Before we get into why this season will be a resurgence for Cam Newton as a quarterback of the New England Patriots, we need to take a look at why there are so many questions surrounding him in the first place.
What went wrong last season?
The 2020 season was a disappointment in a lot of ways, but the struggles at quarterback was a big factor for the struggles on offense. Cam Newton started off relatively strong, but as the season wore on the quarterback’s struggles increased to the point where teams were loading up the box daring the Patriots to throw, knowing that they wouldn’t be able to.
To understand the struggles Cam had last season, we need to go back to before he was even on the Patriots.
Cam came to the Patriots still recovering from some major injuries suffered on the Panthers. In the midst of a 6-2 start in 2018, Cam suffered a serious shoulder injury on a hit from T.J. Watt. This required surgery in the off-season on his already-reconstructed throwing shoulder; he had suffered a torn rotator cuff in the previous season.
On top of all of this, while still recovering from his shoulder injuries he suffered a Lisfranc injury during the 2019 season, which affected the footwork he had been working on to improve as a passer.
So the Patriots weren’t exactly getting a fully-healthy Cam Newton, which explains the price tag for him and the fact that the Panthers literally released their franchise QB instead of trading him away. There were a lot of question marks surrounding his health.
But that’s not the only thing he had working against him.
Learning the Offense
2020 was a strange year for a lot of reasons, but the one that hurt the Patriots the most was their lack of a proper offseason. In a year where the team had lost its 20-year starter at QB and was in a salary cap crunch due to some failed attempts at one more Super Bowl run the year before (see: Sanu, Mohamed), this was not a good year to not have a training camp.
This was evident in the first game, where the Patriots offense was extremely vanilla. It was obvious that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was working with a limited playbook due to the fact that his players were still learning each others’ names. There was still progress, however. Facing the red-hot Seattle Seahawks, the offense opened up the playbook a little more for Cam and there was evidence of success.
But then the team suffered a COVID outbreak which saw Newton quarantined for 2 weeks away from the team. Instead of being able to grow and learn with the team, he was now 2 weeks behind. This is what you saw for the second half of the season: a quarterback who was still playing catchup with an offense that lacked the support he needed to succeed.
The 2021 Season
So what can we expect from Cam Newton in 2021? Who knows, I’m not a psychic so I can’t see the future. However, here’s what we do know.
- Cam Newton is another year recovered from his shoulder and foot injuries. He looks more fluid and comfortable throwing the football from the pocket in his first 2 preseason games.
- He has also had an entire season and a full preseason with the Patriots coaching staff. This should open up the playbook a bit more, and should allow this offense to be less one-dimensional. As long as there’s a threat to throw the ball down the field, opposing defenses won’t be able to stack the box to stop the run.
- The Patriots have spent big money in the offseason to put pieces around the quarterback in order to help him be successful. The signing of two premier tight ends as well as a deep threat in Nelson Agholor should provide an environment for Cam to thrive, as well as the incredibly strong running game that has continued from last season.
Will Cam Newton be the same guy we saw win NFL MVP in 2015? That’s probably a stretch, even for the most optimistic of fans. However, seeing Cam take a huge step forwards in this offense is definitely not out of the question, which makes this season incredibly exciting to watch.