Should we be excited about Cam Newton in 2021?
There’s something awfully exhilarating about a player with the drive of Cameron Jerrell Newton. If you add in the fact that this player is a former NFL MVP and arguably one of the more notable athletes at his position in NFL history, it becomes that much more publicized.
Last year we all endured a global pandemic that surely affected each one of us in one way or another. Newton’s injury-riddled 2019 season played a major factor into why he was available for Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots last July. When Newton signed that one-year deal, all signs pointed to a resurgence from the former league MVP. The greatest coach in the history of the league signing a former MVP brought excitement and intrigue to both New England fans as well as fans around the league.
That progression and hope never materialized on the field.
Newton had some of the lowest numbers of any season he’s played 14 or more games in, and more importantly, he didn’t look like the Cam Newton we’re accustomed to seeing on a football field. Newton threw for a career low 2,657 passing yards and a career low eight passing touchdowns. His throwing motions often looked awkward which affected the passing game as his accuracy and timing were inconsistent throughout the season.
Many around the league will point to Newton’s 2019 shoulder surgery as one of the many reasons why Newton adjusted the mechanics behind his throwing motion. Other evaluators point to a change in his velocity and accuracy after he was diagnosed with COVID-19.
Regardless of what occurred with Newton, the Patriots finished with their first losing season (7-9) since 2000. The Patriots also missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008, even though they finished with an 11-5 record that year.
To many Patriots fans surprise, this didn’t deter the franchise from resigning Newton before the 2021 NFL Draft began, and, more importantly, the team’s overall belief in Newton for the 2021 season.
When Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots selected Alabama quarterback Mac Jones with the 15th overall pick, many believed (and still do) that he would beat out Cam Newton and be named the starting quarterback prior to week one.
Pump the breaks on this, for now.
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels doesn’t sound like he’s planning on tipping his hands about how he views the quarterback room shaping out. When speaking to the media yesterday, McDaniels spoke highly of Newton, praising Newton’s work ethic, especially in learning the offense on the fly during a COVID-19 constrained camp last year.
“I honestly can’t remember another time in my career where we’ve had a player that has done that. Even the rookies that get drafted, they get information prior to the end of the spring,” McDaniels said.
“It was a unique scenario. He worked his butt off last year to do it, and he came back this year at a much different position. He has a different grasp of the offense, a different understanding of the terminology.” He continued.
Belichick has consistently praised Newton’s leadership and personality, and he has said multiple times now that Newton is the team’s quarterback. This, however, hasn’t flattened any of the talk about Jones being the Patriots starting quarterback in 2021.
Last year, on the fly, Belichick and McDaniels adjusted the offense, as best they could, to Newton’s skill set with more designed quarterback runs and goal line options. The passing game is what sorely needs improvement, with a better Newton integrated into that improvement. The Patriots finished 2020 with the third-fewest average passing yards per game (180.6).
It doesn’t matter how good your defense is – that number is just flat out bad.
This offseason, the Patriots have almost built an entire new offense, with pass-catching options for Newton – including tight-ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, as well as wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne.
Trading for Julio Jones would be nice – but the rich can’t always get richer, right?
All the offseason work points to Newton having a bounce back, successful season under center in New England. Belichick and the Patriots have not only invested in the future of their franchise, assumingly Mac Jones, but they have also added talent at several positions of need via free agency and the draft. All of this suggests that the Patriots want to compete right now while also building for the future.
Even if Newton is truly revamped and in a different place now than where he was in 2020, it may not matter. The franchise drafted Mac Jones in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, and we all know that you do not draft a quarterback that high unless you believe he is the future of your franchise.
Newton will eventually be completely cast aside whenever Belichick and the team believe Jones is ready.
Unless the Patriots get off to a hot start in 2021.
Newton probably won’t return to his MVP form in 2021, but with this team and coaching staff, he really doesn’t have to.
If the Patriots kick off the year with a hot start on offense, and Newton is a big part of that trend, he’ll be the guy in 2021.
When you say, "he didn't look like the Cam Newton we're accustomed to seeing," there is one glaring stat that sticks out to me: 12 Rush TDs. That's two more than in his MVP season and two shy of his record setting rookie season. I have been saying this often: We live in a world where franchise QBs want out and rookie QBs need to produce early and often or risk replacement. Well we also live in a league where teams like the Dolphins and Bears have had no problem going back and forth between QBs or where the Saints, with Drew Brees, will sub him out for Jameis Winston to throw the deep ball and Taysom Hill to work some goal line packages.
Therein, I believe lies the answer. If Mac Jones impresses in camp (which I'm sure he will), you play him. However, that no longer means Cam stops playing. I can see Bill having Cam start the games, and if it is going let it ride. But, if he struggles early on they bring in Matthew "Mac" Jones to try to throw them back into the game and keep Cam for short yardage or goal line situations where last season that QB power was nearly unstoppable. Then again, Mac could be a relief pitcher and if he does throw them back into a game, you let him close it out as well. It is a win-win-win where the best QB plays that day, Mac still get to develop, and Cam (who would not have taken a pay cut if it were about the spotlight) gets to compete at the highest level.