Heading into the New England Patriots‘ offseason, one of the major questions around Cam Newton has been related to his arm strength. Can he still make the throws necessary to provide an effective passing game for the Patriots’ offense?
While Patriots rookie Mac Jones has had his moments, Newton has proven his arm is still good enough to make the throws he needs. BR Gridiron posted this video compilation highlighting Newton’s ability to “sling it.”
This doesn’t look like a guy whose arm is shot.
Putting the Cam Newton Highlights Into Perspective
Highlight reels can be tricky.
By design, they show a player at their best while omitting the slip-ups. According to the numbers, for whatever they’re worth from training camp, Newton’s completion rate is down from last year’s workouts.
The Athletic’s Jeff Howe explains:
Based on practices reps, Cam Newton should be the starter, and it remains to be seen how many series he’ll play. Newton completed 103 of 165 passes (62.4 percent) with seven interceptions and seven drops in competitive team periods. He is also 43 of 78 (55.1 percent) with two interceptions in 11-on-11s against the starting defense. In comparison to his first training camp with the Patriots, his completion percentage is down by 2.3 points and his interceptions are up (five in 201 throws in 2020), so he might need to showcase his full repertoire throughout the preseason – including the running game that is a nonfactor in a practice setting – to establish why he’s the better option to start the season.
While Howe presents the numbers and some perspective, it is important to point out that most people who have been on hand for Patriots training camp sessions agree Newton has looked better this year compared to 2020.
Then why the dip in numbers? There are several factors that could explain the differences. He’s getting fewer reps as the Patriots work to get Jones up to speed, that’s true as Howe pointed out.
There is another factor as well, and it is the quality of the defense he’s facing when he goes up against the first team in 11-on-11 drills. New England’s defense is deep and talented, even without Stephon Gilmore on the field, who is still out with an injury and a contract dispute.
The Patriots’ pass rush has been lifted by a healthy and more experienced Josh Uche along with rookie Christian Barmore and newcomers like Davon Godchaux. Don’t forget the return of Dont’a Hightower who had opted out of the 2020 season.
All of it matters if you’re looking for context.
The Preseason Games Will Tell Us a Lot
Newton’s ability to make plays with his legs is easily the biggest advantage he has over Jones. From a pure athleticism standpoint, there is no competition.
Because of this–and his experience–if the passing efficiency is even close, you’d have to believe Bill Belichick will stick with Newton as his starter–which is what he has said multiple times.
We aren’t likely to get an opportunity to see Newton display his athleticism as a mobile QB until the preseason. At least we know that if he needs to, he can still drop the ball in the proverbial bucket for a receiver.
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