There’s not much going on in the NFL world at the moment, so there’s a content void, and a content void usually leads to strong statements.
For instance: Guaranteeing Cam Newton will have a better season with the New England Patriots in 2021 than he did in 2020.
NFL.com contributor and former Dallas Cowboys executive Gil Brandt recently penned a story for the league website identifying the nine players he “guarantees” will be better this season.
No. 1 on that list? Newton.
“Don’t just take my word for it,” Brandt wrote. “The fact that Bill Belichick re-signed Newton to a one-year deal suggests the greatest head coach in NFL history believes Newton is ready to rebound from a rough season.”
That’s a fine enough point, although it’s probably worth pointing out Belichick continued to play Newton a season ago when the former MVP was just absolutely dreadful. Newton struggled to find anything resembling consistency in his first year in Foxboro. He looked good at times, like completing 77 percent of his passes in a last-second win over a hapless Jets team, and he also threw for 365 yards in a loss to an almost-equally listless Houston team.
In the five games following that Texans contest, though, he completed just 58 percent of his passes with a 63.9 passer rating on the strength of just one single touchdown pass and three interceptions. The Patriots went 2-3 in those games, scoring just 24 combined points in the three losses.
Yet, Belichick stuck with him as the starter, even as the season spiraled out of contention. So, using Belichick’s endorsement as a barometer for future success is no guarantee, at least not when it comes to Newton.
Brandt, however, rightly pointed out Newton’s COVID-19 diagnosis from which he should be completely recovered, while also saying there should be more familiarity this time around. For an offense that looked completely disjointed in 2020, that should be a good thing.
“Newton will benefit from spending the entire offseason with New England — last year, he didn’t sign until the end of June, giving him comparatively little time to adjust to the first team change of his NFL tenure — and from having some time in Josh McDaniels’ offense under his belt already,” Brandt wrote.
The Patriots will need that full allotment of time this season, as they overhauled the offensive arsenal, as Brandt also mentioned. Undoubtedly, Newton should be better when throwing to the likes of Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne.
He should, at least.
That’s still no guarantee. Newton’s mechanics looked very out of whack at times last season, and if he can’t figure that out, it might not matter if he’s got prime Randy Moss and Shannon Sharpe to throw to. Of course, if he can’t prove he’s in a better spot, he might find himself stapled to the bench sooner than later.
That threat, Brandt thinks, is a good thing for QB1.
“First-round pick Mac Jones will be lurking on the Patriots’ depth chart, meaning Newton should be motivated to prove he can still be a No. 1 quarterback in 2022, whether in New England or elsewhere,” Brandt wrote.
Newton probably will be better in 2021. It would be hard to not show improvement over a forgetful 2020 campaign. But we’ll need to see it on the field before we can truly believe it.
The only real guarantee for Newton this season is there should be far less margin for error this time around.