Cam Newton has been New England’s No. 1 quarterback in training camp and should be the starter in Week 1 again st Miami. Noah K. Murray/Associated Press

The evidence keeps piling up. And watching the New England Patriots against the New York Giants in the preseason finale on Sunday night, actions are speaking louder than words.

And we’re talking about more than just the quarterbacks, but let’s start there.

Coach Bill Belichick hasn’t moved off, or changed the dynamic, when it comes to deploying his quarterbacks.

Cam Newton has been the “starter” for every training camp practice, save for the three he missed due to violating the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols. He’s started all three preseason games, including Sunday’s finale against the Giants at the Meadowlands.
He’s been the starter at every turn. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure who’s going to be under center Week 1 against Miami.

Even with a two-week window to change it up before the season opener against the Dolphins, it’s doubtful Belichick is going to shift gears and all of sudden let Mac Jones take over.

Newton referred to himself as QB#1 on an Instagram post. And there’s no reason to think that is going to change. Belichick isn’t going to keep sending mixed messages – internally at least – because at some point, it will impact his own team.

For better or worse, Newton’s the man. That’s what the evidence suggests, even if Belichick won’t formally announce him as the starter. Following the game, he still wouldn’t answer a point-blank question on who his starter would be Week 1.

Had he made a decision?

“No, we still have a lot of decisions to make,” said Belichick.

Rookie quarterback Mac Jones has played well in preseason, and if he is not named the starter, he said he will “be ready whenever my time comes.” Noah K. Murray/Associated Press

So the charade continues, even if Belichick’s actions on the field say otherwise.

Newton was in for two series against the Giants, completing just 2 of 5 passes for 10 yards. He also threw an interception.

His first drive resulted in a field goal, his second ended with a pick. Newton was intercepted on a ball that was essentially taken away from Jakobi Meyers on a great play by Blake Martinez. Hard to fault Newton there, but that was his day.

Jones, meanwhile, wasn’t much better in the first half, playing against the Giants starting defense at the outset. The rookie went into halftime frustrated, while voicing and gesturing his displeasure with Gunner Olszewski for not running the proper route, resulting in a sack.

But, as has been his custom, Jones was able to shake off his first half struggles, and led an impressive drive to start the third quarter. He zipped a 17-yard strike to Isaiah Zuber for a touchdown. Then he led a second scoring drive on the next series, with his 30-yard completion to tight end Devin Asiasi the highlight, before Rhamondre Stevenson barreled in from nine yards out.

So Jones rallied. And was impressive doing so. But that’s not going to alter the view from up top. Jones is still behind on the most important scoreboard.

Why else does he always come in after Newton?

Asked what his expectation was for his role in the opener, Jones was diplomatic.

“Right now, like I always say, I’m focused on today. There’s a lot of stuff I can clean up. I held the ball a little too long at some points today, but I’ll work on that … but I’m here to play any role that I can play and help in any way I can and I’m going to be ready whenever my time comes.

“Like I said, we’ve got work to do. We’ll get things fixed, and we’ll just keep rolling.”

Belichick knows best. This isn’t his first rodeo. Even if Jones was a bit better than Newton overall, and pushed the veteran, he isn’t inclined to take his chances with the rookie. Not yet, anyway.

And that’s fine. Newton, who was not made available to the media following the game, has improved from last year, and looks better throwing the football. He’s certainly at risk for missing time being unvaccinated, but Belichick appears to be willing to live with that uncertainty.

Newton will be on a short leash as Jones works out the kinks from the sideline. There doesn’t seem much doubt Jones, who finished 10 of 14 for 156 yards and a touchdown, is still going to be right on Newton’s heels.

The bigger concern? Several of the new weapons have yet to distinguish themselves.

Nelson Agholor? He has the speed that’s desired, he just hasn’t gotten open in the games he’s played, not to mention the joint practices he’s taken part in. He’s been hurt and missed time here and there, but hasn’t done much since the first week of camp. Against the Giants, he caught one of two targeted passes for four yards. On the miss, he couldn’t get open on a sideline pass from Newton.

Tight end Hunter Henry didn’t play, as he continues to work his way back from injury, while fellow tight end Jonnu Smith and receiver Kendrick Bourne were in New York, but weren’t targeted. As for Olszewski, his struggles continue with dropped passes on perfectly thrown balls. Several of Jones’ best thrown balls during training camp and the preseason have resulted in drops.

The good news? The running game continues to look formidable, with both Stevenson and J.J. Taylor adding depth behind Damien Harris and third-down back James White.

Stevenson continues to bowl over people, his 9-yard touchdown run a thing of beauty. Taylor, meanwhile, continues to flash with his speed and ability to maneuver and make would-be tacklers miss.

Devin Asiasi also made some strides, providing a presence at tight end. He’s starting to come on, after missing the start of camp testing positive for COVID-19.

But even with a stout run game, the Patriots are still going to have to throw the football. Whether it’s Newton or Jones, they can’t spend all game delivering handoffs, or just throwing to tight ends. They’re going to need more weapons, specifically wideouts who can get open against man coverage.

Maybe Agholor turns it on during the regular season. Ditto Bourne, who has looked good recently in practices. Meyers remains their top gun, but it still seems like they’re going to need more.

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