Seemingly out of nowhere, the New England Patriots have signed Cam Newton. This does not mean that the quarterback situation is set in stone.
There is a great deal of excitement about Newton coming to New England, and I get it; he’s the only quarterback on the roster who has proven he can be a real difference maker. That being said, let’s pump the brakes just a little bit on the hype train.
The 31-year-old signal caller has been banged up in recent years, suffering a shoulder injury towards the end of 2018 and a foot injury last year that pretty much ended his season before it could really get started. The logical conclusion is that Newton’s play style may have caught up with him.
At 6’5″, 245 lbs, Newton is unique and unlike any other dual threat quarterback we have seen. Rather than dusting defenses with blazing speed à la Michael Vick or Lamar Jackson, Cam is more of a bulldozer. He’s never been one to shy away from contact when running the ball and has taken his fair share of hits.
Don’t pencil in Newton as the week one starter just yet. First he needs to show that he can still play at a high level and stay on the field. If he looks good in training camp and preseason, then there’s plenty of reason to be excited. There’s no doubt that Newton is motivated and will work hard, as he had already been working out in hopes of returning to the NFL and seems to have a chip on his shoulder.
If Newton can stay healthy, the Patriots are getting a dynamic quarterback with a cannon of an arm. Newton has never been the most accurate thrower of the football, with a career completion percentage of 59.6. However, in an offense that predominantly relies on short to intermediate passes, perhaps it will make things easier on him. When things open up downfield, there are few who can throw it farther than Cam.
Another thing to get amped up about is Newton’s improvisational skills. His ability to evade the rush and make off platform throws is one of his greatest strengths. This would be greatly beneficial to young wide receivers on the Patriots such as N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers, who often struggled to consistently create separation from defenders. When the play breaks down, they can be given plenty of opportunities to go off script as the defense tries to ensure that Cam doesn’t take off running with the ball.
It wouldn’t shock me to see Newton’s rushing numbers take a dip as he makes more of an effort to preserve his body to avoid further injury, but you can still expect offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to implement some designed quarterback runs and zone reads to keep defenses honest.
In any case, the odds that we are getting the Cam Newton that won the MVP award in 2015 and pretty much carried the Carolina Panthers offense on his shoulders to a Super Bowl appearance are astronomically low. That season is generally considered an outlier when looking at the entirety of his career anyways, but that doesn’t mean that Cam can’t play anymore.
At 100% capacity, Newton is the easy choice to lead the Patriots offense if the team wants to be competitive in 2020. However, recent years tell us that we cannot fully expect Newton to step on the field and be the same quarterback he was in the past, especially after missing nearly all of the 2019 season.
Overall, it would be wise to approach this signing with cautious optimism. We can’t be sure that Newton is even a lock to be on the roster at the beginning of the regular season. He needs to prove himself first. If he does, then the New England Patriots could be a very fun team to watch.