You’ve heard all offseason, even from Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane himself, the New England Patriots should still be the favorite to win the AFC East in 2020.
Fans have been so battered and beaten by the Patriots over the last two decades that despite New England losing Tom Brady, seemingly ready to start an unknown, 2019 fourth round QB in Jarrett Stidham, and losing multiple core defensive pieces like linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins, many believed the Patriots were still going to be a problem in 2020.
Even for Bill Belichick, arguably the best head coach (and defensive mind) of all-time, elevating such an untalented roster like the one he has in 2020 by himself was going to be a tough ask.
Then Sunday he signed Cam Newton……and suddenly everything changed. This should make you nervous. Newton under center makes all that talk about the Patriots not going away much more plausible for multiple reasons.
- Premature to say Newton will never get back to pre-injury form
Don’t let this confuse you. Newton’s injuries over the last two years is a real question mark. For a QB that’s strengths are throwing deep and running the football, having a serious shoulder and ankle injury in back to back seasons is no light matter. With that being said, to assume a 31-year old QB will never fully get back to their pre-injury abilities is crazy.
Maybe in the 1970s Newton’s injuries would make sure he was never the same elite dual-threat of the past. But it is 2020 and Newton has had two years to recover from his shoulder injury, and a year to recover from the ankle. This is a player that has stayed healthy for the vast majority of his career. If these two injuries are in the rear-view mirror, we could be talking about the Patriots acquiring a top-10 QB in late-June.
- Newton will help elevate the lackluster Patriots roster
Belichick has won championships without elite players across the board in the past. However, the coaching job he would have had to pull off in 2020 to get this Patriots team to the playoffs, let alone beat out a loaded Buffalo Bills for the AFC East crown, would have been a difficult feat.
Newton coming in to help with that task makes it much more realistic. The Patriots offensive talent is pretty brutal. A 34-year old Julian Edelman, a very average WR2 in Mohamed Sanu, and an unproven second-year WR in N’Keal Harry makes up New England’s WR core. The tight ends and offensive line aren’t in great shape either.
The good news for the Patriots is Newton has dealt with this his entire career. This is a player that won MVP, led the Carolina Panthers to a 15-1 regular season record, and a Super Bowl appearance in 2015 with Ted Ginn Jr., Philly Brown, and old man Jericho Cotchery to throw the football to.
Outside of 2018, Newton never had a good supporting cast. He was still a top-tier starting QB.
Give him Belichick and a defense that will keep the Patriots in every game? That could be enough to stay atop the conference.
- Josh McDaniels can get Newton back to his 2018 passing efficiency
While the Patriots can’t offer Newton the weapons he had in 2018 with the Panthers, they can provide one of the league’s best offensive coordinators to help get him back to what was his most accurate season passing from within the pocket.
The last time Newton was healthy, he and the 2018 Panthers were 6-2 at the halfway point. His statistics were on a similar pace to the ’15 MVP numbers.
When Cam Newton was healthy last in 2018 — pic.twitter.com/eK98fimD7p
— Louie DiBiase (@DiBiaseLOE) June 28, 2020
Of course, having guys that could actually separate from coverage for a change like Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore helped, but the Panthers new OC Norv Turner was crucial to Newton’s success in the short and intermediate areas as well. The 2011 first overall pick has always been one of the most accurate deep-ball passers, as well as an elite rushing QB, but those other areas of his game were never the strongest. That was until he was finally coached by an offensive mind not named Mike Shula.
Josh McDaniels should have the same affect on Newton in New England. McDaniels and Brady were an offensive machine for years, while he also got good play out of backups like Matt Cassel, Jimmy Garroppolo and Jacoby Brissett running the Patriots offense.
Cam Newton signing with the Patriots shouldn’t change the buzz around the Bills right now. Buffalo has an incredibly talented roster that got significantly better in the offseason. Coming off a 10-win season, they should still be seen as a playoff favorite in the AFC. Newton heading to the AFC East does however make things a lot more interesting in the division race.
New England is once again a legitimate threat that the Bills can’t take lightly.
Follow me on Twitter: @DiBiaseLOE