(8 minute read)
“For 86 nights I was unemployed…” “I looked at who we [New England] were playing this year and I made a note of all the teams that passed on me.” These were Cam Newtons own words on a popular podcast featuring former NFL wide receiver Victor Cruz, Odell Beckham and Todd Gurley, after recently signing his one-year deal with the New England Patriots.
The 2015 NFL MVP was released by the Carolina Panthers in late March after completing rehab on his foot and shoulder. The Panthers organization reached a deal with former Saints QB Teddy Bridgewater and the 31-year-old Newton was immediately a free agent. This year’s offseason got even juicier once news broke that NFL great Tom Brady would sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers posing the question “who would fill Tom’s shoes in Foxbourgh?”
Many don’t know what to expect from Newton in New England. There are still questions remaining about the NFL superstar at this point in his career; can play in their system? Will he come back as the same player or better or worse? Can Newton play in an organization like New England?
My prediction is the NFL’s most successful franchise of the last 20 years may have just found a new face.
Now don’t get me wrong the Chiefs and the Ravens are still the current powers that be in the AFC at the moment, especially as far as offenses go, but if Cam Newton is healthy and the genius that is Josh McDaniel’s can integrate him into the system, the Patriots could be the potential 3rd seed in the conference this year. Here’s how:
- Newton Has already shown Success in similar systems
Cam’s running ability speaks for itself. Josh McDaniels will love taking advantage of being able to have more numbers in the run game. In 2018 the Panther hired Norv Turner as their offensive coordinator, this also happened to be the last time we saw a fully healthy Cam Newton. In 2018 Cam threw for 3,395 yards good for 19th in the league and had an adjusted completion percentage of 78.4% good for 7th in the league. Newton also managed to acquire a 100.8 passer rating good for 10th in the NFL and managed 15 touchdowns to only 4 interceptions.
Under Norv Turner Cam became efficient and that’s exactly how the Patriots prefer play offense. The panthers in 2018 were also top 10 in red zone trips per game, 5th in red zone scoring % and top 10 in time of possession per game. That slow methodical and strategic way down the field version of Newton is most likely the film that the Patriots and Josh McDaniel’s were sinking their teeth into when deciding on making this trade.
2. The Patriots have a good defense to help him out.
Last season the Patriots defense went on a near-historic run. Led by Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore and host of veterans like the McCourty twins, Patrick Chung and Dont’a Hightower, that defense looks to be just as stingy as they were last season.
In 2019 the Patriots defense ranked tops in the league in most of the major defensive categories.
1st in yards allowed (4,414), 2nd in turnovers forced (36).
1st in passing Touchdowns allowed (13) and second in passing yards allowed (2,886) and 1st in INTs (25)
1st in rushing Touchdowns allowed (7)
New England did lose a few pieces to that defense when Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy left in free agency but addressed those issues in classic Patriot fashion. The patriots drafted a few lesser known college players and hope to find their diamonds in the rough.
For the most part this defense is still intact and look to help Newton go on another run.
3. The AFC East still isn’t good.
Let’s face it, the patriots have had a long hold on the AFC by first dominating the weaker AFC East division. The Bills have come strides from where they were but after their collapse in the 2019 Wildcard round in the playoffs, they may have to go back to the drawing board.
The Jets decided to bet on their future with the recent trade of safety Jamal Adams to the Seattle Seahawks for two 1st-rounders (2021 & 2022) and a 3rd-round pick in 2021. Time will tell what the Jets will have to offer, but for Newton’s one year they do not look to be on the radar.
Miami may be somewhat of a question mark. The season rides on whether or not rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will get the start. If Tagovailoa does start, there still remains the question of how he will hold up due to the injury bug that he had while in college at Alabama.
Overall Newton is now in a place where he can just focus on doing the things that he’s good at. He’s already shown he can somewhat grasp the system for the most part because he’s played in a similar one. He’s in an organization that knows how to win and will put him in situations to do so. New England has a defense that can take some pressure off of Newton and give him more room for error. If the Patriots can put it all together and win the AFC East, they’ll be a scary sight come playoff time.