In the past, the New England Patriots have had to find creative ways of imitating mobile opposing quarterbacks in practice. That might not be necessary this season.
What better way to prepare for the parade of athletic signal-callers that populate their 2020 schedule.
“When you really watch Cam move, you can see how it’s going to help us get better as a team,” defensive tackle Lawrence Guy said Monday in a video call with reporters. “When you look around the league, there’s a lot of mobile quarterbacks, and he’s one of them — he’s one of the top ones to this day.
“So you have to be like, ‘How can we use his mobility?’ … Because as a defense, you get different teams different weeks, and we’ve got that aspect right now. We’ve got (quarterbacks) that can move. We’ve got people that can throw. We’ve got people that can change up plays. So it just helps you develop more and more as a team, and it helps (us defend) that situation and style of football.”
This season, New England is scheduled to face each of last year’s top four QB finishers in rushing yards — Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, Josh Allen (twice) and Deshaun Watson — plus Russell Wilson (sixth on that list), the elusive Patrick Mahomes and either Tyrod Taylor or rookie Justin Herbert.
The Patriots have struggled against athletic quarterbacks in years past and will be replacing their top three pass rushers from last season (Kyle Van Noy, Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins). Jerod Mayo believes the daily reps against Newton will pay dividends.
“When you look at our schedule this year, we’re going to play a bunch of mobile quarterbacks,” Mayo, the Patriots’ inside linebackers coach, said last week. “So any time you can go against a mobile quarterback each and every day in practice, it will definitely get us better on the defensive side of the ball. We’re looking forward to the challenge. I think Cam is a heck of a player. But I think our guys are looking forward to the opportunity to go against a guy like that each day.”
Veteran Patriots defenders are well aware of Newton’s capabilities.
The 2015 NFL MVP sliced up New England’s defense twice during his time with Carolina, totaling 107 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries in a pair of Panthers victories, one in 2013 and one in 2017. Newton also completed 71.9 percent of his passes in those games, throwing six for touchdowns with one interception.
Guy, who played in the 2017 meeting, echoed several of his teammates in saying he’s excited to have Newton aboard.
“You get a person like that — big body, mobile quarterback — it’s like, ‘This is going to be exciting when we get into practice,’ ” Guy said. “But the dynamic he brings into the locker room and everybody embracing him is the best part. Because we’ve got a unique team here, (and) once he came in, he’s fitting right in.
“I think (fellow QBs Brian Hoyer) and (Jarrett) Stidham are welcoming him with open arms. Them coming onto the field and hearing them talk, you can see them throwing different plays out and aspects out. So it’s going to be one of those things where we can’t wait to get the pads on to see how everything’s rolling together — with Cam being here, Hoy being here, Stidham — how the playbook’s going to come to life.”