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Mac Jones Impresses As Patriots Beat Daniel Jones, Giants in Preseason Finale

Blake SchusterContributor IAugust 30, 2021

Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Mac Jones and the New England Patriots closed out their final preseason performance with a solid 22-20 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. 

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Mac Jones gets his first preseason TD pass ๐Ÿ”ฅ<br><br>(via <a href="https://twitter.com/NFL?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFL</a>)<a href="https://t.co/fboC9We6g4">pic.twitter.com/fboC9We6g4</a>

The outing gave a few players an opportunity to make a last impression on the coaching staff before final roster cuts are submitted. To that end, Jones played six series. His counterpart in New York, Daniel Jones, played just the first half.

That was all both teams needed to see from their starters as they move onto Week 1 of the regular season. Mostly, the two teams just wanted to escape without any significant injuries.

New York, unfortunately, couldn't. Tight end Evan Engram exited early in the first half with a calf injury. His long-term status remains unknown. 

Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter

Giants ruled out TE Evan Engram with a calf injury.

Here's a look at who stood out in the exhibition finale. 

Notable Performers

Cam Newton, QB, New England Patriots: 2-for-5 passing, 10 yards, INT

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Mac Jones, QB, New England Patriots: 10-for-14 passing, 156 yards, TD, four sacks

Daniel Jones, QB New York Giants: 17-for-22 passing, TD, INT

Blake Martinez, LB, New York Giants: two tackles, one pass deflection, INT

Final Audition For Newton And Jones

Cam Newton was technically the starter for the Patriots on Sunday. It's unclear if he'll retain that designation when the regular season opens on Sept. 12, though, as his performance against the Giants may not have helped his case. 

Not only did Newton only play two series, but he was also less than effective in both.

He attempted three passes on the first series, completing just one for six yards as tailback Damien Harris carried the offense into field goal range to take a 3-0 lead. Newton's second and final preseason series lasted three plays. He completed a four-yard pass to Nelson Agholor, then was intercepted in the middle of the field while throwing out of his own end zone. While the pick was more the result of a tremendous Giants effort on defense than it was Newton's throw, the QB still put the ball in a vulnerable position on a crucial third down. 

NFL @NFL

HOW DID HE GET THIS BALL!? <a href="https://twitter.com/Big__Blake50?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Big__Blake50</a><a href="https://twitter.com/Giants?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Giants</a> take over!<br><br>๐Ÿ“บ: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NEvsNYG?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NEvsNYG</a> on <a href="https://twitter.com/nflnetwork?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFLNetwork</a> (or check local listings)<br>๐Ÿ“ฑ: <a href="https://t.co/4omupVck3h">https://t.co/4omupVck3h</a> <a href="https://t.co/ZDlttyjt4M">pic.twitter.com/ZDlttyjt4M</a>

NFL @NFL

Fight for it all ๐Ÿ‘ the ๐Ÿ‘ way ๐Ÿ‘ to ๐Ÿ‘ the ๐Ÿ‘ ground. <a href="https://twitter.com/Big__Blake50?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Big__Blake50</a><br><br>๐Ÿ“บ: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NEvsNYG?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NEvsNYG</a> on <a href="https://twitter.com/nflnetwork?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFLNetwork</a> (or check local listings)<br>๐Ÿ“ฑ: <a href="https://t.co/4omupVck3h">https://t.co/4omupVck3h</a> <a href="https://t.co/d04SYNBKeB">pic.twitter.com/d04SYNBKeB</a>

That Newton's poor play came on a night when Jones completed his first touchdown of the preseason only makes things tougher as the former MVP attempts to hold onto the starting job.

Jones' first drive went eight plays, 50 yards and ended with a field goal. Though he went three-and-out and ran out of game time on his next two possessions, there was no question the rookie out of Alabama looked stronger and more confident with each rep. 

New England Patriots @Patriots

10 to 17 for 21. <br><br>๐Ÿ“บ: <a href="https://twitter.com/wbzsports?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@wbzsports</a> / <a href="https://twitter.com/nflnetwork?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@nflnetwork</a> / Patriots app <a href="https://t.co/l7B0Uji2vO">pic.twitter.com/l7B0Uji2vO</a>

That manifested in a six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to open up the second half with Jones completing three of four pass attempts for 50 yards in the process. 

He opened up his next drive with a 30-yard pass from midfield to Devin Asiasi, immediately putting the Patriots in the red zone. Rhamondre Stevenson finished off that drive with a nine-yard touchdown run. 

All of it left head coach Bill Belichick no closer to naming his Week 1 starter. Asked by reporters in his post-game press conference if he had a better sense of who his QB1 is after three exhibitions, the coach punted.

"No," Belichick said. "We still have a lot of decision to make."

Daniel Jones Finishes Preseason With Mixed Performance

There won't be any QB controversy for the Giants this yearโ€”at least not in the preseasonโ€”but the performance of Jones could've instilled a bit more confidence going forward. 

Whether or not it did remains questionable. 

Jones made a few passes coaches and fans fawned over, and a few more that had the same bunch groaning.

NFL @NFL

Strong <a href="https://twitter.com/Daniel_Jones10?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Daniel_Jones10</a> throw to the outside ๐Ÿ’ช<br><br>๐Ÿ“บ: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NEvsNYG?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NEvsNYG</a> on <a href="https://twitter.com/nflnetwork?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFLNetwork</a> (or check local listings)<br>๐Ÿ“ฑ: <a href="https://t.co/4omupVck3h">https://t.co/4omupVck3h</a> <a href="https://t.co/GswdcUyg1I">pic.twitter.com/GswdcUyg1I</a>

NFL Network @nflnetwork

The <a href="https://twitter.com/Patriots?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Patriots</a> take the ball back with the end zone interception!<br><br>๐Ÿ“บ: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NEvsNYG?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NEvsNYG</a> on NFL Network (or check local listings) <a href="https://t.co/TgdHNMlKHL">pic.twitter.com/TgdHNMlKHL</a>

While it's easy to question calling a bootleg pass on third-and-goal, the issue is less about the play design and more about Jones' inability to execute it. Keep in mind the Giants are likely to have running back Saquon Barkley in these situations during the regular season. That's a game-changing skill player in the backfield who will draw defenses toward him no matter the situation.

What matters more is that Jones threw across his body and into five Patriots defenders in the end zone rather than throwing the ball away and living to fight for another down. 

That's not to say it's a decision Jones would make during the regular season. However, it's one he made and failed to execute in practice. 

The third-year pro out of Duke should be taking his biggest step forward yet this year. Giants fans will have to wait and see if that's truly the case. 

  

What's Next

The Patriots open up the regular season at home on Sept. 12 in an AFC East battle with the Miami Dolphins. Kickoff is slated for 4:25 p.m. ET on CBS. The Giants host the Denver Broncos on Sept. 12, as well, kicking off at 4:25 p.m. ET on Fox. 

  

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