Pats’ New­ton must beat ’em at own game

Young QBs in AFC play a style he helped cre­ate

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - Mike Pre­ston

The 2020 NFL sea­son be­came a lot more ex­cit­ing Sun­day night, es­pe­cially in the AFC, when for­mer Carolina Pan­thers quar­ter­back Cam New­ton re­port­edly agreed to a oneyear con­tract with the New England Pa­tri­ots.

Ev­ery year, there is al­ways a sur­prise team or two head­ing into the post­sea­son, but the pow­ers from a year ago — the Ravens, Hous­ton Tex­ans, Kansas City Chiefs and Buf­falo Bills — ap­peared to be in con­trol again.

Then New­ton re­port­edly agreed to a deal worth about $7.5 million with the Pa­tri­ots and their ge­nius of a head coach, Bill Belichick.

Within hours, New England’s chances of win­ning the Super Bowl im­proved in some cir­cles from 28-1 to 25-1, and its chances of an­other AFC East division ti­tle in­creased from 17-10 to 13-10, which has the Pa­tri­ots as co­fa­vorites with the Bills.

But let’s re­move Belichick from the equa­tion for a minute and look at the AFC’s top quar­ter­backs.

There is La­mar Jack­son in Bal­ti­more, Kansas City’s Patrick Ma­homes, Hous­ton’s De­shaun Wat­son and the New York Jets’ Sam Darnold. And now you can throw New­ton into the mix.

Of course, New­ton has to show that he is no longer in­jury prone. He was both­ered by shoul­der and foot in­juries dur­ing the past two sea­sons, in­clud­ing a Lis­franc frac­ture that lim­ited him to just two games last sea­son.

But Belichick in no dummy, which is why he has won six Super Bowl rings. As Hall of Fame quar­ter­back Warren Moon tweeted Sun­day night, “a great or­ga­ni­za­tion knows great tal­ent.”

Ac­cord­ing to re­ports, Belichick has been slowly court­ing New­ton since the vet­eran parted ways with the Pan­thers in March. He got a pos­i­tive re­view and en­dorse­ment of New­ton from Norv Turner, the Pan­thers’ for­mer of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, and if New­ton doesn’t pan out, he’s only signed for one sea­son.

But if New­ton is at least 75% of his old self, he’ll beat out vet­eran Brian Hoyer and sopho­more Jar­rett Stid­ham for the start­ing job, un­less Stid­ham is the next Tom Bradyin-wait­ing. If that were the case, there wouldn’t have been a need to sign New­ton, whose ego is the size of Mount Rush­more.

The Pa­tri­ots and New­ton are a good match. For nearly two decades, the NFL couldn’t stop New England’s of­fense with Brady, who had the mo­bil­ity of a statue. Now the Pa­tri­ots have New­ton, who brings an ex­tra di­men­sion to the of­fense be­cause of his elu­sive­ness.

New­ton might not be what he used to be, but his body has had al­most a year of rest. If you watched him re­cently on In­sta­gram, he looked more like the Cam of old than an old Cam.

When you mix in the play-call­ing of co­or­di­na­tor Josh Mc­Daniels and an op­por­tunis­tic (but over­rated) de­fense, all of a sud­den there is a bet­ter feel about the Pa­tri­ots.

And then there is the X-fac­tor.

Belichick is al­ready con­sid­ered one the game’s great­est coaches, but he will be out to prove that he can win with­out Brady, who is now with the Tampa Bay Buc­ca­neers. New­ton, at age 31, wants to be the Come­back Player of the Year.

If he has a great sea­son, he might com­mand one more lu­cra­tive mul­tiyear con­tract. Some­times when you chal­lenge great­ness, the re­sults are even greater.

Be­fore there was a Ma­homes, Wat­son or

Jack­son, New­ton was the pro­to­type of the new style of quar­ter­back. He was big, fast, strong and made good de­ci­sions on the run.

In nine sea­sons with the Pan­thers, he earned three Pro Bowl in­vi­ta­tions, was the 2011 NFL Of­fen­sive Rookie of the Year and the league’s Most Valu­able Player in 2015. He threw for 29,041 yards and 182 touch­downs dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son and rushed for 4,806 yards and 58 touch­downs dur­ing his time in Carolina.

In­deed, he was the NFL’s Super Man. Now he has his cape on again play­ing in the Bos­ton area with one of the great­est coaches ever.

Who knows if he can if he can fly again, but at least it will be fun to watch. And if he can, that’s bad news for the rest of the AFC.

GRANT HALVERSON/GETTY

It will be in­ter­est­ing to see if Cam New­ton can re­gain his old form to help the Pa­tri­ots.

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Ravens quar­ter­back La­mar Jack­son (8) is big, fast and strong — like Cam New­ton.

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