Cam Newton hasn't been told he's the starting quarterback, but the veteran has taken most reps behind the top offensive line. Mac Jones, meanwhile, has seen a few reps with the first-string blockers, mostly playing with backups.
Bill Belichick dismissed the idea that players should worry about who is taking first- or second-team reps. For the legendary coach, it's about players doing their jobs regardless of who else is on the field.
"Look, we've told all the players from back in May when we started -- which is the absolute truth -- not to spend a lot of time worrying about who else is out there with you," Belichick said, via Zack Cox of NESN. "Worry about what you're doing and try to get it right. I think that's the most important thing for each and every one of us, if we would focus on what our job is, how to do it well, how to do it better, how to improve on it. Again, that's all of us -- coaches, players, everybody. That's really what we're trying to do, and spending a lot of time worrying about who else is doing something else and who else is out there or not out there or whatever is honestly a total waste of time and energy. And it's not productive, so we don't really worry about it. I think it's a lot more important for the offensive linemen to play with the offensive linemen than it is for the quarterback to play with the offensive line. The same thing on defense. It's (more) important for the linebackers to play with the linebackers than it is for the linebackers to play with the secondary or whatever, and you just keep going. The punt team, those guys need to be ready to work with each other, but at the same time, if somebody else is in there for whatever reason, then the most important thing is for them to do their job properly and work with whoever it is next to them. That's something they can't control. If we start worrying about all the things we can't control, I'd say it's going to be a long year."
It's a long quote that underscores Belichick's mantra: Do Your Job.
As NFL Network's Mike Giardi noted Monday, Newton has had his share of struggles this camp, including an uneven performance to start the week. Belichick has given the veteran ample reps to win the starting job but heretofore hasn't closed out the battle.
One difficulty in evaluating Newton is that one of his greatest strengths -- his ability to run -- is sidelined during practices. For Belichick, those are the sort of things they look to evaluate in preseason games and live sessions.
"There's a lot of things like that you can't evaluate. ... That's what we have preseason games for and live practices for," he said, via Giardi. "Those are limited opportunities, but they're important."
This week Newton has a chance in joint practices against Philadelphia and Thursday's preseason game to lock down the starting gig. Each practice he fails to stand out is one step closer to Jones eventually overtaking him.