with Cam Newton in the summer.”

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