Cam Newton signing will transform Patriots offense
If you’re a Patriots fan, like me, you have held your breath in anticipation of the 2020 NFL season.
Gone is longtime starter and the “GOAT,” Tom Brady. To add insult to his departure, Rob Gronkowski announced his return to football, but not to play in Foxborough. Instead, he’ll join his former quarterback in Tampa Bay.
Then the Patriots’ hallmark defense lost Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, Jamie Collins, and Danny Shelton in free agency.
Suddenly, the old adage “In Bill we trust” didn’t summon the same kind of comfort in times of uncertainty, because so much changed in one offseason.
But on Sunday night, the fan base began to let out a small, palpable sigh of relief. Free agent Cam Newton signed a one-year deal with New England and brings a glimmer of hope to an offense that became a liability in 2019.
The former Panther will likely jump to the top of the depth chart, ahead of second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham and journeyman backup Brian Hoyer. Newton has a load of experience as a starter and will get the chance to find new life as a fading star in the league.
From MVP to injuries
Newton, a Heisman winner, once took the NFL by storm as the next great dual-threat quarterback. In 2011, the Panthers selected him first overall in the NFL draft, and Newton quickly made history. He achieved the most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in one season (14) and earned Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
By 2013, he set the record for most rushing yards by a non-running back through his first three seasons (2,032). In 2015, he tossed a career-high 35 touchdowns, rushed for 636 yards and another 10 scores, and claimed the NFL MVP by a nearly unanimous decision. Brady and Carson Palmer stole one vote each.
Carolina finished that season with a franchise-best 15-1 record and reached the Super Bowl, but fell short, 24-10, to Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
The next season, it all came crashing down.
Injuries depleted the Panthers in 2016, Newton posted the worst completion percentage (52.9%) of his career, as the team went 6-10.
In 2017, Newton had surgery on a partially torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder. He underwent shoulder surgery again in 2018, after he struggled during the season.
Last year, Newton played only two games, before the team placed him on injured reserve for a Lisfranc fracture in his foot. In March, the Panthers allowed Newton to seek a trade and officially released him March 24.
Why feel confident in Cam now?
His injury history is a concern, but if Newton’s shoulder and foot are back to full strength, his career could see a revival.
Based on his social media, Newton has put in the work this offseason to become stronger. He has posted several images of him hitting the gym, as well as videos of him working out with Odell Beckham Jr.
At age 31, Newton’s legs may not be what they once were, but his stats indicate there is gas left in the tank. In 2017, his seventh season in the league, he ran for a career-best 754 yards. A year later, he rushed for 488 through 14 games.
If Newton is still a true dual threat, he’ll shift the dynamic of the Patriots offense and usher the team into the NFL’s new era of offense.
I’ve had a lot of folks tell me Cam Newton can’t run like he did in 2015.— John Ellis (@OnePantherPlace) December 2, 2019
The run below was from September 2018. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry last season.
In 2015, as the league’s MVP, Cam Newton averaged 4.8 YPC.
He will be doing this again, IMO. Hopefully, in Carolina. pic.twitter.com/noHQ4qUSHy
Last year, Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens’ rushing attack embarrassed New England and built a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter of a Week 9 matchup.
There’s no question Bill Belichick took notes.
In the offseason, New England focused on building around the run. The Patriots applied the franchise tag to guard Joe Thuney and drafted tight ends Dalton Keene and Devin Asiasi, both able blockers.
On top of that, starting center David Andrews will return, after he missed all of last season with a pulmonary embolism.
That all bodes well for Newton, whose weapons on offense may be a bit limited. Julian Edelman (1,117 yards, six touchdowns) will head the receiving corps as the most experienced Patriot wideout.
Second-year players Jakobi Meyers (359 yards) and N’Keal Harry (105 yards, two TDs) will look to make an impact, and last season’s trade acquisition, Mohamed Sanu (207 yards, one TD), will seek a more promising performance in 2020.
Before Newton’s signing, Stidham would have been called upon to attempt to correct the Patriots’ offensive woes, with much of the group Brady could hardly lift up last season.
With Newton in a Patriots uniform, there’s reason for hope. As long as he is healthy, he can keep the Patriots’ ship afloat during their first season without Brady and give his career a second chance.