FOXBORO -- Yesterday in this space we highlighted some of the difficulties that the Patriots had in containing Deshaun Watson's ability to scramble, extend plays, and pick up yardage down the field.
With Cam Newton headed to Gillette Stadium over the weekend, Bill Belichick indicated that his team's job will only get tougher in regards to limiting those types of plays.
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"Well, I think both guys probably have a few plays that are designed runs, and then there are other plays that are improvised runs," Belichick explained. "I think when you’re talking about mobile quarterbacks, guys that are tough to handle, tackle, can throw, run, make good decision -- I mean, I would put Newton at the top of the list."
Watson ranks No. 1 in the league, according to Pro Football, when it comes to longest average time to throw (3.27 seconds). Other mobile quarterbacks -- DeShone Kizer, Tyrod Taylor, Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers -- round out the top five in that category through three weeks this season. Newton is currently eighth on that list at an average of 2.76 seconds from snap to throw.
That's not all that far off from where Newton was when he was named MVP in 2015 (average of 2.85 seconds to throw). The difference this year is that regardless of when Newton throws, the results have been lacking.
In 2015, his quarterback rating on throws that took 2.6 seconds or more was 97.9 -- third best in the league. And he was even better when getting the ball out more quickly, recording a 101.4 rating on passes that occurred 2.5 seconds or less from the time the ball was snapped.
This year? It's a small sample, but his rating on longer-developing throws is 69.7. It's only slightly better when he throws it more quickly: 71.0.
Whether it's the shoulder injury that plagued him all offseason or turnover among the personnel with him in the offensive huddle, something's not allowing the Panthers offense -- which has scored 45 total points in three games -- to click.
Still, Belichick insisted on Wednesday that the Patriots have to respect Newton's ability to move in and out of the pocket to create explosive plays.
"Not saying that there aren’t a lot of other good players that do that, but I would say, of all the guys we play or have played recently in the last couple of years, he’s the hardest guy to deal with," Belichick said. "He makes good decisions. He can run. He’s strong. He’s hard to tackle. He can do a lot of different things, beat you in a lot of different ways. We saw that in the game down there in '13, so I would put him at the top of the list.
"Not saying the other guys aren’t a problem, because they are, but he’s Public Enemy No. 1."