FOXBORO, Mass. — The contrasting styles of the Patriots’ two starting quarterback hopefuls are helping New England’s defense prepare for the 2021 NFL season.
Veteran Devin McCourty explained Tuesday the benefits of facing both a rushing threat (Cam Newton) and a traditional pocket passer (Mac Jones) in training camp.
“It’s something that I think is great for the season, because it’s something that we see week in and week out,” McCourty said after the team’s first fully padded camp practice. “The game plan that we have for, like, a Lamar Jackson. If we see Baltimore, we’ll be a little different than if we play Tennessee and we’ve got (Ryan) Tannehill. It’s something that we talk about. We’re paying attention. And if we go out there and Cam’s in the game, we’re like, ‘OK, Cam’s our quarterback.’ Same thing if we go out there and Mac’s in.
“It’s something that we have to build awareness as a defense, because we do that if James White is the running back, if Damien (Harris) is the running back. Those are things that we talk about in the huddle pre-snap. With quarterback, you don’t always get that in a training camp — to have two guys that have pretty different styles.
“But it’s great work for us as a defense because obviously, you have to play to those styles. It builds the communication.”
The Patriots don’t have Jackson or Kyler Murray on their schedule this season, but they will see a number of capable rushing QBs, from Buffalo’s Josh Allen to the Los Angeles Chargers’ Justin Herbert to New Orleans Saints Swiss Army knife Taysom Hill. (A Week 5 date with Houston’s Deshaun Watson seems unlikely given the Texans star’s legal situation.)
As for the Patriots’ own quarterback situation, the starting job seems to be Newton’s to lose. Neither he nor Jones has looked dominant thus far in camp, but Newton enjoyed the much better day Tuesday, delivering a pair of highlight-reel touchdown passes while Jones slogged through his worst outing of the summer.
McCourty spoke highly of Newton after practice. Both were among the Patriots’ eight team captains last season.
“Even though you hear so much about the media and so many people focus on what he’s wearing, the guy just wants to be a really good player,” McCourty said. “He puts it all out on the line for the team. No one worries about that anymore. We know what he brings. I’m sure he’s more comfortable. I know guys are more comfortable around him and having him here. I think that’s the great thing. … We know guys more, and I think that’s been huge with Cam.”
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