How the Patriots Offense Could Be 'Brissett-Like' With Cam Newton
In light of the Cam Newton signing, the topic that has been raising eyebrows for New England Patriots fans is how exactly Newton will be used in a much different offense than accustomed to. The Patriots will be moving on from one of the historically least mobile quarterbacks in Tom Brady to now having one of the greatest rushing quarterbacks in NFL history. While Newton offers more than just scrambling around and can get things done with his arm too, his athletic traits will need to be involved in an offense that historically strayed from using their quarterback's athletic traits for give or take the last 20 seasons.
With this incoming football philosophy shake-up for offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and the other offensive minds in New England, they might look to one game where they had to turn to another quarterback and win with his athletic traits. A game in which Brady was suspended in light of the Deflategate saga. In his place stepped a third-stringer by the name of Jacoby Brissett, running the offense entirely different and getting a 27-0 win over the Houston Texans on a Thursday night in September of 2016.
While in this game, Brissett only threw for 103 yards on 11 completions. It was not so much the statistical showing that should concern the minds that are now recreating the Patriots' offense. It is the style in which they played the game and the things they did to win it comfortably that will be the focal point for a potential Cam Newton-led offense.
Formations and Options:
The first change from Brady to Brissett was seeing some of the more innovative formations that are designed primarily for creating two rushing threats. Both the halfback and the quarterback become rushing threats on these read option-type plays that have taken the league by storm. That, and the run-pass option, another popular college-like idea that the NFL now has to try and stop.
McDaniels could utilize plays like this to really get the run game going strong with Newton under center. The very threat of Newton taking the ball himself is concerning enough for opposing defenses. However, here, there are three players that could possibly run the ball in this situation. Brissett looks like he can toss this ball to either Julian Edelman or Brandon Bolden, if need be. With a rushing threat like Newton instead of Brissett, defenses start questioning whether to start bringing more men into the box. Here, the Texans only have a traditional seven-man front, while New England has six blockers and three potential rushers. By correctly reading the unblocked defender's motion, the Patriots gain big yards on this play virtually every time.
Plays like this will create more opportunity for the team's runningbacks and the now aforementioned defensive numbers game can benefit both the run and pass. McDaniels will undoubtably use these option plays to create defensive uncertainty and figure out which way certain defenses react to his call. The reaction by the defense can then be exposed the very next play.
Newton was under center no more than 28% of the time in his last few seasons with the Carolina Panthers. However, New England's splits between shotgun and under center are generally 50-50. While it is unclear whether Newton will be asked to be under center more or the Patriots will run a lot more out of shotgun, when it comes to being under center, this play above will likely be a rushing play from under center for Newton.
Newton is strong when he builds up a head of steam and starts running downhill. Creating this misdirection here with LeGarrette Blount allows Brissett to get into open space, build up a head of steam, and find his way into the endzone. Doing the same with a healthy Newton would be dangerous for opposing squads, as he is so hard to tackle and so dangerous in open space like this. Newton on this play would be like a freight train blowing straight ahead.
Edelman got a fair share of looks in the backfield here in this game. That could be something else to look for this season. This play looks like it is covered well, however, it was also a poor read by Brissett to keep the ball himself. But this is another instance where the Patriots plugged in the option in this game. The triple-option with someone more experienced like Newton and a great offensive mind like McDaniels is going to be a lot of fun.
The game plan for New England against the Texans that year was to play a clean game of football and lean on the defense to pull off the victory. Despite losing the time of possession and Houston gaining more total yards, the Patriots still won the turnover battle and played a clean game by resorting to short passes and hammering the run game.
The Patriots were very selective with their deep throws with Brissett, as they were rather unsure about his arm. While they will likely have more confidence in Newton's arm, their conservative approach to stay short will likely stay, as Newton is not only a smart quarterback who gets the ball off quick, but he also struggles downfield sometimes. Much like in that Thursday night game, expect throws of 20+ yards or more to be carefully selected.
Newton has frequently had to outplay the opposing team's quarterback and put his team on his back to pull off a win. However, Bill Belichick and his coaching staff know the strength of this year's Patriots team lies in the defense. As long as they have a player in Newton who can move the chains and put his players in positions to succeed, Newton will not have to do much more than that.
The gameplan going into each week should be much of what was the case in that matchup against Houston. A defensive-focus with a clean offense that caters to Newton's strengths. That being play-action, the short passing game, and taking off with his legs.
While New England only had 282 total yards in that game, it may be one of the more important games moving forward into a new era in Foxboro.
Brissett only had 103 passing yards and was 11-for-19 on passing attempts. He had eight rushes for 43 yards and a touchdown. While Newton will be expected to produce more than that, he shouldn't be required to do much more. He will be the key cog in opening up both the pass and run games and therefore allowing his skill position players to succeed. This should be a much more methodical, calculated Cam Newton, looking to control the scoreboard and dictate the flow of the game.
The bottom line is that the Jacoby Brissett experiment was just a test run. However, now, Newton is the real thing. Wrinkles from that game in 2016 will seep into the game plan and offensive playbook for the 2020 season.
The exciting part is that Newton is an even better fit than Brissett to implement the type of game plan we just went over. That means we should see a very successful Patriots offense run by Cam Newton next season.