The quarterback position is once again going to take central focus in New England throughout the course of the summer. Last year, it was Cam Newton vs. Jarrett Stidham with the former winning QB1 honors throughout the 2020 campaign. Now, first-round rookie Mac Jones has been thrown into the mix as well. While Jones serves as the long-term beacon for the Patriots, Newton is still looked at as the odds-on favorite to start the year under center.
The former league MVP's play wasn't exactly inspiring at times last year, but he was admittedly playing behind the eight-ball after joining the team late in the offseason. Now, Newton not only has a full season of experience under his belt but has also been able to enjoy a full offseason of preparation, which is something he didn't have in 2020. Already, Bill Belichick is seeing a more experienced Newton.
"Cam's way ahead of where he was last year at this time, there's no question about that," Belichick said prior to the second day of New England's mandatory minicamp. "As you would expect, he has a good year of experience under his belt. He's able to start the process at the beginning and not be in a catch-up mode like he was last year. I mean, he was really just starting at this point last season.
"He's well ahead of that just from the year of experience and from the succession of building blocks that he's been able to stack up, like all the players that have been here since the start of OTAs and the offseason program back in April -- they've been able to stack those days and those learning experiences together. They ask questions on things they need clarification on and build to the next level when they're ready to put another brick on the pile. So, that's good for all of us, good for Cam, good for all the players who go through that process."
With that experience in mind, an uptick in efficiency for Newton should be expected heading into 2021. On top of being more familiar with the Patriots offense, the surrounding cast around the quarterback position has drastically improved. New England cannon-balled into free agency, signing tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith along with upgrading the receiver position with Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. Injecting those pieces to what was already in-house should make this offense more dynamic, thus helping whoever is under center.
While Netwon's growth in the system has been noticeable to Belichick, the head coach was also complimentary of all four quarterbacks on the roster.
"They're all hard-working," he said. "They all put in a lot of time, ask good questions, really try to stay on top of the material. Brian (Hoyer), of course, has the most experience. Jarrett (Stidham) and Cam both have experience in a little different ways. Jarrett's been with us a little bit longer and Cam's obviously had more NFL experience and playing experience from last year. Mac (Jones) has the least amount but he's learning quickly and working hard at it. We'll see how that all goes, but they've done a good job of trying to process the information that we give them. Josh (McDaniels) obviously does a great job with quarterbacks. Bo's (Hardegree) helping him out there, as well. So, again, we'll see where it all takes us."