One of the noteworthy moments of Tuesday’s joint practice between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles did not involve a particular play made by either team, but rather K’Von Wallace screaming “Checkdown King!” across the line of scrimmage. The intended recipient? Patriots quarterback Cam Newton.
Wallace’s trash talk came one day after a challenging practice for the New England offense. The Monday session repeatedly saw Newton holding onto the ball for a significant time before ultimately throwing checkdown passes to his running backs.
“I had to let him know like, ‘Not only are you throwing checkdowns, you’re doing it over and over again like you’ve mastered it, like you’re the king of it.’ I had to let him know,” Wallace said on Tuesday. “‘You’re the king of checkdowns.’ But any way you can get in the quarterback’s head, that’s the best approach.”
Newton already looked a lot better during Tuesday’s practice, but he put it was not until the Patriots’ and Eagles’ preseason tilt two days later that he put the “Checkdown King” narrative to bed for good. The former league MVP, after all, had a magnificent performance against Wallace and the Philadelphia Eagles; he went 8-for-9 as a passer for 103 yards and a touchdown — all while building the foundation for a 35-0 victory.
The Patriots, of course, relied on various concepts to move the ball on Thursday. There were short passes and screen designs, but also the occasional shot down the field. Newton was pretty good on those, according to NFL’s NextGen Stats: he completed all four of his throws that traveled at least 20 yards of true air distance.
Among those throws was this 23-yard dart to wide receiver Kendrick Bourne:
.@CameronNewton with a strike to @BournePoly11— NFL (@NFL) August 19, 2021
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: https://t.co/PMCIWFqcJn pic.twitter.com/yFgp9iAJS7
When asked about the dubious title of “Checkdown King” after the game, Newton first revealed the nickname he himself had for Wallace: “Glitter.”
“He was cheerleading a lot on the sidelines,” Newton said about the second-year defender. “You know, cheerleaders usually have glitter on, so...”
The veteran quarterback led the Patriots to two touchdowns on three series as well as a missed field goal opportunity. After his solid performance, he did try to offer some context to those checkdown throws that Wallace apparently took exception to.
“He was out there. It was good. Tell his coach to play man-to-man then. I’m just doing what I’m told just like he’s doing what he’s told. If you feel like we’re checking down, just taking what the defense gives us...,” Newton said before engaging any further.
“There’s no need to kind of feed into this because anytime you have a joint practice with a bunch of alpha males, certain things are going to be said. But we did have fun, we did get better as a team and then we just came out here and sealed the deal as far as another notch of moving in the right direction as the season progresses, so that’s what it’s all about.”
The Patriots passing offense certainly looked better on Thursday than it did especially during that Monday practice. Not only did Newton completed 8 of 9 throws, rookie QB Mac Jones also went 13-for-19 for 146 yards.