What to Expect From Cam Newton Next Season?


Cam Newton #1 of the New England Patriots on January 3, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Kathryn Riley/Getty Images/AFP
Cam Newton #1 of the New England Patriots on January 3, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Kathryn Riley/Getty Images/AFP


The biggest question entering the 2020 season was just how good the Patriots were going to be with the installation of Cam Newton as their starting quarterback to replace Tom Brady. The question heading into 2021 is whether or not the Patriots will be good at all with Cam.


In fact, the re-signing of Newton came as a huge shock to the football world. After a down season, the former MVP re-upped on a new one-year deal with New England, quickly ending the discussion surrounding the Pats’ quarterback position. Considering how much of a disappointment Newton was in year one, and how many options are out there via the draft, trade and free agency, no one expected New England to bring him back.


Still, it’s going to be Newton — barring Bill Belichick drafting a quarterback and immediately elevating him into the starting role, which he’s never done — to lead the Pats forward in year two without Tom Brady. So, the question must be asked: What can we realistically expect from Cam Newton?


The longtime Panthers signalcaller and former No. 1 pick led New England to a 27th-place finish in the NFL in total yards, and a passing offense which ranked 30th. Newton completed just 242 of 368 pass attempts for 2,657 yards, 8 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions.


While the numbers on the whole were bad, there were plenty of bright spots. Before he contracted COVID-19, managed to throw for 714 yards and two touchdowns, against two picks, in three games — two of which were wins. And, if you’ll recall, the one loss came down the very last play of the game against the Seahawks, where Newton was stuffed at the goal line. Speaking of the ground, he also ran for 149 yards and four touchdowns.


What we saw the rest of the season could have been the result of the virus itself taking something out of Newton, or perhaps the time away threw off his building chemistry with the team. Regardless, he had just one great game — a 365-yard outing against one of the worst defenses in the league in the Texans — and threw for six touchdowns and an ugly eight interceptions.


The question of how good Newton will be lies all in his arm. The rushing was never an issue in 2020, seeing as he went on to punch eight in on the ground across his last 12 games and average 4.3 yards per rush. The Patriots also installed several power rush packages last year designed around Newton running the ball, which turned out to be a real weapon around the goal line.


His passing ability, however, was a concern. He spiked many passes into the ground, a sight that led Belichick to bench him in favor of Jarrett Stidham, of all people. Though his passes weren’t always on the money, he also wasn’t helped by one of the worst receiving corps in football. His top target was draft bust N’Keal Harry, and his second-best option was journeyman speedster Demiere Byrd.


In 2021, we can expect a bit more of Newton for the lone reason that he has better players to throw to. Belichick is reverting back to a tried-and-true two-tight end system which won him several Super Bowls, inking big names Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry to deals. The Patriots also went out and got proven veterans at receiver like Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne to help out Newton.


So, Cam can count on his receivers to actually run the right routes in 2021 and use some improvisation to get free for big plays. Considering Newton has always been a confidence-dependent player over his career — playing well on good teams like in his MVP season and wilting in the face of adversity, like last season — I think we’ll see the best form of him, whatever that is at this point in his journey. The signing of the two tight ends also signals Belichick is going to be looking to run some more power sets for Newton, which should help him run more and keep defenses honest, opening up the short pass for him. If the Patriots can just grow Cam’s confidence early in the season by making life easy on him, he will blossom into the quarterback we all know he can be, and prove to be a bargain on his current deal.

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