The New England Patriots‘ offensive gameplan has been playing things extremely close to the vest all season. The team has rightfully leaned on the running game for the bulk of its success, and it has rarely taken shots down the field. Instead, the Patriots have lived, and more often died with the fate of short and predictable passing attack.
This might be an understandable approach if they were making do with a quarterback who was incapable of stretching a defense with longer throws, but that’s not the case.
Cam Newton can do more than what he’s being trusted to do, and it appears offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels might simply be using him incorrectly.
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Newton Has Historically Been Better on Medium and Deep Passes
Believe it or not, Newton has had the most success throughout his career throwing the ball deep. Yes, he’s found some success with check downs to excellent pass-catching running backs like Christian McCaffrey and tight ends such as Greg Olsen. However, if you look at the work he’s done in his career with guys like Steve Smith, Tedd Ginn Jr., Devin Funchess and Kelvin Benjamin, you’ll see that Newton has hurt opponents going down the field with a little more regularity.
Brina M. Hines of Pats Pulpit took a mailbag question from one of his readers and used it to offer some proof of what I’m saying here. Hines wrote:
The coaching staff often takes the blame for poor performances. You often hear Belichick say something along the lines of “Coaches have to coach better.” As for what they can do better, they can start by changing their Tom Brady-style offense. With Brady under center for the past two decades, New England made a living off of short passes and screens. But, that’s not Cam Newton’s strength as you often see his mechanics regress. Newton thrives when pushing the ball downfield, going 6-for-6 for 115 yards on intermediate passes compared to 18-of-24 for 158 yards on short passes. It’s not just a one-game sample either, on the season Newton is 21-of-34 (61.8 percent) for 532 yards with one touchdown and interception on passes that traveled more than 15 yards on the season (103.2 passer rating). On short passes this year, Newton is 148-of-211 (70.1 percent) for 1,368 yards with three touchdowns and six interceptions (80.4 passer rating). If the Patriots are going to let Cam throw the ball, they should let him air it out.
This isn’t to suggest Newton and the Patriots should start looking for streak routes every other play, but the deeper pass needs to be a bigger part of their overall approach.
What’s Left of the Patriots’ 2020 NFL Schedule?
- Week 12 vs. Arizona Cardinals – Sunday, November 29
- Week 13 at Los Angeles Chargers – Sunday, December 6
- Week 14 at Los Angeles Rams – Thursday, December 10
- Week 15 at Miami Dolphins – Sunday, December 20
- Week 16 vs. Buffalo Bills – Monday, December 28
- Week 17 vs. New York Jets – Sunday, January 3
Perhaps we’ll see a new wrinkle on Sunday when Newton and the Patriots host Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals.