The New England Patriots took a gamble when they let Tom Brady leave in free agency in 2020. It did not pay off, as the Patriots had their first losing season in 20 years and Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl victory. Cam Newton was the new starting quarterback, but he struggled at times.
New England’s shaky quarterback play was as big of a reason as any for the team’s struggles. Newton was tabbed as the starter, and things started well. He was one yard short on the road against the Seattle Seahawks of starting the season 2-0, but his season was derailed after a positive COVID-19 test following a Week 3 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders.
Newton only missed one game for the Patriots, but he was never the same afterward. He threw more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (8) and struggled to get the offense moving.
Newton is back in 2021 with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove. Here are three reasons Newton is primed for a bounceback this season.
3. Full Offseason Being Healthy
Cam Newton is another year removed from the shoulder surgery he underwent that caused him to play in only two games in 2019. Getting strength back in his arm and acclimating himself to the new throwing motion will help his production in 2021.
Also, the league getting back to normal will be beneficial. New England runs as complex of systems as anyone in the NFL. Learning that without being in person over Zoom meetings is not easy, but this year the teams are meeting in person back on the practice field.
Having a full offseason with the Patriots and being healthy will better prepare him for the grind of the regular season.
2. Better Supporting Cast
New England did no favors for anyone who was under center last season with the supporting cast they were provided. Julian Edelman could not stay healthy and former first-round pick N’Keal Harry is not living up to expectations. The front office made sure they would not have a repeat of that in 2021.
Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne were signed in free agency to bolster the wide receiver group. At tight end, New England landed arguably the two best players available in Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. Both are great blockers and pass catchers, leading people to believe they may go back to their two tight end sets with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez that dominated defenses.
1. Auditioning For Future Jobs
While Newton was brought back for this season, he is not the future for the Patriots. That honor falls upon Mac Jones, whom New England selected with the No. 15 pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Jones is coming from a pro system at Alabama and could be thrust into the starting lineup at any time. Knowing that his time may be limited, Newton will be motivated to perform with whatever opportunities that he gets.
This could be Cam Newton’s last chance to show that he can still be a starting quarterback in this league. Having a good performance with New England in 2021 could lead to more starting job offers in 2022, something he struggled finding after Carolina released him.