There were very few moves of the 2020 offseason that drew more headlines than the signing of Cam Newton to the New England Patriots. The former league MVP is now a member of the most successful team of the millennium and gets to play under the greatest coach the NFL has ever seen in Bill Belichick. This move is both exciting and mysterious, as there are still a handful of questions surrounding the move, including Newton’s health and the Patriots’ offensive scheme with the dual threat quarterback. Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels have never worked with a quarterback of Newtons’ skill set, as Tom Brady is a much more traditional, pocket passer. While Newton’s and Brady’s style of play are very dissimilar, expect Belichick and McDaniels to run a more similar offense than most are expecting next year.
Many analysts and fans are being quick to think Newton will be utilized as the flashy, dual-threat playmaker through option plays and his powerful cannon of an arm from 2015, the truth is he is not the same athlete from his career year. Newton is still capable of gaining yards through his legs, however he is now 31 years old, and even with a fully healed foot, another season with 130+ carries such as 2015 will result in a massive drop in production and high risk at another injury. McDaniels and Belichick understand this, and will have to utilize his mobility in a safe, efficient way.
Newton’s Role in Pass Game
Newton’s role will be much similar to the one he played in the first half of the 2018 season under Norv Turner, who coached the quarterback for his most effective passing season before injuring his foot in week 10. During that stretch of the season, Newton completed 67.3 percent of passes, six percent higher than any other season in the league. The key to Newton’s passing success was the utilization of shorter routes and quicker reads, as he only averaged 7.5 air yards per completion, lowest of his career and three yards shorter than his 2015 number. New England is notorious for running a shorter passing game with Tom Brady for years, utilizing halfbacks in route concepts similar to how Turner used Christian McCaffrey for Newton in 2018. Newton may be a completely different quarterback than Brady, but he benefits from a short passing game just as much as the 43-year-old legend.
Newton’s Role in Run Game
In the ground game, New England’s power running scheme under center and combination of draws and sweeps out of the gun and have the same production of a year ago. In the red zone is where Newton will be utilized most different to Brady, as the efficient red-zone weapon should still be able to score touchdowns through the option or designed quarterback runs. While definitely not at the volume of his younger seasons as mentioned earlier, Newton’s short yardage running ability will still be a factor defenses will have to respect once New England works inside the ten yard line.
Overall, while Newton’s running ability and athleticism will continue to be a factor next season, expect Belichick and McDaniels to use his mobility in a limited way that ensures Newton’s safety. New England’s offense will not become a full fledged option, ground and pound offense that Baltimore transitioned into last season with Lamar Jackson. Newton has proven to be a much better passer in the type of short pass offense New England ran a year ago, and will prove to be a very capable quarterback within the pocket, as he was in 2018 pre-injury. While the move of Newton to the Patriots is exciting, the offense will still remain much more similar than most fans are anticipating.
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