EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick isn’t ready to name his starting quarterback for the regular-season opener Sept. 12 against the Miami Dolphins.
“No, we still have a lot of decisions to make,” Belichick said after Sunday night’s 22-20 win over the New York Giants in the preseason finale.
Veteran Cam Newton started on Sunday and played two series, all with the starters. Rookie Mac Jones relieved him and played deep into the third quarter, all with the backups.
That could be a tipoff on the direction Belichick is leaning, and Jones — the first-round pick from Alabama (15th overall) — is preparing for however it unfolds.
“Like I always say, I’m focused on today. I think there’s a lot of stuff I can clean up. I held the ball a little too long at some points today. I’ll work on that … but I’m here to play any role I can play, help in any way I can, and I’m going to be ready whenever my time comes,” Jones said after finishing 10-of-14 for 156 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions.
Newton, who was 2-of-5 for 10 yards with one interception on Sunday, was not made available to answer questions after the game. He hasn’t addressed reporters since the COVID-19 protocol “misunderstanding” that led him to miss three practices last week.
Thus, the postgame media spotlight shined brighter on Jones.
“I learned at a young age, just prepare like the starter. You don’t have to be the starter, but prepare, get into your routine,” he said. “That’s something Coach talked about today. We’re going to be in this stadium again [Sept. 19 against the New York Jets] and that’s kind of what I did. That’s how you can get into a flow.”
Jones finished the preseason 36-of-52 for 389 yards, with one touchdown and no interceptions. He was sacked four times in Sunday’s finale after having been sacked just once in the prior two preseason games.
Asked if he feels like he’s done enough to be the starter, he said: “I’ve gotten a lot of opportunities to play, and I can improve on everything. I think just learning from [Brian] Hoyer, Cam, Jarrett [Stidham], and listening to [offensive coordinator] Josh [McDaniels] and his coaching, there’s a lot of work to do. I think I’ve made progress. But honestly, the only thing that matters is today.”
Newton started every preseason game, but hasn’t played as much overall, going 14-of-21 for 162 yards, with no touchdowns and one interception.
Jones referred to Newton as a “mentor” on Sunday night, and explained a moment on the sideline that was picked up on the television broadcast, in which Newton was pursuing him down the sideline to congratulate him.
“He showed me the video [after the game],” Jones said. “I didn’t hear him, or see him, and then I was like, ‘Oh, my bad!’ But that’s Cam for you. He’s happy. He’s a great teammate, so I’m happy to be in the same room as him and just learn from him because he’s a great dude.”
Throughout the preseason, Belichick has repeated that Newton is the starting quarterback, but also said that, like players at any position, he has to reestablish that standing throughout the preseason. Belichick has also said there could be a change at any position if someone performs better than the starter or the starter isn’t available.
Asked last week at what point he needs to transition from a spirited quarterback competition to having a starter and giving that player the majority of repetitions for the season opener, Belichick said: “I don’t have a timetable on that … I’m not sure.”