The New England Patriots coaching staff is taking heat for their approach with Cam Newton. Stats prove something many aren’t willing to accept about the QB’s play.
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Let Cam Go Down the Field With the Passing Game
The cries for Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to open up his attack are getting louder by the day. Newton’s deep completion for a TD to Damiere Byrd only further validated the claims of those who are longing for an offense that attacks defenses beyond 15 yards.
Stats show that Newton has historically had success passing the ball deep, and this year, he the vast majority of his interceptions have come on shorter throws.
Likewise, most of his bad throws have been on the shorter passes too. So this is pretty simple, right? Not exactly.
Next-Gen Stats Say the Short-Passing Game is Working
The Patriots’ social media team is clearly hearing all of the attacks on McDaniels’ approach with Newton, and they posted an image powered by Next-Gen Stats that seem to support continuing the short-pass attack–specifically against Sunday’s opponent, the Arizona Cardinals. Take a look:
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) November 27, 2020
As the video states, Newton is coming off one of his best passing performances in the loss to the Houston Texans. Newton’s efficiency on short to intermediate passes is on the rise. Since Week 8, Newton has completed just under 71 percent of those throws. That’s a seven-percentage point improvement. His passer rating is almost 30 points higher in that category as well.
The video closes out by saying, “while the home run ball is exciting, singles and doubles in this case may be the best way for Cam to put points on the board.”
Sounds like the social media department is prepping us for more dink and dunk.
Both Camps are Right
As I’ve said in the past, it’s all about balance.
The short passing game has worked beautifully, especially in the screen game. Veterans James White and the now-injured Rex Burkhead have thrived in these looks. Jakobi Meyers has proven excellent on short slants, shallow crosses, and curls routes, and there is reason to believe that newly signed tight end Jordan Thomas and underachieving rookie Devin Asiasi might also find some success on these throws.
That said, if we’re to continue to see a bit of what we saw from Byrd on Sunday, the Patriots are going to have to take more shots down the field. Meyers can also extend some of his routes in certain situations, and N’Keal Harry could definitely benefit from some one-on-one situations that allow him to use his big body to pull down some shots down the field.
The deeper passing game could also help to provide some running lanes for Newton in the scramble and even designed-QB-run looks. The problem isn’t the short game per see, it’s more the lack of diversity.