Perry: Belichick's take on Mac Jones as QB competition begins originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
It's that time of year again. Reporters will be on the hill overlooking the New England Patriots practice fields, counting reps, tracking completions, taking notes on good throws and bad ones.
The focus on Bill Belichick's quarterbacks this spring will be more highly concentrated than ever before, even if this is, as Belichick has long called it, "teaching camp." That's just part of life when employing a former MVP, a first-round pick, a guy many assumed would be Tom Brady's successor and a 12-year vet.
But Mac Jones, taken with the 15th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, will draw considerable attention in Thursday's practice, which is the first open to media members this spring.
What has Belichick noticed about his rookie passer through two practices and some meetings?
"All the quarterbacks are working hard," Belichick answered. "It's a starting over process for everybody. Some of 'em have been here. Some of 'em haven't. They've had various levels of opportunity to work in our offense. Really, we're starting everybody at the same point like we always do this time of year.
"Mac dove into the playbook and continues to do that. Like everybody out there, we all have a lot of things we've got to work on. That includes everybody. That's what he's doing. That's what everybody's doing."
Through the pre-draft process, Jones developed a reputation as being the consummate preparer. His Alabama offensive coordinator, Steve Sarkisian, detailed Jones' level of preparation on the Next Pats podcast, and Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy told Next Pats that Jones was up at all hours in Mobile, Ala., studying film.
How many reps he sees in practice is anyone's guess. At some point, Belichick will have to narrow which passer is on the field and for how long. And maybe that'll start this week. On Thursday morning, he acknowledged that Brian Hoyer has had a bunch of experience in the New England system. He acknowledged that Cam Newton had a good deal of experience coming off of last year.
Maybe Belichick will use his time at this time of year to try to get Jones and Jarrett Stidham up to speed. Maybe not. It's one of the many things we'll have our eyes on once we're up on that hill.
"[Right now we] feel like all those players are good players," Belichick said of his quarterbacks before Thursday's practice. "Brian has the most experience. Cam had a lot of experience last year. Jarrett has had some off-and-on opportunities. He'll continue to get opportunities and so will Mac. We'll just see how it goes."