The Patriots know what they have in Cam Newton. Seems that way, at least, given the way he was handled in preseason game No. 1.
Newton saw 12 snaps over two drives to start the game against Washington on Thursday, and that was that.
Mac Jones? He finished off the first quarter and then played the entirety of the next two.
Operation Attempt To Overload The Rookie continues, clearly, as it has through training camp.
The Patriots have handed Jones heaping portions of quarterbacking responsibilities over the course of the summer. He's handled it. And on Thursday night, for the most part, he handled everything thrown his way once again.
When Jones entered at the tail end of the first quarter, he completed his first two passes. The first was caught but ruled incomplete and not reviewed. No matter. The second was a comeback to Kristian Wilkerson on third down that was accurate and on time. After the break between quarters, Jones hit Kendrick Bourne off a play-action fake for 13 yards and another first down.
Yes, the drive stalled after an impressive deep ball to Wilkerson down the left sideline that glanced off the receivers hands and an incompletion on a slant on third down. But Jones' night was highlighted by more of the types of plays that kick-started his first pro drive than the ones that ended it.
Up-tempo. Efficient. Accurate.
There were quick and on-target checkdowns to JJ Taylor and Jakob Johnson. There was a no-huddle drive to start the second half where Jones went 8-for-8 to start before a sack undid the series.
Jones flashed command at the line of scrimmage, too. On a third-down incompletion to Bourne, he directed traffic pre-snap and seemed to take charge in a back-and-forth with tight end Matt LaCosse, emphatically telling the veteran tight end where he wanted him.
Later, in an empty set out of 21 personnel, Jones tapped his helmet -- usually the signal that Jones is "alerting" to a check or a second play called in the huddle -- and hit Wilkerson on a crossing pattern for eight yards.
That looked like the kind of play where Josh McDaniels inserted personnel and called for a formation specifically to try to take advantage of a mismatch in coverage. But the nature of the call -- with no back in the backfield, and pressure on the offensive line to hold up for as long as possible -- required a quick read, a quick decision and an on-the-money throw.
That's not a bad combination for a quarterback with Jones' skill set. It was the kind of play, really, that helped define the Patriots offense for the better part of 20 years.
Jones didn't throw a touchdown pass. He didn't get into the end zone. But he took a few shots from Washington pass-rushers and bounced back up. He looked relatively smooth when playing nine snaps behind the starting Patriots offensive line and against a smattering of starting Football Team defenders.
It wasn't an electric outing. But it was professional. Which is how one might describe his last several days of training camp practice on the fields behind Gillette Stadium.
Maybe most importantly for Jones on a night like Thursday -- when the situations and the matchups can't be orchestrated by coaches the way they can be in practices -- it was simply a busy outing for the rookie.
That's been the norm for Jones since springtime workouts in Foxboro.
Bill Belichick and McDaniels will continue to feed Jones more and more, gleaning as much as they can about him. And so long as he continues to absorb what's being handed his way, as long as he turns in professional performances, he'll force the Patriots to make a tough decision at his position whenever it comes time to make one.