BOSTON (CBS) — Each day leading up to the 2021 Patriots season, we’ll be taking a look at a specific storyline that will have our attention throughout the season. We kick things off with the biggest storyline of them all: Rookie Mac Jones taking over at quarterback.

Can you feel that buzz? That’s what you get when your team drafts its quarterback of the future, and then lets him start the first game of his rookie season. It’s a buzz we haven’t felt in New England since 1993, when Drew Bledsoe took over after being drafted with the No. 1 overall pick.

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Don’t get us wrong: The buzz with Tom Brady over the last few decades was pretty good too. But those days are gone, and now it’s time for the future of the franchise. After letting the greatest quarterback ever walk away two years ago, Jones represents Bill Belichick’s first shot at Brady’s long-term successor. Last year’s bridge year with Cam Newton should only help Jones too; it’s much easier to replace “the guy after the guy” instead of stepping right in for the guy.

Jones will be under center when the season kicks off after an incredible training camp and preseason, in which the 15th overall pick out of Alabama beat out the veteran Newton for the starting job. He outplayed Newton in every way possible, giving New England loads of confidence that he can replicate his collegiate success with the Crimson Tide in the pros. There will be no sitting with a clipboard for this kid; he’s being thrown right into the fire.

The rook certainly passed every test during the preseason. He consistently led the Patriots on scoring drives, showed some stately poise in the pocket as he went through his reads, and delivered some beautiful deep balls. His numbers were great: 36-for-52 (69.2%), 388 yards, one touchdown, zero interceptions. Those could have been even better had some of his teammates held onto the ball, with Jones’ overall numbers suffering from some key drops.

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He also made his share of mistakes, as he will plenty of times during the regular season. There will be growing pains throughout the year, and probably a lot of them. Playing against second- and third-team defenses is much different than the defenses that he’s about to see on a weekly basis.

But Jones showed off a knack for learning from his mistakes and growing from them, both in game action and on the practice field. He also takes care of the football and showed a remarkable grasp of Josh McDaniels’ offense, both of which were major factors in New England’s decision to go with him over Newton.

Jones’ stock is through the roof after his preseason performance, and now that he has the keys to the Patriots, the 22-year-old is the favorite to claim Offensive Rookie of the Year honors by season’s end. And with an extremely solid team around him — including a great offensive line, a collection of running backs that can move the chains, and two potentially game-changing tight ends — he won’t have all the weight of the world on his shoulders. New England will mostly win games thanks to its superb defense, but Jones offers a fresh and promising start on offense.

The future at quarterback has arrived. There will be no waiting around to see what Mac Jones can do. The Patriots are his team now, and it has made the 2021 season a whole lot more interesting.

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Tune in to Patriots-Dolphins on Sunday, Sept. 12 on WBZ-TV — the flagship station of the New England Patriots! Coverage begins Wednesday night with Patriots 1st Down at 10:30 p.m. on TV38 and continues Friday night with Patriots All Access at 7 p.m. on WBZ! Our opening day coverage begins with Patriots GameDay at 11:30 a.m., the Patriots and the Dolphins kick off at 4:25 p.m., and after the game switch over to TV38 for full reaction and analysis on Patriots 5th Quarter!

CBSBoston.com Staff