Boston

Cam Newton is a Patriot. What Should We Realistically Expect?

As you all have heard by now the Patriots did the most Patriots thing ever this week and signed a former elite player on a massively team friendly deal. The marriage of Cam Newton and the Patriots is not something I expected, but I also was told by the Boston media all offseason how high the team was on Jarrett Stidham with Brian Hoyer being the adult in the room for at least a little while. Welp, it seems like Belichick had merely been eyeing a fancy new toy for months just waiting for the price to drop before finally deciding to pull the trigger. Newton comes to New England on an incentive laden one-year prove it deal as the signal caller looks to bounce back from an injury shortened season last year.

Jarrett Stidham’s head must be spinning right now. The heir apparent to the Patriots QB1 only had to beat out veteran journeyman Hoyer to earn the job. Now he’s got Hoyer and a former league MVP boxing him out of the starting gig. Stidham took a road trip to Texas with the wife and got Wally Pipped before he even got off the Pike. Stidham checking his ESPN notifications and seeing the Newton signing:

By the way, this also goes to show you to never, ever, ever discount what the wise guys are saying in Vegas. Oddsmakers had the Patriots as the favorites to sign Newton months ago and we all thought what the hell are they talking about? Whoops.

Julian Edelman seems to already be on board with the former MVP coming to Gillette though.

Using the infamous and ridiculous Cam Newton font in his post legitimately made me laugh out loud.

Although Tom Brady was immediately in Edelman’s comments like an ex-girlfriend trying to honey dick him.

You left Jules, Tom! Let him be happy with someone else.

I’ve been a big fan of Ham Newton’s game ever since his days at Auburn when he crushed my dreams as a Boston based Oregon stan in the National Championship. So I’m pretty excited to see what one of the most dynamic QBs in the game can do with the best coach in the history of the league.

KEY STATS

People point to Newton’s career 59% completion percentage as a reason why he won’t fit here, but I fully expect the Pats to run the snot out of the ball this year. They were already trending that way the last couple of seasons, drafting Sony Michel in the first round, and this past offseason using the franchise tag to bring back Left Tackle Joe Thuney. Now factor in that Newton’s completion % is nearly 10% higher on play action than it is on non-play action plays. His completion percentage on play action is 68%, which will pick teams apart if the Pats can develop a decent running game in 2020.

If the Pats do want to jam Newton into the Tom Brady quick, short pass offense? His accuracy is not as good as Brady’s (Brady is 63% career), but their time holding onto the ball and average yards per throw is surprisingly close. In 2018 (Newton’s last *almost* full season with 14 games) Cam averaged 2.69 Time to Throw compared to Brady’s 2.62 seconds and 5 Completed Air Yards compared to Brady’s 5.6. He also had a Passer Rating of 94.2 compared to Brady’s 97.7 with a Completion Percentage of 67.9 compared to Brady’s 65.8.

Tom Brady is the GOAT and my favorite athlete of all time, but Cam Newton is not a bad replacement if healthy. Newton also only threw two more picks than Brady despite having an Aggressiveness % of 17.2 to Brady’s 13.9. And if that stat is entirely new to you as it is one I found that fits my agenda, have no fear: “Aggressiveness tracks the amount of passing attempts a quarterback makes that are into tight coverage, where there is a defender within 1 yard or less of the receiver at the time of completion or incompletion. AGG is shown as a % of attempts into tight windows over all passing attempts.”

INJURY HISTORY

As with any player, especially at QB, a recent injury history like Newton’s is alarming. Pats Pulpit does a great job of breaking it down extensively, but here are the spark notes.

  • January 2019 – Shoulder surgery on his throwing arm
  • December 2019 – Foot surgery for a Lisfranc fracture
  • 2014 – Ankle Surgery

It’s not an overly lengthy injury history, but it is a very recent one. Shoulder and foot injuries for a 31-year-old mobile QB are not ideal. Thats why he was available though and the last thing you want to do is repeat the Dolphin’s fatal mistake when they passed on Drew Brees in 2006 because of his shoulder injury. They went with Daunte Culpepper instead and have sucked for the past 14 years, meanwhile the Saints took a chance and won a Super Bowl as Brees flourished into a Hall of Famer.

FIT WITH PATS

As I mentioned earlier, this Patriots team already seemed poised to run the hell out of the ball so bringing in Cam Newton makes sense as they could utilize any of their half dozen runningbacks (is Damien Harris still alive and well?) and run the old Full House package from Madden ad nauseum. I don’t expect the Patriots to morph into an RPO team overnight like the Ravens did with Lamar Jackson, but I do expect a ton of Shotgun and spreading the defense out so Newton can utilize his strengths.

I honestly think James White might catch 100 balls this year (career high 87 in 2018). Newton looves throwing to his runningbacks. Sure he’s had the best RB in the game in Christian McCaffrey, but Newton threw to his RB1 more and more each year. From 2016-2019 McCaffrey had 80, 107, and 116 receptions on 113, 124, and a whopping 142 targets last year. Somewhat surprisingly that was *only* 8th in the NFL in total targets, but it also was 34 (!) more than any other RB in the game.

Obviously the Patriots have not had a mobile quarterback really ever, even before Brady, but when you see the actual numbers compared to Newton it is jarring.

Mobile quarterbacks have only very recently started to find success in the NFL so it clearly never hurt the Patriots before, but adding this element to their offense will be a welcome bonus to having Newton under center.

Mike Reiss said on ESPN the other day he believes the Pats will keep their offense 75% the same with about 25% changed to suit Newton.

Lets not forget that Josh McDaniels did in fact draft Tim Tebow in the first round back in 2010 while he was the HC in Denver. The Pats also had some fun with their most mobile quarterback since Doug Flutie when Jacoby Brissett was forced into emergency starting duties against the Texans in 2016. The Pats ran some RPO and Brissett ran the ball 10 times that game, including this 30 yard TD on a designed QB run.

And Brissett’s not even a mobile quarterback! He just looked that way compared to the Clydesdale that is TB12. Cam Newton ran a 4.59 40 yard dash at the combine compared to Brissett’s 4.94. Granted Newton has since had foot surgery, but my point is the Pats had a great game plan for a guy that runs a slower 40 time than me. Imagine what kind of damage they can do with a guy like Newton?

EXPECTATIONS

I’ve said in the past that watching Newton last year he looked cooked, but coming off a shoulder surgery less than a year prior and then injuring his foot really decimated any chance he had of stepping into throws. Not to mention his ability to scramble, so its no surprise he looked terrible. But Cam was great as recently as 2018 even though his season was cut short after 14 games with the shoulder injury. In 2018 Newton threw for 3,400 yards, 24 TDs, 13 INTs, 67.9% completion percentage, 94.2 Rating, with 488 yards rushing and 4 TDs. A far cry from his MVP year, but this is also with him throwing to his runningback, DJ Moore, Devin Funchess, Jarius Wright, Curtis Samuel, something called Ian Thomas, and a 33-year-old Greg Olsen. Not a ton of household names in there outside of McCaffrey.

CBS Sports’ Will Brinson was on Toucher and Rich this week calling Cam the greatest QB in league history and is *very* high on the fit.

“I think if Cam is healthy, Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick will unleash a really lethal offense…Rob Gronkowski is the second greatest red zone threat in league history and Cam Newton is No. 1 because he can run the ball.”

Although would it surprise me if Belichick just up and decides it’s not working and cuts Newton in training camp? With an incentive laden one-year contract, it would not shock me. I’d hate to see that happen though because this is the most excited I’ve been to watch the Patriots since Brady left for Tampa.

The fit remains to be seen, but I think Newton is DYING to prove he is still an elite QB in a league that is now littered with mobile QBs. Newton was the prototype so it must really piss him off to see half a dozen QBs winning with his blueprint. He wants to prove he is still the alpha and if he is fully healthy, motivation will not be a problem so I am excited to see what Belichick and McDaniels do with him.

JERSEY TIME?

I have to admit, I was pretty meh on the new Pats jerseys when they came out, but I think part of that was probably with Brady leaving town there wasn’t really any other players that made me want to buy a $100 jersey. I already have an Edelman jersey, Devin McCourty flirts with retirement more and more these days, Dont’a Hightower is also on the wrong side of 30. I love Chase Winovich, but I need to see him on the field more before I even think about elevating him to jersey status. N’Keal Harry needs to catch about a dozen touchdowns this year to get into this conversation. So who does that leave? Maybe Stephon Gilmore? I guess if I had to pull the trigger it would be either White (a Super Bowl hero) or Patrick Chung (a longtime Patriot who does anything and everything). BUT, I gotta say, this looks pretty sexy.

I have a rule that I don’t buy jerseys of players unless they have recently signed a contract extension so as to not end up with another Sergei Samsonov jersey that immediately became a throwback about a week after I bought it. But if Ham Newton has 10 touchdowns in September, it’s going to be pretty hard to keep my credit card in my pocket. Even if he is only on a one-year contract.

Would still be a better jersey to won than the two *different* guys I’ve seen wearing John Lynch Patriots jerseys in Allston over the years (Lynch retired before the start of the 2008 season).

Or maybe the injuries have finally caught up to a guy who has absolutely abused his body for the past decade and Newton really is cooked. Well its a win-win situation for the Pats. They get a 31-year-old, hyper motivated former MVP QB, who will not be fazed in the slightest about replacing a legend and ultimately dominates with a fresh start OR we get A+ fashion shows every week that will provide weeks worth of content.

Like I said, win-win.

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