The New England Patriots are reportedly planning to play both of their top two quarterbacks, Cam Newton and rookie Mac Jones, in Thursday's preseason opener against the Washington Football Team.
ESPN's Mike Reiss reported it's unclear how long Newton and Jones will remain in the exhibition game, but Newton is expected to take the "initial snaps" as the Pats' projected starter ahead of the 2021 season.
Newton posted a solid 65.8 percent completion rate in 2020, his first year in New England, but that didn't translate to an efficient passing attack. He threw for just 2,657 yards with eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions across 15 starts.
While the 2015 NFL MVP added 592 rushing yards and 12 scores on the ground, the Patriots finished 27th in both total offense (327.3 yards per game) and scoring offense (20.4 points per game) last season.
The Pats still opted to re-sign Newton, who spent the first nine years of his career with the Carolina Panthers, in March and then drafted Jones with the 15th overall pick in the 2021 draft in April.
Last week, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick told the NFL Network's Willie McGinest, a former standout linebacker for the team, that Jones has been "competing well" in training camp.
"Cam is getting better every day, Mac is getting better every day," Belichick said. "They're pushing each other. Competition makes us all better. It's been healthy. We'll see how it goes."
While Newton has been the expected Week 1 starter since camp opened, it'll be interesting to see whether that perception could change depending on preseason performance.
Jones is coming off a season where he led Alabama to a national championship with a perfect 13-0 record. He completed 77.4 percent of his throws for 4,500 yards with 41 touchdowns and only four interceptions to cause his draft stock to soar.
While there's a significant jump in the level of competition and a learning curve associated with running an NFL offense, it may not take him long to enter the conversation as the Pats' starter, especially if Newton doesn't showcase improvement in terms of pushing the ball downfield for big plays.
It's also telling that the Patriots are going to feature both Newton and Jones in their first preseason game while many teams around the NFL rest their key starters to lessen the risk of injury. Live snaps against an opponent is still a better way to assess where both signal-callers stand right now compared to practice reps.
Brian Hoyer is the other quarterback on the Pats' roster with Jarrett Stidham sidelined by a back injury.
After Thursday's clash with Washington, New England will have preseason contests with the Philadelphia Eagles on Aug. 19 and the New York Giants on Aug. 29.
The Patriots kick off the regular season Sept. 12 when they host the AFC East rival Miami Dolphins.