The New England Patriots are in an unfamiliar spot right now.
Newton showed up in 2020 and held the job during a unique season that saw the Patriots miss the postseason.
He was not great, yet not terrible and that explains why the team spent a first-round pick on Jones.
Belichick always loves to keep his options open.
The focus now turns to who will open the 2021 season as the starter.
Most may assume it would be Newton, even if he only lasts a game or two.
But for now, Belichick is not saying anything.
Cam Newton was asked about who he thinks will start Week 1. Here’s his response
“I mostly care about making sure I put the best product out there for me” pic.twitter.com/VJrkAEr3q2
— George Hathaway (@hathawaygeorge9) August 16, 2021
All Newton and Jones can do is keep competing and fighting for the job.
Why This Makes Sense
Everyone has to remember the first week of preseason play just concluded.
It is not some new phenomenon for a coach to keep a competition going beyond that point.
The situation is also a bit different in 2021 because of the shortened preseason.
Mac Jones takes the field to a standing ovation in Foxborough 🙌
— ESPN (@espn) August 13, 2021
There are only three games total, followed by a two-week break before the start of the regular season.
The Patriots play their second preseason game Thursday against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Following that, they are off until the following Sunday to finish up the preseason slate of games.
That week-plus gap of time should be when Belichick finally names his starter for the year.
By then, a third preseason game should not make too much of a difference and naming the starter allows that individual to work exclusively with the first-team offense right away.
The Likely Scenario
Jones did look solid in his debut, throwing for 87 yards on 19 attempts.
But Newton is still the veteran and former MVP.
Belichick does not want to spend another year losing and we know he can make in-season changes in an instant.
That should point toward Newton beginning the year under center, with Jones ready and waiting in case the veteran falters at any point.
New England opens the regular season with games against the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets.
If Newton does get the start, he will have to prove he belongs fast because Week 3 and Week 4 bring matchups against the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, respectively.
An 0-2 start heading into those games could spell doom for the Patriots right at the start of the season.
The only way Newton would push his way out of a job this week is if he played uncharacteristically bad.
Thursday will be telling to see how both quarterbacks play with the added pressure of wanting to start.