PATS REPORTER

Perry: Mac Jones makes the most of extra reps as Newton scuffles

PATS REPORTER

Josh McDaniels had his own "trust the process" moment after Patriots practice on Wednesday. 

The results of his team's pass plays, he explained, don't mean all that much to him during camp. It's about what goes into each and every throw from his quarterbacks. It's about what they're seeing and how they execute based on what their eyes are telling them.

Then there's the throw. Is it accurate? Does it give the intended target a chance?

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"Are they doing the right thing on the play?" McDaniels asked. "[Are they] throwing the ball to the right spot and giving the guy an opportunity? I think all of the guys that have been there have given us some good periods and then there’s definitely some periods we’d like to improve our performance.”

After Day 7 of Patriots training camp -- with players back in shells and shorts following a day of full pads Tuesday -- it was Mac Jones who more consistently did the better job of giving his guys an opportunity, meaning the ping-ponging continued between him and Cam Newton.

Jones was better on Monday. Newton on Tuesday. Back to Jones on Wednesday. Why? 

Let's get to some of the details...

The numbers

After what looked like a relatively grueling practice Tuesday, the Patriots took a step back intensity-wise on Wednesday. That meant there weren't all that many competitive team periods. There were two, to be exact.

 

The first was a 7-on-7 session, which featured a half-dozen snaps each for Newton and Jones. Then came an 11-on-11 period where Newton took four snaps while Jones took 16.

Player 11-on-11 7-on-7 Total
Cam Newton 2 for 3 1 for 5 3 for 8 (37.5%)
Mac Jones 10 for 14 4 for 5 14 for 19 (73.7%)

Newton went 1-for-5 in the 7-on-7s, with one pass picked by J.C. Jackson, another broken up by Jackson and one dropped by Sony Michel. He went 2-for-3 in the 11-on-11s, giving him a line of 3-for-8 overall in competitive periods.

Jones went 4-for-5 in the 7-on-7s and 10-for-14 in the 11-on-11s, giving him a line of 14-for-19 overall in the competitive periods. He had two passes picked off -- one by Devin McCourty and one by D'Angelo Ross -- but one of those was the result of a Jonnu Smith drop.

Jones had one pass knocked down by Myles Bryant and one dropped by running back Rhamondre Stevenson.

Snap judgments

Jones wins the day: If McDaniels is looking for a quarterback who will give his pass-catchers an opportunity to make a play, Jones did that for the most part on Wednesday. He was accurate, and he worked quickly -- the latter attribute coming into focus when the Patriots worked on their hurry-up offense in the competitive 7-on-7 period.

There was some giddy-up in the Patriots offensive unit at that point in the practice, which featured some prominent offensive players with Jones -- James White, Kendrick Bourne and N'Keal Harry among them. Compared to Newton's group, which only completed one pass and didn't have many chances to run a true hurry-up attack, the pace was noticeably hastened. 

In that 7-on-7 session, Jones hit Harry over the middle twice and he worked through his progressions twice more to hit White on checkdowns. 

Through the first half of his 16-straight reps of 11-on-11 work, Jones played behind the majority of the starting offensive line. He hit Bourne twice, Harry twice, and threw an accurate pass to Smith -- high and away from a defender up the seam -- which bounced off Smith's hands before falling into McCourty's arms.

Through the second half of his 11-on-11 work, Jones started slow. He had a high pass go off Tre Nixon's hands that was intercepted by Ross. He also had a pass to Gunner Olszewski broken up by Bryant.

But he was accurate on his final six throws, completing five thanks to a drop by Stevenson. One of the top throws of the day came when Jones stepped up in the pocket to avoid pressure and hit Olszewski for about a 30-yard gain with Bryant and Cody Davis close in coverage. 

Jones received noticeably more reps than Newton in the 11-on-11 competitive period Wednesday, but McDaniels downplayed the snap counts for his quarterbacks. 

Curran's camp takeaways: Jones continues to see heavy workload

“The rep count is so high in training camp that we've never given one player at this position all the reps," McDaniels said. "They know. They're not gonna come out here and get 75 reps every day. So the ones that they get, you got to make them count. 

 

"If Cam's in there, the other guys aren't getting them. If Mac’s in there, Cam's not getting them. If [Brian] Hoyer’s in there, neither one of them’s getting them. It's part of the process. There's no way to build the depth on your football team without giving them realistic reps in training camp.

"... Our goal at the end of training camp is to prepare the entire team, which means there's gonna be a few quarterbacks, a few receivers, a few tight ends, a bunch of linemen on the roster, a bunch of backs. We don't know which guys are going to be healthy and ready to play Week 1 or not. We’ve got to do a good job of giving everybody an opportunity to learn and improve in camp."

Despite a couple of misses, Jones proved to be the quicker decision-maker and the more accurate passer for the second time this week. The key for him will be -- wait for it! -- showing some consistency by carrying over today's positive momentum into tomorrow when the pads are back on.

Newton can't keep it going: Tuesday might've been Newton's best day as a passer since he joined the Patriots. But could he maintain? He couldn't. 

In the competitive 7-on-7 work, his first pass of the day was picked and his second pass was nearly picked. Jackson was on the scene for both. His fourth pass was overthrown to Nelson Agholor. 

In the competitive 11-on-11 period, after hitting Bourne along the sideline for a contested catch, Newton almost missed an open Harry by throwing wide. Harry made it work, though, submitting the catch of the day by lunging to his left and snatching the pass with two hands. Newton finished his day of competitive throws by placing one too high for Bourne.

Troy Brown: N'Keal Harry came to camp with 'great attitude'

Even in the non-competitive periods, Newton looked a little off. He overthrew Hunter Henry and was picked by Adrian Colbert after making an ill-advised throw well after the snap. He also had to re-huddle the Patriots offense at one point thanks to some screwup in the alignment process.

To Newton's credit, he was the better quarterback when the pads came on Tuesday. That means Thursday's session might be his opportunity to bounce back, take advantage of defenders who may overplay his ability to run, and make some headway through the air. 

McDaniels acknowledged Wednesday that those fully-padded reps are most valuable when it comes to gauging an offense's progress.

"We’ve had one day in pads, which to me our timing and rhythm offensively is going to come a lot more when we get more into padded sessions," McDaniels said. "You can’t touch a receiver in shells. Some of those things are going to happen... and then it’s really kind of real football, if you will."

 

Perhaps Newton will be the better quarterback once again when it's time for "real football" in Foxboro. If he is, it'll be just another volley in the back-and-forth between him and Jones for Quarterback Of The Day honors.