Cam Newton knows he has to play better to remain the New England Patriots’ starting quarterback. Fortunately, quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch remains optimistic that he can help Newton accomplish that goal.
It starts with practice. The Patriots have only practiced seven times all month after COVID-19 swept through New England’s locker room at the end of September. Things have returned mostly back to normal for the Patriots, and they should be able to hold three more regular sessions before their Week 8 matchup with the Buffalo Bills.
“We have to continue to get reps at all of our football plays that we run,” Fisch said. “I have to do a better job coaching. He has to continue to do a better job reacting and understanding that the looks are always going to be a little bit different. They are always going to be a little bit faster on Sundays and he is going to have to quickly translate the game from the practice field to the game field. We’re all going to have to do a better job helping him there.”
A regular return to the practice field also could help fix Newton’s mechanics, which seem to have faltered after the Patriots’ starting QB missed time after testing positive with COVID-19. As Newton’s footwork has been thrown out of whack, his throwing accuracy seemingly has worsened.
“Practice is what helps you there and when you don’t have as much practice time as he probably would have liked over the last three weeks, there’s some things that may or may not have slipped,” Fisch said. “We have to continue to build off of those. I don’t think there’s anything there that is a problem right now that is not fixable. He’s just going to continue to work at it and we’re going to continue to try and help him become better at everything he does.”
Fisch also said the Patriots have to find the proper balance with Newton, who makes some of his better plays in an improvisational setting. Newton has missed open receivers in recent weeks by holding the ball for too long in the pocket, however.
“I think what Cam has always been able to do is make the plays off schedule as much or more than some of the plays on schedule,” Fisch said. “What we’re trying to do is have that balancing act and help him find that balancing act. And us as coaches also continue to build off his skillset and the rhythm and timing of the passing game is always going to be a little bit different when you’re playing with a guy like a Cam who has had such experience extending football plays and making plays that are off schedule.
“What we’re learning through this process and are trying to fast forward the learning as quickly as we possibly can is when to maybe say no, when to let a play die and the also when to be able to extend a play. And really the teaching for us, and what we’re trying to educate Cam on and what Cam is educating us on, is the difference between a first-and-10 play and a third-and-long play, and the difference between a two-minute drive and call it the second drive of the second quarter. We all have to do a better job of really recognizing and learning how we can help him there and he can help himself as well.”
It seems as if the Patriots have identified why Newton, who has two passing touchdowns and seven interceptions on the season, is struggling. Now it’s about fixing those problems before the 2-4 Patriots’ 2020 season is lost.
If Newton continues to struggle, then Jarrett Stidham or Brian Hoyer could take over as the Patriots’ starting quarterback.