Film Review: Cam Newton Can Re-Claim Elite Status With the Patriots
On Jun. 28 the New England Patriots shocked the football world by agreeing to a contract with former MVP quarterback Cam Newton. Newton had been a free agent since the Panthers released him on Mar. 24 and many assumed he would wait for a quarterback to go down either before the season or during the season to sign with a team.
Now, with Cam Newton signing with the Patriots many people are asking why. I'm here to answer that question. The first reason is Cam's price. As I am writing this I do not know the exact details of the contract but it is an incentive-heavy deal and it maxes out at $7.5 million. This deal won't take up much cap space.
Newton is, in my opinion, the best option to try and replace Tom Brady. He is a former national champion in college, he was the number one overall pick in 2011, he's a former MVP, and he has played in a Super Bowl. There is no spotlight too bright for Newton. Bringing all that experience to a team looking to contend in 2020 is massive. That type of experience is invaluable.
This Patriots team also has the potential to be the best situation that Cam Newton has ever had. New England's offensive line has the potential to be a top five unit with the return of David Andrews, the wide receiver corps looks healthy and ready to have a good year, and the tight end group has been rebuilt with the additions of Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene. There is a lot Josh McDaniels can do with all of these players and Newton can help elevate them.
When a lot of people hear the name Cam Newton, they think of Newton's electric rushing plays. But he is also a solid passer. Before the Steelers game in 2018 when Newton took a hard hit from T.J. Watt and injured his shoulder, Newton was on fire as a passer. During the eight games before that Steelers game, Newton had 15 touchdowns to only 4 interceptions, 1,893 yards, and a 67.3% completion percentage. After being able to rehab his arm, I believe he can return to his 2018 pre-injury form.
Now to get into Cam Newton's tape. Let's see what he can bring to the Patriots and how the six-time Super Bowl champions could change their offense for their new quarterback.
The first thing I want to highlight is Newton's arm and his eyes. Newton, #1, has a stronger arm than Tom Brady has and he shows it all over his tape. He can launch the ball all over the field. On this play, he's not throwing it deep down the field, but that doesn't mean he isn't showing off his arm strength. Newton also does a great job with his eyes, watch him scan to his left to freeze the linebacker, #59, and rifle this ball to his receiver for the touchdown. He's able to put a lot of velocity on balls and deliver the ball in windows that other quarterbacks cannot hit.
Newton is also a threat with his legs. Now, he won't be getting a ton of carries a game, but against man Newton is deadly. When defenses play man, there aren't a lot of eyes on the quarterback, so if Newton is able to get out of the pocket like he does on this play, he can pick up big yards. Because Newton is mobile, he will make the Patriots offense that much deadlier. Defenses will somehow have to account for this by either playing zone or by putting a spy on Newton.
Since Cam Newton is mobile, this also allows Josh McDaniels to deploy packages and plays that the Patriots have rarely, if ever, used.
The Panthers bring a wide receiver on this play into the backfield, going into the pistol formation. With this formation, the defense has to worry about a very dangerous backfield of Christian McCaffrey, Cam Newton, and D.J. Moore. Watch the defense when Newton goes to hand the ball of to McCaffrey. The left defensive end and the defensive back, #21, play Cam Newton and D.J. Moore. This leaves the box a little bit lighter for McCaffrey. New England could use this play and put a player like N'Keal Harry, Damiere Byrd, or Jeff Thomas where D.J. Moore lined up and force the defense to commit to them or lighten the box for Sony Michel or Damien Harris to attack.
In 2019, the Patriots struggled greatly in the red zone and that hurt the team. The offense could not finish with touchdowns and it cost the team throughout the season. Cam Newton's presence in the red zone will improve the Patriots' red zone offense right away. Newton can run the above play at any time and defenses either have to respect his legs and lighten the box or they have to commit to the running back and give Newton an easy touchdown. Newton can do this all over the field as well, the Panthers called this play on many 3rd and 4th downs and Cam Newton was able to convert them a lot. Newton will not only improve the red zone attack, he will also help out New England's short-yardage attack.
With Cam Newton on the team, the Patriots can finally run bootlegs and run them at a high level. Not only is Newton a mobile threat, he is also able to throw on the move at a high level, adding another wrinkle to the offense. New England could add this play directly to their playbook and have Dalton Keene replace Ian Thomas, #80, on this play and have N'Keal Harry run Devin Funchess' route. Both Harry and Keene are YAC threats and can break tackles, so a simple play like this one can lead to a huge gain for the offense.
Newton also loves to throw jump balls to his big receivers and that is perfect for N'Keal Harry. At Arizona State, Harry excelled at jump-ball situations, routinely winning them against defensive backs. With Newton, Harry will see a lot of jump balls and I expect him to bring in a good amount. With Harry's ball tracking skills and catch radius and Newton's cannon of an arm and his willingness to throw jump balls, the Patriots offense should see an uptick in explosive plays.
Newton can hang in the pocket and take a hit to deliver a pass. He's not a quarterback that will just immediately take off, missing out on play he could have made in the pocket. He is willing to stand in the pocket and take a shot in order to complete a pass. Here, with a man in his face, Newton throws a nice ball to Curtis Samuel and is almost able to get the 1st down. Newton also shows off how fast he can get the ball out on this play. Once he knows who he is throwing to, he can get the ball out quickly.
This is another great play that Josh McDaniels can steal and add to the Patriots playbook. This play action to the left side of the field gets the defense flowing to the left. Newton then rolls out right with plenty to time to throw the ball. Samuel runs an out route and Newton throws a perfect ball on the move. McDaniels could have Julian Edelman or Mohamed Sanu run this route and they will get just as open as Samuel did here. There are many plays and many wrinkles that McDaniels can introduce now that he has a mobile quarterback.
For the last clip, this is from Newton's 2019 game against the Los Angeles Rams. I wanted to include this because it shows that Newton's arm is still strong. He delivers this ball to the far left side of the field with plenty of zip. He still has a cannon and he's going to prove it this season with the Patriots.
Cam Newton looks to get back into the elite quarterback conversation and I believe that he can with this Patriots team. This will be the best offensive line that Newton has ever played with, so now he will be kept clean and can still run behind them from time to time. Not only that, he also has two good route runners in Edelman and Sanu, he has a breakout candidate and jump ball specialist in N'Keal Harry, and he has another sophomore receiver that is looking to break out in Jakobi Meyers. Tack on a stacked backfield and a rebuilt tight end room, and there's a lot of potential with Newton in New England.
If Cam Newton is able to stay healthy he can return to his pre-injury 2018 play and this New England squad will be a very scary team to play against.