2020 was an odd season for the New England Patriots. Tom Brady was gone for the first time in eons and in his place was Cam Newton. The drop from Brady to Newton was obvious and it showed throughout the season.
The New England Patriots were far from satisfied with the QB situation and used a first-round pick on Mac Jones, their quarterback of the future. While Jones had a glowing scouting report in college, the jump up to the NFL is significant. Bill Belichick has since made it clear Cam Newton will start the season.
Then again, this is the NFL. The tables turn quickly. Cam Newton may be the Week 1 starter, but can he go the distance with Jones breathing down his neck?
Mac Jones at OTAs
Mac Jones is the biggest obstacle to Cam Newton finishing 2021. For Newton, it doesn't help that Mac Jones has already earned quite some praise from Bill Belichick.
According to CBS Sports, while speaking to the media after one of the practices, Belichick said, "I think Mac (Jones) has a pretty good understanding of the things that we do."
Belichick is usually slow to praise newbies. However, the fact that he is already giving some level of praise to Mac Jones should light a fire under Cam Newton.
That said, Newton has some things going his way as well.
Cam Newton's 2020
In 2020, Cam Newton stepped into the massive shoes of Tom Brady and was expected to somehow keep the show going with one of the weakest offensive rosters in the league. The Patriots' best skill position players were N'Keal Harry, Julian Edelman, and Damien Harris.
Edelman played only five games and retired at the end of the season due to injury. N'Keal Harry earned a 57.8 PFF grade and earned 309 yards and two touchdowns. Damien Harris played well, earning a 90.3 PFF grade. However, he only featured in 10 games and earned 691 yards and two touchdowns. Put simply, the skill positions were devoid of talent.
As a result, Cam Newton threw eight touchdowns and ten interceptions. Granted, he had some accuracy issues but he also did not have many wide open receivers. The team finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs. The offense ranked 27th overall.
Cam Newton's 2021
Bill Belichick went all out this offseason. The New England Patriots signed free agents Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith and Troy Fumagali.
If these signings replicate or better what they did for their former teams, the Patriots offense could be a different animal in 2021.
These players have added two Super Bowl appearances and plenty of playoff experience to the roster. With such a massive upgrade, receivers will be much more open and easy to hit for Cam Newton.
The 30th-ranked passing offense could easily jump into the late teens with these additions. If this happens, the 7-9 New England Patriots should be able to win a couple more games next season. If the 7-9 Patriots become a team over .500, they might find it hard to switch quarterbacks mid-season.
The only exception to this would be if the Patriots follow the lead of the Miami Dolphins last season, when they took out Ryan Fitzpatrick even though the team was still hovering around .500. Considering the Miami Dolphins' head coach is Brian Flores, a former disciple of Bill Belichick, this could be a possibility.
If Bill Belichick is willing to go down this route with Newton, his chances of surviving the season are slim. As things stand, Cam Newton is set to be the Week 1 starter. Newton and Jones profile as different quarterbacks, with Newton having a stronger game with his feet. Jones, however, has started to develop a reputation as a hard worker in training.
For now, Newton has the job. Does he have it locked for the season? Not quite.