Cam Newton’s first season with the New England Patriots was a disappointment. While he did earn the starting job after signing a one-year contract and looked good early on during the 2020 regular season, a positive Covid-19 test ahead of a Week 4 contest in Kansas City halted his momentum.
Newton did only miss that one contest, but the lack of practice time in combination with his already late arrival and a below-average supporting cast contributed to him finishing as one of the worst statistical passers in the league: he ended his first season with the 28th best passer rating in football after going 242-for-368 for 2,657 yards, 8 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Based on this stat-line it does not come as a surprise that Newton was recently ranked among the worst starting quarterbacks in football. Pro Football Focus asked former NFL QB Bruce Gradkowski to preview all the passers in the league, and Newton found himself near the bottom of the list:
27. CAM NEWTON, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Newton didn’t join the Patriots until late in the offseason, which meant he had to learn a new offense in a shorter amount of time with no on-field work. He has another opportunity in the same system that catered to his strengths early in the season, which led to a league-high 12 rushing touchdowns. Newton’s inconsistency as a passer ultimately held the offense back, as he posted sub-60.0 passing grades in eight of his 14 starts. The additions the Patriots made this offseason through free agency and the draft, coupled with another year in the system, offer Newton a good opportunity to prove he can still play. Rookie Mac Jones will be waiting in the wings for his opportunity if things sputter.
The Patriots did re-sign Newton to a one-year contract before the start of this year’s free agency, but, as noted by Gradkowski, there is non guarantee the veteran will resume the starting spot this season: Mac Jones will be given every opportunity to prove himself, and could take over if Newton’s struggles continue despite an improved supporting cast and full offseason to prepare.
There is some cautious optimism surrounding his outlook for 2021, but until the product on the field reflects this and looks better than last year’s every potential outcome seems to be on the table when it comes to Newton’s 2021 season.