Cam Newton's surprising release sets up an intriguing quarterback matchup in Week 1: Mac Jones vs. Tua Tagovailoa.
Both young QBs were part of Alabama's 2017 recruiting class, and both led the Crimson Tide to national titles during their time in Tuscaloosa. On Sept. 12, Jones and Tagovailoa will start under center for the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins, respectively.
Asked about Jones winning the Patriots' starting QB job, Dolphins head coach and ex-Pats assistant Brian Flores had nothing but praise for the No. 15 overall draft pick.
"I met Mac Jones at the Senior Bowl. I have a great deal of respect for him. If he's earned the respect of Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels then he has my respect," Flores told reporters Tuesday. "He was a very good college player. He did a lot of great things there.
"One other thing I would say is it's not the Dolphins against Mac Jones, it's the Dolphins against the Patriots. They've got a good team, they've got good coaches, they've got a lot of good players. But specific to Mac Jones, he's a good young talent. We'll have our hands full with him and the entire team."
Jones has demanded that respect with his impressive performance in camp and preseason. Veteran QB Brian Hoyer spoke recently about the rookie "earning the respect of his teammates," and head coach Bill Belichick raved about Jones' work ethic.
As for Tagovailoa, the second-year QB will look to take a step forward after a less-than-stellar rookie campaign. The No. 5 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft went 6-3 as Miami's starter last season, throwing for 1,814 yards while throwing for 11 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Kickoff for the Patriots vs. Dolphins season opener at Gillette Stadium is set for 4:25 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 12.