FOXBORO -- We may end up looking back on Thursday as the day Cam Newton started to pull away with the starting quarterback gig in New England.
It's early, of course. There's still time for Jarrett Stidham to grab the reins and demand to be named "The Guy" while Newton picks up the offense. But based on workload alone, it appeared as though the Patriots wanted to get Newton as many snaps as possible.
In an early 7-on-7 period, Newton made four pass attempts. Brian Hoyer made four pass attempts. Stidham, watching closely, didn't participate in the period.
Stidham was first up in the next 11-on-11 period, followed by Newton. From there, Stidham and Newton worked closely. They remained on the same field during another 11-on-11 period, while Brian Hoyer shared reps with undrafted rookie Brian Lewerke on an adjacent field.
When the practice was finished, though, it was apparent that the quarterback snaps were no longer evenly split. They weren't split three ways between Newton, Stidham and Hoyer -- as they had been, essentially, through three days of work. They weren't split evenly between Newton and Stidham.
Newton clearly saw the biggest slice of the quarterback-snap pie.
He went 7-for-13 in 25 competitive 11-on-11 snaps. Stidham went 2-for-6 with two interceptions in 17 competitive 11-on-11 snaps. If you factor in the 7-on-7 reps for Newton on Thursday, he made 17 competitive throws in 29 competitive snaps.
For Newton, that's nearly three times the number of competitive throws Stidham made. That's a dozen more competitive snaps.
That's not insignificant.
The numbers continue to favor Newton when one looks at the results of the throws made by Patriots quarterbacks.
In three days of camp practices -- Monday's session was focused primarily on the running game -- Cam Newton has completed 20 of 34 attempts in 11-on-11 periods, and he's had five passes dropped. That's good for an accuracy percentage (completions plus drops) of 74 percent.
In the same three practices, Stidham has completed 19 of 30 attempts in 11-on-11 periods without any passes dropped. That's good for an accuracy percentage of 63 percent. But Stidham has also thrown six picks in those 30 attempts, which is a whopping 20 percent interception rate.
Hoyer, meanwhile, has gone 23-for-36 in 11-on-11 work with three passes dropped. That's good for an accuracy percentage of 69 percent.
Again, it's early. But Bill Belichick said earlier this week that "obviously" the quarterback reps would not always be split as evenly as they were through the team's first few practices.
"Well, obviously, there’s some point where that’s going to happen," Belichick said Wednesday morning when asked about divvying up the snaps less equally.
"But, right now, we want to try to, like I said, give everybody an opportunity to get the basics, and we’re really doing that at all the positions. I mean, everybody’s rotating through and we’re trying to give everybody an opportunity to run the basic plays, get the basic fundamentals down. Yeah, of course at some point, we’ll have to not equalize the reps. I mean, that’s obvious. But we’re not there now."
Maybe they got there Thursday, when the largest share of the snaps went to Newton.