Cam Newton has been in the Patriots offense for a little over a month and he's made remarkable strides in the team's well-established offense in that short time. Some days have been better than others, but Newton continues to progress and is quickly gaining a grasp on the system.
"Obviously, learning a 20-year installment of plays all in a short time span, it's been challenging but again it would've been more challenging if I didn't have the tutelage of Coach Josh and Coach Jed, and even the help of the other quarterbacks," said Newton on Wednesday after practice via Webex.
"It's extremely valuable for me and my growth in this offense. To continue to grow I'm just trying to take the lead of the guys that have been here before me, the Hoyers of the world, the Stidhams of the world."
"[Cam]'s worked very hard, picked things up well," said Bill Belichick on his morning Webex call. "Of course, Stid [Jarrett Stidham] and Brian [Hoyer] have a little more experience in the system. Cam obviously has more playing experience."
Newton has quickly caught the attention of practice observers but not just for his work under center. His playful energy has been on display throughout the sessions and he's given many of his offensive teammates their own handshakes.
"We have to make sure we hold each other accountable and that's all I'm trying to do," said Newton of the special greetings. In all, Newton has done a good job assimilating into New England, dismissing any preconceived notions he or the team might've had about each other.
"Walking into this locker room, there's been such a good energy here, I just wanna make sure I do my part," said Newton.
While all the quarterbacks, backs and receivers have gotten plenty of work together, Newton has put in extra work with some of his pass catchers. After a particular missed connection with Mohamed Sanu in Wednesday's practice, Newton and Sanu were later seen working on their own to get the play right.
"I think the thing about this particular [receiver] group that's so fascinating is that as long as we keep pushing, they're going to keep accelerating," said Newton. "It wasn't good enough, so we have to make it good enough."
With just over two-and-a-half weeks until the first game of the season, Newton will have to continue to stack successful days. He's come a long way, but there's still a long way to go.
"I think it's a work in progress every day for me," said Newton. "Every day is a work day, every day is another day to learn more. It's more or less trying to manage this offense in a way that I feel comfortable and every day is a new challenge."
Simon stepping up
Since arriving in late September of 2018, John Simon has slowly carved out a important role in the Patriots defense. He started 13 games in 2019, logged four sacks and put together the best all-around season of his career. Now, with turnover along the edges of the Patriots defense, Simon is suddenly one of the veteran leaders of the defensive front.
"John's really a good football player," said Bill Belichick on Wednesday. "He's a very dependable and consistent player, has really emerged as one of the leaders on our defense."
"To be a leader you have to be yourself and guys can sense if you're being false," said Simon. "I'm just going out there trying to lead by example as I always have tried to do."
Simon's versatility in the front seven has been a major plus for the defense. He can play a variety of positions and has schematic flexibility, quickly becoming the latest in a long line of movable defensive chess pieces.
"I think I've been fairly comfortable in the system for a while now, but you can't let yourself get too comfortable," said Simon. "It's a tough business, you have to keep performing well."
Simon could be even more involved in 2020 as he continues to chase daily improvement.
"I think there's always stuff I can improve on, maybe not athletically, I just do film study, drill work, working my techniques, knowing how to play off my teammates and things like that," said Simon. "That's a constant process you're developing over and over and it continues all season"
Webex Quotes of Note
Stephon Gilmore on Gunner Olszewski:
"He's definitely gotten better. I think he's gotten stronger, he's quicker, he knows the offense better. So he definitely took a step from last year. Competing against him you know he's going to go hard every snap, that's one thing about him. He's very fearless, he doesn't care, that's the way you have to be to be a good receiver in this league."