It's official, the New England Patriots are all-in on Cam Newton. On Thursday, the team officially named Newton its starting quarterback, while he was also voted a captain. The starting job under center was always Newton's to lose, getting named captain after just a few weeks with the team is a big deal. And it's a move that comes with almost no downside.
Newton signed a one-year deal with the Patriots on June 28 and in two months he's already a big part of the franchise. That speaks both to his ability and personality, and to the players on the roster who have bought in to what he can bring to the franchise. Now it's up to the 31-year-old former NFL MVP to perform.
Newton only played in two games during the 2019 season due to a Lisfranc fracture. That followed several seasons in which he was bothered by shoulder injuries. The 2020 campaign is his chance to turn his career around.
He played in 14 games during the 2018 season and had one of his better years, completing a career-best 67.9 percent of his passes for 3,395 yards with 24 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and an average of 7.2 yards per attempt. His passer rating of 94.2 was the second-best of his career, behind his MVP season in 2015 (99.4). The Patriots would take a season like that in a heartbeat.
Accuracy has never been Newton's strong suit though. The 2018 season seemed like an aberration for a guy with a career 59.6 completion percentage. He'll need to step that up to succeed in a Josh McDaniels offense that relies heavily on pinpoint passes. Tom Brady only completed 60.8 percent of his throws in 2019 and New England's offense was a disaster as a result.
The key for Newton's success will be the offense around him. The Patriots' offensive line and receivers have to step up. The receiving corps in particular has to be better than the sum of its parts. N'Keal Harry has to deliver on his immense promise quickly, while Julian Edelman must continue to defy Father Time, and one of the unheralded guys must step up.
The Patriots are now Cam Newton's team. It's a bold, calculated move from Bill Belichick & Co. If Newton succeeds, they'll all look like geniuses. If he fails, the Patriots will likely wind up with a high first-round pick in draft loaded with quarterback talent.
Going all-in on Newton was smart and doesn't really have a downside.