Lots of Cam Newton speculation in this week's vacation-edition mailbag.
NOTE: As of July 7th, the Patriots had not officially announced the signing of Newton.
In Carolina, Cam Newton used Greg Olsen as his primary target. Do the Pats currently believe they have anyone to fill that role? Who is going to fill the vacancy at center? Two positions that are critical in my assessment to the upcoming year.
During Newton's time with the Panthers he had a lot of primary targets. When he was young he relied on Steve Smith quite often and the two hooked up 216 times for 3,313 yards and 15 touchdowns in their three years together. He also used Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess quite often after Smith left via free agency. Then it was Olsen and more recently Christian McCaffrey as Newton's favored target. The positive there to me is Newton has shown the ability to use a lot of different types of receivers, and that should help make his transformation to New England a bit easier. But if you're looking specifically for a tight end, then I'd look at a pair of rookie draft picks Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene. Bill Belichick traded up to get both in the third round and I expect at least one to make an impact. Certainly they won't immediately turn into Greg Olsen, but the potential for production is there.
With the (proposed) shortening of the NFL preseason by eliminating Weeks 1 and 4, what positions do you see having the toughest battles for roster spots, and who do think are either on the bubble or long shots? I know a lot can change once players take the field, but what would your early predictions be?
If there is less time to evaluate position battles it will likely only be in games, and for the most part that's probably the least important element to coaches. What will really be missed are the joint practices where coaches can work together creating scenarios and situations they want to specifically target, and that includes individual player evaluations. Clearly with these elements either being eliminated or greatly condensed this summer, coaches will have less information to use when determining the roster. I feel the battles for backup offensive linemen will be tight. Secondary receiver spots also should see some significant competition. On defense, the front seven should be pretty competitive as well, especially defensive tackle. Individual players at these spots would qualify as being on the bubble, but as you said we'll have to wait to see how things unfold on the field. Also, Belichick almost always makes a move with an established veteran or two, and with the cap situation a little tight it wouldn't be stunning to see a veteran or two go.
With the addition of Cam Newton could the Patriots add another playmaker for him in young 23-year-old tight end David Njoku? I think he would be a great addition. Make the room on roster and cap, please get him BB!
The news of Njoku requesting a trade in Cleveland certainly did not go unnoticed over the weekend. The fact that his agent is Drew Rosenhaus, who has worked with the Patriots in the past, also is worth noting. That said, with the two rookie tight ends coming in I'm not sure how much the offense would need Njoku. Clearly he has some experience in the league and has had some success, and he's under contract through 2021 which would make him attractive. If it could be worked out, it would be great to add a potential starter to the mix. But I wouldn't want to extend too much to get a player who might be an upgrade right now but won't necessarily remain one a year down the road.
Tom Brady was always so quick to get the ball out that his linemen typically only had to pass block for a few seconds. With Cam Newton running around, making tacklers miss while trying to bide time for his receivers to get open, how do you think this will affect the offensive line? Do you think they'll have a tough time adapting to such a different style at QB?
I do think this will be a bit of an adjustment, not just for the offensive line but for all of the offensive players. Newton likes to move around and buy time in and out of the pocket, so the blocking will need to be done for longer stretches and the receivers also need to continue working to get open even when it appears a play has broken down. How much of an adjustment that is for the other players remains to be seen, but it makes sense that Brady's style is much different from Newton's and require some sort of transition period. But having a mobile quarterback can also make life easier for those around him, as Newton has shown for almost a decade in Carolina.
Which body part will Newton injure first---and in which month? Also, when will the Pats and Antonio Brown's arbitration be heard? Predictions on how much Pats will get?
Always like the happy fans who are willing to embrace change. Cheap shot at Newton aside, there's no way of knowing how healthy he is at the moment and how much the shoulder and foot problems he's had in the recent past will manifest themselves this season. He could play all 16 games and stay healthy or another injury could pop up. It happens in the NFL, and it happens in every NFL city. But I'm not planning on sitting around waiting for Newton or anyone else to get injured. He claims he's feeling great physically and has shown us some videos where he's looked strong, although I don't read too much into those kinds of videos produced by the players themselves. Let's hope Newton can stay healthy and see how he performs. As for my predictions on the Brown grievance, I wouldn't expect the Patriots to get any money back.
Why is it that everyone is already penciling in Cam as the QB? I remember a time when Seattle signed the "hot" QB on the free agent market. Only problem was that some kid named Russell Wilson outperformed him in camp and won the job. Now I do think that since it is a low risk/high potential type of deal that it was a smart signing. But let's see how it plays out in camp. May the best man win.
We will see who ultimately winds up playing quarterback for the Patriots in 2020 but if Newton is healthy he will be the guy. Seattle signed Matt Flynn when Wilson beat him out during camp. Flynn started seven games in his entire career, so even though he was a reasonably hot free agent in 2012, he was not a former NFL MVP and had nowhere near the credentials that Newton owns. The only reason Newton was available is his health, and that would be the only way he loses his job to Jarrett Stidham as well, even though many have written that the Patriots will have an open competition at the position. We'll see how that unfolds this summer – hopefully.
Say Tom Brady and Cam Newton both play an entire season. Which team has more wins?
I feel the Bucs have more talent around Brady then the Patriots have around Newton so I'll go with Tampa. However, the Bucs also play in a much tougher division so perhaps that edge in talent will be mitigated somewhat. While the Patriots schedule is difficult overall, it does contain the AFC East opponents that have been unable to be competitive with New England for 20 years. Tampa has to deal with a legit Super Bowl contender in New Orleans as well as a talented Atlanta team plus Carolina. I will say the Bucs could win around 11 games where I'd put the Patriots slightly under that number – but clearly I'm just throwing darts here since we haven't seen how anything will work out on the field this season.