by William Muzio (@w_muzio) (@FF_Fanalysts)
I am not going to lie; I had my doubts about Cam Newton this year. He missed 16 games in 2 years, he had a career average 59.7 completion percentage and always relied on his legs to get the job done. With this in mind, the concerns seemed warranted. My initial predictions this offseason were the Patriots would limit Cams rushing in an attempt to preserve his health, they’d focus on the rushing game to divert attention from his poor accuracy and inefficiencies through the air and they’d use a mix of backs as they have in the past, depending on game script or skillsets for specific personnel packages. I could not have been more wrong about Cam week 1.
Breaking down the film Cam Newton looked fantastic. The low volume passing attempts were the only concern here, but it showcased a more efficient Cam. How much more efficient is the question? Well through Cam’s career he has averaged a measly 59.7 completion percentage with his highest finish ever being 2018 with 67.9%. Sunday’s game against the Dolphins, Cam was 6/ 9 for 72 yards the first half. He finished the 2nd half 9/10 for another 83 yards and finished the game 15/19 for 152 yards with zero touchdowns. For those who do not have a calculator in front of them or aren’t good with division in their heads, that’s a 78.95 completion percentage. On paper the yards and lack of touchdowns through the air are concerning, but watching tape, Cam did not need to pass; he just needed to manage the clock and move the chains. And that is exactly what he did. I have never thought of Cam Newton being a game manager, nor will I, But with Josh McDaniel’s calling the plays and Bill Belichick’s evil genius plan, Cam can be, simply by running the ball and killing the clock. Cam Newton ran the ball 15 times for 75 yards and 2 scores, which McDaniel’s said was a function of putting players in their best position to succeed. This is an element we haven’t seen in the Patriots offense in a long time. The Patriots up until this year had become very predictable, but with Cam Newton in town, this changes. Josh McDaniel’s using players’ talents creates more opportunities and will keep defenses honest. What will they do? That will be the question from every defensive coordinator moving forward. By utilizing Cam’s strengths McDaniels drew up a lot of options, designed runs, and limited Cams downfield throws in order to limit his risks and manage the game. There was a lot of dinking and dunking; in fact, his longest completion was 25 yards to tight end Ryan Izzo. However, highlighting Cam’s rushing game allowed the Patriots to manage the clock which in turn, managed the game. The Patriots dominated the clock. In the first quarter, the Patriots time of possession was 9:11 compared to the Dolphins 5:49. The 3rd quarter which was Cam’s most impressive on tape where he completed 8/9 passes for 74 yards the Patriots time of possession was 12:34 compare to 2:26 for the Dolphins.
— NFL (@NFL) September 15, 2020
On tape, Cam Newton looked fresh, strong, and accurate in the short game. He was able to read the defense well, changing plays at the line vs cover zero and moving the chains. McDaniel’s has already proven capable highlighting the strengths of Cam Newton, allowing and designing run plays for the versatile quarterback. If this type of usage and play calling is going to be the norm moving forward for Cam and the Patriots, we can expect to see career highs in rushing attempts and rushing touchdowns, as well as completion percentages. The arrow is pointing up for Cam Newton’s fantasy value and he is officially back in the discussion as a QB1 moving forward every week.
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