By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- The Patriots don't appear to have any doubts whatsoever about the readiness of rookie Mac Jones to start at quarterback.
That much was evident when the team outright released veteran Cam Newton, instead of keeping him on the roster in the event that Jones struggles out of the gate. And it was more clear when a number of veteran players spoke about Jones on Thursday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.
"I mean, Mac Jones ... he is gonna be that guy," cornerback J.C. Jackson said. "He's a rookie, but he plays like a vet, the way he reads defenses, the way he steps up in the pocket, delivers the ball, he's improved since the first time I've seen him."
Wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, who signed with the Patriots believing he'd be catching passes from Newton, said that he can tell that Jones is built to handle the job and all the pressure -- internal and external -- that comes with it.
"For any starter, I think you feel that pressure. But he was built for it, man, since 'Bama," Bourne said. "So I think he's more ready than anybody really knows."
Bourne added: "He's locked in, he's poised. He seems ready for the moment. So I'm excited to be a part of it and play my role, man."
Cornerback Jalen Mills, another newcomer to the Patriots operation this year, said that it stood out how well Jones could recognize certain things in defenses and make appropriate changes at the line. For a rookie -- or even a veteran, for that matter -- that type of recognition is not always a given.
"I think the biggest thing is when you see the offense may have a play called, and it may be a motion or you see a guy flinch where it might be a blitz, and you see him go to the line of scrimmage and making a different type of check. That's what you want to see from not only a young guy but your quarterback in general," Mills said. "They have a predicated call, and he sees the defenses are attacking him a certain type of way, and he changes the whole offense to a play that helps them get in a better position."
Bourne has also been impressed by the way that Jones has run the two-minute offense with a certain ease and comfort.
"I would say the two-minute for me, with Mac. He just seems so relaxed, making his adjustments. We're moving fast, but it's slowed down," Bourne said. "He's just seeing it well, and that's what's key, going through the right reads, the progressions well, to get to the open person. Because sometimes it might double over here [on] Jonnu [Smith], and then this is open, so he has to see that and know to come to the 1-on-1. Or just the adjustments he's been making. Josh [McDaniels] sets up to change plays, but for [Jones] to see what's going on to make the play change is what's key. And he's seeing it well, so he's putting us in the best position to make the plays."
Obviously, what Jones does on Sundays -- beginning Sept. 12 against Miami -- matters more than what's happened in the preseason or what his teammates say about him in press conferences. But the message on Jones throughout the summer has been clear, as he's impressed a lot of people in not a lot of time in Foxboro. Come next Sunday, everybody outside of the building will get their first glimpse.
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