Cam Newton’s most recent stretch of top-tier quarterback play came during the first half of the 2018 season.
His coordinator that year was Norv Turner, whose implementation of shorter, quicker throws into the Carolina Panthers’ offense helped Newton thrive as a passer.
The former NFL MVP posted by far the best completion percentage of his career (67.9 percent), notched his second-best passer rating and finished with his second-highest touchdown total before a shoulder injury landed him on injured reserve in December.
Turner believes those same concepts can help Newton thrive with the New England Patriots — assuming he’s healed physically from the shoulder ailment that ended his 2018 season and the foot injury that shelved him early in 2019.
“Through a 10-game stretch (in 2018), his numbers were awfully good, and he was playing at a high level,” Turner said Thursday during an appearance on SirusXM NFL Radio. “I think the shoulder was an issue (later on), and it kept him from doing the things (near) the end of the season that he’d been doing. So I’m sure they looked at the things he’d been doing that were similar to what they do.
“With (running back) Christian (McCaffrey), with (receiver) D.J. Moore, with (tight end) Greg Olsen, we were doing things that were pretty much being done by a lot of teams in the league — the high-percentage things, the crossing routes, getting receivers on the run, the option routes with Christian, which are things that are things that are very similar to what New England does and which a lot of people do in the league. It’s just how you package it and who you do it with. So I’m sure they looked at those things.”
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Newton also brings a level of mobility not available to Patriots OC Josh McDaniels during Tom Brady’s illustrious tenure with the franchise. His 58 rushing touchdowns since he entered the NFL in 2011 are tied for fifth-most among all players during that span, regardless of position.
Discounting his injury-shortened 2019 campaign, Newton has failed to top 450 rushing yards just once in his career (he finished with 359 in 2016) and never has averaged fewer than 4 yards per attempt. Under Turner in 2018, he carried the ball 101 times for 488 yards and four scores in 14 games.
“I think when you talk about Cam, you’ve got to look at the things he can do (with) the designed runs,” Turner said on SirusXM. “And I don’t think you have to do a lot of them, but I think if you do just enough and sprinkle it in, it can give the defense something they have to prepare for.
“And then the threat that I always thought was Cam’s biggest threat was when the play broke down and he was able to take off and run, particularly on third down, and get those big first downs. Through the first part of the (2018) season, he was very successful doing that.”
The wild card with Newton, of course, is his injury history. But Turner believes the QB will be ready to go.
“I think the biggest issue I would have is his health,” the coach said, “and I would have to think New England, before they signed him, were pretty darn thorough in terms of making sure he was healthy.”
Belichick said the Patriots “spent quite a bit of time” with Newton before signing him to a one-year, veteran-minimum contract last month. The 31-year-old will battle Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer for the starting job in Patriots training camp.