The New England Patriots have signed former league MVP Cam Newton to a one-year deal, and while there’s a lot of media attention that comes with that hype, it must be realised that this is functional rather than groundbreaking.
Newton is going to be in Foxboro for a single season and the reason for that is because the Patriots simply won’t pay him to be there beyond that. If things go badly, he’s a needless distraction – and if things go well, he wants the money he could previously command. Neither of these two things sit well with that front office.
You see, the man who was slated to be their starter, Jarrett Stidham, is 23 years old, and the Patriots have him in their system at the minimum cost for three years. That means he’s being groomed – just like he would have been if Tom Brady had stuck around – to take the reins in New England at a cost-effective price.
Newton has elite-level IQ and while that will help New England in the short-term, it will also benefit them long after he’s left the organisation, through the arm of Stidham.
Let’s take a play here and watch how clever Newton is at the line of scrimmage – the skillset that young quarterbacks like Stidham find the toughest to adopt.
This is against Green Bay a few years ago.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) June 29, 2020
Newton reads the coverage as Cover 1 Spy, where a single-high safety doubles a primary receiver. In this situation, it’s the receiver to the leftmost side of the screen.
Spy plays are rolled out by defences acing a mobile quarterback like Newton and designate a player to essentially man-mark the QB: follow his eyes and tackle him if he moves beyond the line of scrimmage. Everywhere else, he’s got one-v-one matchups and his best mismatch here is Christian McCaffrey.
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What’s rare here is that AJ Hawk, Green Bay’s defensive captain, calls out what route he thinks McCaffrey is running. Newton laughs back and changes the concept to a Texas route, which sees the running back start to go outside before quickly changing to a diagonal route, away from the coverage prompted by Hawk. Greg Olsen, the Panthers tight end, also ensures there’s enough contact with the man responsible for McCaffrey to give him a yard.
This level or football intelligence, and only this, is the reason Newton is in the building.
Newton won’t be feeling the pressure to learn a new scheme as Josh McDaniels’ is so unique that a long-term engagement with it won’t benefit him. The Patriots, even if Newton returned to 75% of his old self, would still be very much up against it in the AFC East just because the Bills are so far ahead in terms of roster structure.
Some might have dropped them to the third-ranked team in the AFC East because of the evolving situations in both Miami and New York, but Newton’s veteran presence makes them finishing exactly second in the AFC East a huge-looking price.
The Patriots Win total line at 9.5 looks well-informed, as I’d pencil them in for nine wins and it’s no surprise to me to see top of the betting.
I couldn’t advise against it at the prices, either.
And with that win total in a strong-looking AFC playoff picture, I would also side with the generous price of them not making the playoffs in 2020.