Putting some perspective on Cam Newton’s Patriots debut

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Cam Newton
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Cam Newton /

Former Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton made the most out of another starting chance in Week 1.

It’s fair to say that Cam Newton picked up where he left off in 2018 with the Carolina Panthers during a stunning debut for his new team.

The legendary signal-caller parted ways with the Carolina Panthers following a glittering stint that spanned nearly a decade. Things were handled poorly by the organization regarding Newton, who propelled the franchise to superstardom and a Super Bowl appearance.

This is a new regime that has its own ideas, which is fine. But a large section of Carolina’s fanbase felt that someone who had done so much deserved better.

Newton was released at a time when starting opportunities were scarce. He was on the free-agent scrapheap for three months before taking a bargain-basement deal with the New England Patriots that included just $550,000 in guaranteed money.

The 2015 NFL MVP won the No. 1 spot in no time at all and put the NFL on notice with a sensational performance in the Patriots’ season opener against the Miami Dolphins.

He was efficient throwing the ball, completing 15 of 19 passes for 155 yards and no touchdowns. But it was his impact in running situations that really caught the eye and is something that has become a trademark of his success in the NFL.

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels allocated 15 carries to his new signal-caller, where Newton recorded eight first downs, 75 rushing yards, and two touchdowns. This set the national media ablaze and had some Panthers’ fans wondering why the organization didn’t give him one more season after shoulder and foot injuries blighted his final 18 months in Carolina.

The former Carolina Panthers QB has plenty more to prove.

It was a superb start, of that there is little doubt. But let’s put some perspective on Newton’s opening performance.

This was the Dolphins, not the ’85 Chicago Bears. Miami gave up an average of 135 yards per game on the ground in 2019 and it doesn’t appear they have fixed any of these problems during a disrupted offseason of preparation.

It was the perfect game for Newton to come back. It enabled him to find his feet and have his way with a Dolphins defense had no answer for him.

Newton’s performance also took some of the heat off his distinct lack of options at wide receiver and tight end. Bill Belichick has remastered New England’s offense to make the most out of the quarterback’s exceptional skillset. But more is going to be needed when they come up against better defenses who now know that the former No. 1 overall pick might be back to his best.

Pro Football Focus graded Newton’s performance at 68.3. His QBR was 79.9, which was only four points higher than the man replacing him with the Carolina Panthers, Teddy Bridgewater (75.5).

There isn’t a Panthers fan who isn’t hoping Newton does well in a different environment. But after having almost no national recognition despite his incredible success in Carolina, one game with the Patriots has got him back to center stage.

Running Newton 15 times every game isn’t going to be good for the player’s health, no matter how back to normal he appears. The player is a violent runner who gives up his body on almost every collision, something which played a leading role in his eventual demise in Carolina.

We are going to know more about Newton over the next four weeks. The Patriots are scheduled to take on the Seattle Seahawks, Las Vegas Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs, and Denver Broncos up to Week 5, which is a stark contrast in talent to the one he came up against in Week 1.

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Crowning him as a potential MVP candidate and Comeback Player of the Year might be a little premature. It was a very good start whichever way one looks at it. But there is an awful long way to go.