CBS Sports NFL analyst Jason La Canfora believes the New England Patriots should save Mac Jones' first NFL start for their biggest game of the 2021 season.
In an article published on Wednesday (May 20), La Canfora wrote that the Patriots wait until Week 4 to start their first-round rookie quarterback, which is when longtime former quarterback Tom Brady will make his return to Foxborough as a member of the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
La Canfora acknowledged that head coach Bill Belichick has reaffirmed his stance on Cam Newton returning as the Patriots' starter, but predicts Jones will have a strong preseason performance and compete for the starting job, eventually taking over in the Patriots' Sunday Night Football matchup against Brady.
“Bill Belichick will let this play out through the summer between Jones and Cam Newton," La Canfora wrote. “I suspect Jones shows he can better run the totality of the offense and Newton has a role in certain situations where he can charge the run game and beat people with play action out of jumbo looks. Maybe Newton’s throwing motion and accuracy will return to previous form, but if it is anything like last year, the rookie is going to prevail.
“For the sake of drama, however, it would be a juicy subplot if his starting debut comes in Week 4, with Tom Brady and the Super Bowl champs coming to New England for the GAME OF THE CENTURY! It’s actually precisely the kind of thing The Hoodie would want to avoid, but it would add a little spice to an early regular season that is already burning up the secondary ticket market.”
Last month, Belichick said Newton -- a former No. 1 overall pick in 2011 and NFL MVP in 2015 -- would remain the Patriots' starter until Jones or third-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham were "ready to challenge and compete." New England also re-signed veteran backupBrian Hoyer earlier this week.
"Cam Newton's our quarterback," Belichick said during the Patriots draft press conference after selecting Jones at No. 15 overall via the Providence Journal. "Whatever time Jarrett or Mac are ready to challenge and compete, we'll see how that goes. But right now for Mac, he's just got a lot of learning in front of him. I know he's very anxious to get going and get started on it."
In March, the Patriots re-signed Newton despite a disappointing first season with the franchise. The former NFL MVP threw for 2,657 yards, eight touchdowns, and 10 interceptions while going 7-8 as a starter in 15 games.
Newton and the Patriots agreed to a one-year contract "worth up to $13.6 million," sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Jones led Alabama to a College Football National Championship and was third in the Heisman voting behind teammate DeVonta Smith and Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence during his lone season as Alabama's full-time starting quarterback.
Jones threw for 4,500 yards, 41 touchdowns, and four interceptions on 311 of 402 passing -- while also recording one rushing touchdown -- while leading the Crimson Tide to a 13-0 record in 2020.
Jones also made four starts in the absence of Tua Tagovailoa following a season-ending injury in 2019.
The Patriots finished the 2020 season with a 7-9 overall record, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008. That coincided with Brady, who spent his first 20 NFL seasons in New England, winning his seventh Super Bowl and first as a member of the Buccaneers.
Brady recorded 201 yards and three touchdowns on 21 of 29 passing in Super Bowl LV, winning a record fifth Super Bowl MVP Award, which surpassed his own previous record set in Super Bowl LI (2017).
Brady now owns a 7-3 record all-time in the NFL's biggest game and surpassed his own previous record for most Super Bowl wins by a quarterback (6) set in February 2019. The 43-year-old also broke his own record as the oldest quarterback to both start and win a Super Bowl, also set in 2019.
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