Why We Can’t Blame Cam Newton For The Patriots Struggles

by Matt Moulaison (@mattressboomin)

 

Patriots fans: I know it’s a lot to go from making the Super Bowl nearly every year to have a season like this. I get it, but, let’s not be so fast as to blame Cam Newton for all of the team’s problems. Cam Newton is still one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL! Is anyone really going to sit here and tell me that this season is all on this 6’5 245-pound beast? If you then buckle up and get ready, I’m going to try and change your mind.

 

Going from Tom Brady to Cam Newton is peculiar, to say the least; they are entirely different when it comes to their style of play. Brady likes to sit in the pocket and dissect the defense whereas Cam likes to scramble and find an open receiver or run the ball.  The Patriots haven’t had a quarterback that can do that in 20 years, so it is challenging for Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels to come up with an offense for Cam in such a short amount of time.  They basically had to flip their whole playbook around and they don’t really know how to use Cam just yet.

 

For example, when Cam was in Carolina (and Auburn) he would run basically everywhere whereas in New England they really only make Cam go up the middle.  Their designs for QB runs need work and, again, that is not their fault because they had Tom Brady for 20 years and there’s no way he’s running the ball (unless it’s the Chiefs). But, Cam’s strongest ability is his power; when you have 3rd and 1 or 4th and short Cam is definitely getting you that first down. 


I believe that if Cam Newton sticks around after this season, the Pats will figure out how to use him in the right ways.

 

Now… I don’t want to speak ill of any NFL talent but let’s be honest here… Cam’s receivers are not the best. The Patriots are fielding one of the worst receiving cores in the league and they rank at the bottom of the league in terms of separation from their defenders. According to the NFL’s Next Gen stats, only 29.5% of their targets have been deemed “open” (three or more yards of separation) which is the sixth-lowest in the league (Mike Reiss of ESPN). This forces Cam to throw into tighter windows.  If that wasn’t enough to convince you that Cam isn’t being given the tools to succeed, keep in mind that the Patriots don’t have a deep threat receiver that can go over the top when needed. With no deep threat, it becomes easier for the defense to blitz and get after the QB.

 

Cam also has one of the strongest arms in the league and if he had any sort of consistent deep threat option he would make good use of them. The Patriots don’t have anyone like that. The only person that defenses need to prepare for when they play the Patriots is Cam Newton and obviously, that makes it hard for Cam. Newton’s biggest threat on offense is himself, which explains why he has more touchdowns than anyone on the team.

 

Cam is doing the best he can with what he has for weapons on his offense. Another reason why we can’t put all the blame on Newton is that the Patriots defense has really been struggling this season after several opt-outs because of COVID-19, most notably Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung. In particular, the Patriots defense has been struggling against the run this year. On November 1st, 2020 against the Bills they allowed nearly 200 rush yards, and most of those were by Zack Moss: a backup running back.

Editor’s Note: I almost traded for Zack Moss after that performance. I was completely sold. That’s how bad the Patriots Run D was that day.

A lackluster defense has proved to be the downfall of the Patriots at times this season, and who knows what’ll happen when the Cardinals roll into town.

Now, I’m not saying Newton has been perfect by any means, but he has been holding his own.  Even though it’s easy to simply blame Newton for the Patriots’ 4-6 record, it isn’t fair… especially coming off a 20 year run of dominance.  Cam has stepped up to the plate and kept the Patriots in plenty of games they shouldn’t have been in, like the Week 2 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. The Patriots were in that game till the very end entirely because of Cam (and Edelman). The Patriots have been struggling this season, yes, but again we can’t pin it all on Newton. We all know how great Cam Newton can be! He is one of the most potent quarterbacks to play the game, if not the most. He can do it all and once the Patriots figure out how to use him you will regret saying this season’s struggles have been on Cam. He’ll continue to be a QB1, in fantasy and in the NFL, the moment he’s given a situation he can succeed in.


 

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