PATS REPORTER

Perry: Newton gets hot, Jones finds goal-line success

PATS REPORTER

PHILADELPHIA -- Whoever coined the phrase "numbers don't lie" would've experienced pangs of regret had they watched Tuesday's practice between the Patriots and Eagles and then scrolled through Twitter.

In the second of two joint practices at the NovaCare Center facility, both Patriots quarterbacks were busy. Both posted out-of-this-world completion percentage figures. But neither necessarily looked like an out-of-this-world quarterback. 

Let's contextualize the oh-so-shareable data that circulates quickly on social media to give a fuller picture of what went down...

The numbers

First, the numbers. 

Cam Newton went 1-for-2 on his 11-on-11 attempts, and he had one rep that was blown up by a "sack" courtesy of Eagles pass-rusher Josh Sweat. Mac Jones went 3-for-3 on his 11-on-11 throws.

The 7-on-7 periods were much busier. Newton went 11-for-12 in those, and his lone incompletion came on his final rep, which was dropped by Kristian Wilkerson. Jones, meanwhile, went 10-for-11. Like Newton, he had a long stretch of completed passes (10), but his blemish came off the top. His first attempt, targeted for Devin Asiasi, resulted in a pick by linebacker TJ Edwards.

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That meant that in competitive team periods, during a fully-padded practice, Newton went 12-for-14 (86 percent) with a sack. Jones went 13-for-14 (93 percent) with a pick. 

Eyes-bulge-out-of-your-head kind of performances, right? Well...

Snap judgements

Context on Newton's day: The bulk of the quarterback work was done during 7-on-7s, and Newton didn't miss. 

He hit Brandon Bolden on the sideline -- accurately and on time -- before finding Devin Ross and Jakobi Meyers on shorter routes. He then hit James White and Sony Michel on back-to-back throws before finding a wide open Nelson Agholor for a touchdown. 

 

He hit five more completions before one rep finally ended with an incompletion, when Wilkerson coughed one up in the back of the end zone.

But there was a bit of an asterisk on the performance overall. One that Eagles defensive back K'Von Wallace was more than happy to call out. Wallace dubbed Newton "Checkdown King" in the middle of the period, and didn't stop there.

To Wallace's point, five of Newton's 12 passes were targeted at running backs, and when in the low red zone, three of his completions would've been stopped short of the goal line.

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So while it was an effective day, especially with the team's top red-zone targets Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith out, it wasn't an awe-inspiring performance either. Workmanlike. 

In the 11-on-11 period early in the practice, there was a moment worth noting. After three Mac Jones reps, Newton came on for one. He made an option-style pitch to Brandon Bolden, then came off. 

Newton's palms turned skyward as he walked back to the sideline. Was he confused as to why he had to come out after just one rep? Was he confused as to why he was out there in the first place? Hard to say. But there seemed to be some confusion on his end. 

The Patriots have in the past occasionally inserted quarterbacks briefly to simulate an "emergency" situation. But that's typically been reserved for backups -- Jimmy Garoppolo coming in for a brief period in the middle of a drive for Tom Brady, for instance -- and Newton was not otherwise treated like a backup on Tuesday. He got the bulk of the reps with the top offensive line, and he continued to be the first quarterback up in drills. 

In the 11-on-11 period at the end of practice, Newton's lone throw in three snaps was batted down. Agholor was alone in the end zone, but Newton may have gotten to Agholor late in his progression. By then, linebacker Patrick Johnson -- in coverage on another player -- worked his way into Newton's throwing window and broke up the pass.

Context on Jones' day: If the 7-on-7 periods were the most quarterback-centric periods of the day, Jones' certainly didn't start off well. It started off with one of the most head-scratching throws of camp for the rookie. 

Looking for tight end Devin Asiasi, Jones lofted a pass down the middle that looked like it would need to clear three sets of arms before it found its intended target. It was picked off easily by a leaping TJ Edwards.

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While Jones completed his remaining 10 attempts in the 7-on-7 sessions, they weren't perfect reps. 

Yes, his darts to N'Keal Harry and Asiasi at the goal line were well-placed, away from defenders, and led to touchdowns. And yes, he later had two more touchdown throws -- to James White on an angle route and Harry again -- which led to quick staccato clapping celebrations from Jones. (The reason for Jones' excitement, perhaps? Both came against top Eagles defensive backs.) 

 

But Jones also had a scramble drill throw to Kendrick Bourne and another to Bolden. His final rep of 7-on-7 work featured him holding onto the football for an extended period of time before finally finding Bourne. All three reps were far from crisp at a point in the practice where there was no pass-rush.

But Jones had two of the better offensive plays of the day in 11-on-11 work. His first was an accurate touch pass, over the shoulder to White for a score. Later he found Asiasi on a quick out for a touchdown in the goal-line period after doing a fine sell job on his play-action fake. The goal-line play came with three-fifths of the starting offensive line on the field, and Jones saw several such reps over the course of the practice -- more than he did on Monday. 

We'll have to wait and see just how much work, if any, he gets with the top offensive line in Thursday's preseason game with the Eagles. The Eagles defensive line is deep and talented. Even if Jones doesn't see core pieces like Fletcher Cox or Brandon Graham, there are others like Josh Sweat (who "sacked" Newton by beating Isaiah Wynn on Tuesday), Javon Hargrave, Ryan Kerrigan and third-round rookie Milton Williams who would give Jones and his protection plenty to think about.