Patriots quarterback Cam Newton smiled ear to ear last week when asked how New England’s offense would look with him under center.
“You’ve just got to tune in and see,” Newton replied.
The Miami Dolphins, the Patriots’ Week 1 opponent, don’t have the option to turn on their television Sunday and switch over to CBS at 1 p.m. ET. They actually have to prepare for the complete unknown of Newton running a modified Patriots offense.
The Dolphins have some options when it comes to preparing for a mobile quarterback in the Patriots’ offense, however. They could watch the first four games of the 2016 NFL season when New England started Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett while Tom Brady was serving a four-game suspension. Dolphins head coach Brian Flores was the Patriots’ linebackers coach that season, so he probably remembers those games fairly well. Neither Garoppolo nor Brissett has Newton’s athleticism, but they are more mobile than Brady.
The Dolphins also could watch Newton’s old film, but the offenses he was running with the Carolina Panthers will look significantly different than Josh McDaniels’ system in New England.
Another option would be to check out the 2010 Denver Broncos when McDaniels was head coach and Tim Tebow was at quarterback. Tebow started just three games that season, however, and he doesn’t have Newton’s passing chops.
“In a lot of ways, you can drive yourself crazy going back to Tebow, going back to Carolina, going back to — yeah, we’ve watched a lot of film on him,” Flores said Wednesday in a video conference call. “But at the end of the day, it comes back to when you haven’t seen a team play a game or preseason or when you’re continually talking about the quarterback, but what are we going to see from an O-line standpoint? What are we gonna see at the receiver position? What are we going to see in the kicking game? What are we going to see defensively?
“There’s a lot of unknowns. So, we’ve done our work on really every aspect, but at the end of the day, we’ve got to follow our rules. We have to read our keys. We’ve got to rely on and believe in our fundamentals and technique, our conditioning and try to play a smart, disciplined football game against a good team that we know is going to be smart and disciplined.”
Most of all, the Dolphins simply need to treat Newton like any mobile quarterback.
“We just kind of refer to the mobile quarterback rules,” Flores said. “We want to keep them in a pocket. Obviously, Cam is very explosive; he’s a very accomplished and established player in the league. He’s made a lot of plays with his legs, with his arm. We want to keep him in the pocket, we want to try to limit those plays. At the same time, he’s going to create them in one way or another, that’s kind of been his M.O. over the course of his career.
“This will be a great challenge. It’s something we talked about across the board to have a total team effort defensively, covering the receivers, rushing the right way you know without giving up step-up lanes and waiting for him to take off. Yeah, it’ll be a challenge. We just kind of refer to our mobile quarterback rules.”
Teams typically at least have preseason film on their opponents at this time of year. All NFL preseason games were canceled this summer, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fans also were not allowed to attend training camp practices this summer, so media reporting rules were tightened, and there was no way to send a scout to an opposing team’s practice in incognito mode.
So, the Dolphins aren’t the only team in the dark heading into Week 1, but they do face a unique challenge.
Photo via New England Patriots