Cam Newton, NY Jets, Zach Wilson, Mac Jones
Cam Newton, Zach Wilson, NY Jets, Getty Images, Jet X Graphic

Cam Newton’s release drastically changes the New York Jets Week 2 matchup with New England

Since the NFL released schedules for the 2021 season on May 12, the biggest early-season storyline for the New York Jets has easily been the Sam Darnold “revenge game” in Week 1.

But with the surprising news that the New England Patriots had decided to cut presumptive starting quarterback Cam Newton, the Jets and Patriots’ Week 2 matchup at MetLife Stadium just got a whole lot more interesting.

The scheduled faceoff between the two longtime rival franchises will now feature an underlying duel between two first-round rookie signal-callers — Zach Wilson for the Jets and Mac Jones for the Patriots, who will now be taking Newton’s place at the helm.

As things currently stand, both teams are planning on these rookies being their QB1 for years to come. That being the case, Week 2 serves as the pilot episode in a potentially years-long rivalry between two premier young talents in the same division.

Who looks better positioned to come out on top?

Jones and Wilson are ranked at spots one and two, respectively, on Pro Football Focus’ list of the highest graded first-round rookie quarterbacks this preseason. This alone would indicate that fans could be in for an even battle, but of course, many other factors will be at play than just PFF grades or preseason pedigree.

From a base standpoint of talent, few would argue against Wilson getting the nod over Jones. He regularly dazzles on tape with off-platform throws and Aaron Rodgers-like velocity. He also checks more boxes athletically and is far better at improvising when the play breaks down. There’s also the fact that he was drafted second overall compared to Jones’ 15th-overall slotting.

What we’ve seen from Wilson in the preseason has been incredibly encouraging as well. Not only did he have zero turnover-worthy throws, but he has looked in complete control of a drastically improved Jets offense. His teammates all seem to love him and his confidence and swagger are fitting beautifully in the Big Apple so far.

But what Jones has on Wilson is one of the greatest head coaches of all-time in Bill Belichick, a proven offensive coordinator, a stronger offensive line, a better defense, and an impressive understanding of the game of football.

It’s also hard not to see the similarities between Jones and former Patriot Tom Brady. Both are accurate pocket passers who make up for shortcomings in athleticism with football IQ and a winning mindset. So far in the preseason, Jones has looked very comfortable in a New England offense eerily similar to the days of Tom Brady – one based on short, meticulous passes and check-downs.

Many factors will be at play in deciding this Week 2 matchup. What we know for sure is that the release of Newton substantially increases the long-term significance of the game for both teams. It will be the first indicator of how a new era of the Jets-Patriots rivalry will play out.

Add in the fact that this matchup will come right on the heels of a reunion with Sam Darnold, and the Jets’ early season looks to have no shortage of intriguing storylines.

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Ian Roddy is a young Jets X-Factor writer who currently attends Loyola Marymount University. Email: iroddy@lion.lmu.edu

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