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Summary from the Final Week of Camp
The context clues from the preseason finale suggested Cam Newton had won the Week 1 job. Newton played just two possessions, while Mac Jones was “auditioned” into the second half, which tends to speak volumes. Of course, it didn’t mean anything as Newton was released on Tuesday. Bill Belichick must have loved what he’s seen of his rookie throughout the summer. Jones certainly had the support of longtime beat writers like NBC’s Tom Curran before Belichick made it official. “There’s no on-field reason for Newton to ever take a meaningful, regular-season snap for the Patriots while Jones is upright and able,” Curran opined last week. According to Curran, Jones “turned out the light” on the debate by looking “absurdly effective” in joint practices with the Giants while Newton looked on.
For the first time in what feels like decades, Bill Belichick has provided the world with a bit of clarity in his backfield. The Sony Michel trade appears to set up clear roles for Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson, and pass-game specialist James White. The one-dimensional Michel was redundant, with Harris and Stevenson showing so well between the tackles. For his part, Stevenson seems to have taken early criticism from running backs coach Ivan Fears to heart. He’s looked dominant in preseason action, with a power and speed blend capable of both big plays and hard-nosed interior grinding. Still, Harris looks poised to pace the backfield for as long as he can stay healthy. Patriots.com’s Erik Scalavino figures he’ll “almost assuredly see the majority of carries, at least early on in the season.” Reserve J.J. Taylor is an interesting case: he’s hung around the practice squad and roster and drawn glowing praise from Coach Fears. The fact that he’s in the running for the punt-return job likely locks him in, but stranger things have happened – especially with core Belichick special-teamer Brandon Bolden around. Taylor dazzled in the preseason finale.
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