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Patriots 2021 Training Camp Primer – Quarterbacks

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
3 months ago at 6:30 am ET
Posted Under: 2021 NFL Offseason

Patriots 2021 Training Camp Primer – QuarterbacksWinslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots went through a quarterback conundrum for the first time in 20 years in 2020. Tom Brady left for Tampa Bay and the Patriots were left with Jarrett Stidham. While both sides said all the right things all offseason, it was clear that things were going to change and change in a big way. Just not necessarily in a good way. 

With the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic wiping out the offseason, the Patriots signed Cam Newton in late June, and although he did a crash course in the playbook, he had to deal with an abbreviated training camp and no preseason in an effort to learn the offense and find some chemistry with the receivers. 

Stidham who seemed to have a lot of confidence after Brady’s departure seemed to melt under the pressure of having to compete with the former MVP Newton for the starting job.  Newton seemed to have the job locked up very early. Stidham and Hoyer were relegated to backups and clipboard holders.

Things didn’t appear too badly at first. Miami had no idea how to defend the Patriots running game with Newton in the opener, as there was no film to go off of. And they were gashed. Week 2 in Seattle, although the Patriots lost on a defensive stop at the one-yard line as time ran out, the passing game showed the ability to move the ball down the field. 

After that, it was pretty much of disaster. After a win over the Raiders where he didn’t play well, Newton caught COVID-19 and was never the same. He only missed the KC game, (where Hoyer was awful) but afterward said he was playing catch up for the rest of the year. 

Granted the skill position players of the Patriots at WR and TE were easily the worst in the league, and that had something to do with it. Losing Julian Edelman in the middle of the season was a blow they couldn’t recover from. 

Fans were clamoring for Stidham to get his chance to start, but Bill Belichick was adamant that Newton gave them the best chance to win. 

During the offseason, they re-signed Newton to a one-year deal, brought back Hoyer, and then drafted Mac Jones with the 15th pick in the draft this spring. Now with the calendar showing them in the year 0002 A.B. (after Brady), they will have serious QB competition for the first time in a long, long time. 

Check back with PatsFans.com as we’ll go thru the entire roster as our primers for training camp continue before the heavy lifting starts on July 28.

Current roster – Cam Newton, Mac Jones, Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer

Locks – Newton, Jones

Discussion – When it comes to the quarterbacks, Jones was drafted to be “the guy”, and he IS the quarterback of the future, but will he show enough to unseat Newton this year? Belichick has said, many times, “Cam is our quarterback” to take pressure off of Jones and allow him to learn. So…let’s take a look at the “usual suspects”.

Mac Jones

Mac Jones looked very impressive during the offseason workouts, but has a long way to go. (Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports)

Cam Newton should be glad that there were no fans allowed in the stands at Gillette Stadium last year, with the hue and cry from the many Twitterati on social media, he was lambasted by a large segment of the fanbase. One can only imagine if the fans were there how bad the reception would have been. 

Newton was a standup guy and never pointed the finger at his less-than-stellar weapons surrounding him and always said that he had to play better. However, much of the criticism leveled at him was legitimate. His mechanics were sloppy, his accuracy, especially in the short game was terrible and he seemed to take too long to get rid of the ball. 

Newton made it clear that he didn’t want to leave New England as the 2020 season ended. He has a lot to prove and was spending the offseason exactly like someone who is trying to right the ship. Now, while I admit to being a Cam apologist last year (and I wasn’t even in favor of signing him), but a lot of what transpired was not his fault. 

The WR position was weak even with Edelman and only got worse. The tight ends were nonexistent in the passing game. He caught COVID in midseason and never had the time to work with his teammates to build up anything resembling chemistry. 

Now, all the excuses are gone, they added some good wide receivers around him and added the top two tight ends in free agency. So, with a full offseason to work with, it is still Cam’s job to lose. But there is a quality alternative working on replacing him. 

Mac Jones was talked about as being a fit for the Patriots since last fall. Jones, with an incredible cast around him, absolutely lit it up last year as Alabama cruised to another national title. Jones completed 311 of 402 passes (77.4 percent) for 4,500 yards (11.2 yards per attempt) with 41 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions. His QB rating, which is different in college football was 203.1.

Jones is not one of the new age QBs that is a physical freak and a threat to run, but he has the Brady-like knack for sliding in the pocket, making excellent pre-snap reads, delivering a very accurate ball. He is a dedicated film freak and threw himself into learning the Patriots playbook. 

And the first impressions, albeit during OTAs and minicamp with no pads and no hitting were impressive. Yes, he still has a long way to go, but didn’t look lost at all and was competing hard, which is exactly what the team wants. 

Now with training camp around the corner and preseason games shortly after that, the pace will accelerate. And we’ll see how far he still has to go. But his work ethic will never hold him back. I especially can’t wait to see him during the joint practices against the Eagles and Giants when he’ll be facing more of the potential starters. 

Jarret Stidham in action against the Rams in 2020 (Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Jarrett Stidham had a very short time as the heir-apparent to Brady and as the “starter” he didn’t last very long. The signing of Newton in late June seemed to affect his confidence and despite Newton having no time in the offense, he clearly seemed more game-ready than Stidham. 

When he got some mop-up duty in just five games, he didn’t turn heads or show that he was a better option than Newton or Hoyer had been. Last year at this time, there was a lot of talk of him being the starter. Now, today, he’s going to have to fight to remain on the roster. 

Brian Hoyer is a lightning rod for criticism and one would have thought that when the Patriots re-signed him this spring, that he was announced as the starter. But Hoyer has lasted in the league for 12 years and he knows his role. He’s a scout team QB this summer and a sounding board/mentor for Mac Jones. 

Yes, Newton is a better mentor, but right now the two QBs are locked in a camp competition for the starting job. Hoyer is slated for a coaching position in his future, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Patriots bring him on board in that aspect. 

So, in 2021, the first thing to remember for all of the people clamoring for Jones, is that Belichick has already told everyone, that Newton is the QB, so even if they’re equal in play through the preseason, Newton would be the starter. 

And the feeling here is he will be. Most rookie QBs that are pushed into starting don’t have a ton of long-term success. Could Jones be one of those guys? Absolutely, but why risk his confidence when they have Newton, with a much improved supporting cast around him, and allow Jones to learn. 

I feel Newton will start Week 1, and barring injury, will be the starter for at least the first half dozen games. The last thing Bill Belichick wants is having a rookie QB under center in Week 4 when the Super Bowl champs come calling. But Jones is the future and will be the starter no later than Week 1 of 2022, but possibly sooner. It all depends on him and his development. 

The only other question is will the team keep two QBs or three? 

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on Stitcher radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens, and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

 


Posted Under: 2021 NFL Offseason
Tags: 53 Man Roster Projection Bill Belichick Brian Hoyer Cam Newton Jarrett Stidham Mac Jones New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots QBs Tom Brady


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