Bill Belichick predictably took the Fifth on a couple of outstanding business topics Tuesday morning.
Stephon Gilmore? N’Keal Harry?
As for the looming quarterback battle between Cam Newton and Mac Jones? Belichick didn’t divulge anything specific. But there are bread crumbs to follow on the trail of how and when the decision will be made.
Belichick mentioned the start of training camp will be a continuation of minicamp for at least a few days. It normally is. A quick refresher on what was learned in the spring before the pads go on has been standard operating procedure.
But this offseason was a little different in that veteran attendance wasn’t exceptional for OTAs. That means a little more refreshing may be in order, especially with so many new faces.
Meanwhile, the fact that one preseason game has been eliminated means there’s a little less on the back end of camp to go on.
The Patriots do have two joint-practice sessions set up. After they open the preseason with Washington on August 12, they will work with the Eagles leading up to their game on the 19th and the Giants ahead of their game on the 29th. The season opener is September 12.
Belichick has pointed out in the past that joint practices are often more valuable than the preseason games themselves. The chance to orchestrate situations in practice against an opponent and rep them repeatedly -- goal line, two-minute, etc. -- makes those practices critical.
So if Newton is going to be the starter -- as Belichick has steadily said he will -- he needs to be on point for three weeks beginning Monday. First, there will be a week of (presumably) more competitive and sometimes padded practices. Then the Patriots get ready for WFT. You can presume Newton will be the leader through the practices and that first preseason game.
After that, we’ll start to see how Belichick and Josh McDaniels see the competition shaping up. How will the team divvy up reps August 16-18 down in Philly? That will be the tell on how they think the battle is proceeding.
Whoever is going to be the starter will need to move to the fore. If Newton’s reps drop leading into that game or in the practices on August 24th and 25th at New York, it will be an indicator Jones has narrowed the gap.
This training camp, reps are gold. The Patriots have a veteran who’s still new to the system trying to master it. They have a rookie for whom everything he’s seeing is the first time he’s seen it in the NFL. They have a fleet of new wide receivers and tight ends.
It’s going to take time for the offense to truly know its ass from its elbow. And splitting reps into deep August at the quarterback spot will not be ideal.
The Patriots can take their decision on who will start all the way to the week of the season opener. And they might. But if Newton is going to stay in the spot Belichick’s reserved for him, he needs to start submitting persuasive evidence over the next three weeks.