It’s far easier to write off Cam Newton after his underwhelming 2020 with the New England Patriots than it is to envision a bounce-back performance in 2021.
After all, Newton is entering his age 32-campaign and has dealt with injuries in recent years, thanks in large to the punishment he’s absorbed as a dual-threat quarterback.
But while the three-time Pro Bowl selection really hasn’t been a top-tier QB since winning the MVP Award in 2015, he still has his share of believers, including throwing coach Tom House, who this week on NBC Sports Boston’s “Patriots Talk Podcast” predicted a career renaissance for Newton.
“It was the perfect storm in the wrong direction,” House said of Newton’s final days with the Carolina Panthers and first season in New England. “I’m looking at the perfect storm in the right direction this year.”
Why the optimism? Well, House, who’s worked with a host of other quarterbacks, including Tom Brady, pointed to both health and circumstance.
Not only did Newton undergo two shoulder surgeries and a foot surgery prior to joining the Patriots, which threw a wrench into any normal preparation. He also needed to learn a new offensive system during an offseason and season made abnormally difficult by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“What people don’t realize is Cam has been injured, and he hasn’t had the ability to work on mechanics like he should or could have because his health was an issue,” House told NBC Sports Boston’s Tom Curran and Phil Perry. “And what you saw last year with the pandemic and all the upheaval and all the weird things that were going on with the day-to-day process, he probably didn’t have the time, or what I would say is his efforts had to be directed toward just plain competing.
“But Cam is a great athlete. I got to know him a little bit when he was working on his shoulder rehab. There’s nothing he can’t do. You’ve seen him, he’s a physical specimen. And he’s still in his skill acquisition window, so I’m going to assume that the people there (in New England) can help him with his throwing mechanics.”
It doesn’t help, either, that Newton contracted the coronavirus before New England’s Week 4 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs this past season, a setback that seemingly derailed any momentum he had established over the Patriots’ first three games.
Plus, in hindsight, the Patriots didn’t put much talent around Newton in 2020, a situation that figures to be much different in 2021 after New England splurged in free agency. The Patriots added tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry and wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, among others, this offseason after re-signing Newton to a one-year contract.
“Cam will throw the ball better this year than he did last year,” House said. “He was in a reframing, a repatterning mode during the COVID stuff, and because of all the weird, unpredictable things, wasn’t able to focus on mechanics as much as he should. But don’t bet against him because he’s physically one of the best athletes I’ve ever been around.”
Will Newton be the starter this season? So far, it looks that way, with Jarrett Stidham and Jake Dolegala the only other quarterbacks on New England’s depth chart. We probably shouldn’t rule out anything, though. The Patriots still could add a QB via trade, free agency or the NFL draft.
Of course, that decision is out of Newton’s control. For now, he just needs to focus on improving his own craft, which won’t be easy given his age and injury history, but nevertheless remains possible for the reasons House outlined.