Patriots

Deion Branch 'excited' to see what Patriots offense looks like with Cam Newton

Deion Branch 'excited' to see what Patriots offense looks like with Cam Newton

The New England Patriots offense could look very different during the 2020 NFL season, and not just because Tom Brady is no longer the team's starting quarterback.

Not only will the Patriots enter a season with a new starting QB for the first time since 2001, the actual scheme and identity of the offense might take on a totally new form. The reason for that is the arrival of veteran quarterback Cam Newton, who the Patriots recently signed to a one-year contract reportedly worth up to $7.5 million.

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Newton is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks the league has ever seen. His passing ability is impressive, no doubt, but he really puts pressure on opposing defenses with his legs. The 31-year-old veteran has ran for 500-plus yards in six of his nine pro seasons, and his 58 career rushing touchdowns are the most by a quarterback since he entered the league in 2011.

Former Patriots wide receiver and Super Bowl XXXIX MVP Deion Branch is pretty excited about the Newton addition for New England, and he can't wait to see how the coaching staff, including offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, devises a game plan to maximize Newton's unique skill set.

“I expect big things,” Branch said in a recent interview on CBS Sports Radio's "The Zach Gelb Show". “I’m just excited to see what Josh McDaniels can come up with, with this type of athlete. He’s had, with Tom, the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. That’s the easy part. But the Patriots have never had a dual-threat quarterback such as Cam Newton at the helm. So I'm excited to see -- Josh is a brilliant offensive coordinator. This is going to be exciting to see what these guys can create, and what they can come up with. If they can make this work — just to see what it looks like. I'm excited for him. I know Cam is excited for another opportunity."

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McDaniels has done a tremendous job in New England. The Patriots' ability to change their identity and offensive gameplan based on the upcoming week's opponent is quite impressive. They've been able to win games in a lot of different ways, whether that means throwing the ball 40 times or bullying defenses with a power running game.

Newton brings a skill set we've rarely seen in the Patriots offense. His ability to throw the ball with success and also take off into the open field like a running back gives McDaniels a ton of different plays and packages to run that the team hasn't used much in recent years.

It remains to be seen if Newton will be able to bounce back from last season's injury woes and rediscover the form that made him a top 15 QB on a consistent basis, but watching him in the Patriots offense will certainly be among the most compelling storylines of the 2020 season.

Why Cam Newton is so excited about 'surreal' opportunity with Patriots

Why Cam Newton is so excited about 'surreal' opportunity with Patriots

Cam Newton didn't particularly enjoy going unsigned for four months in free agency. But he seems very pleased with where he finally landed.

During his first video conference with reporters since signing with the Patriots last month, Newton shared his first impression of New England. Surprise: it was a positive one.

"I was just blown away by the overall professionalism of the Patriots organization, starting with Robert Kraft, with Coach (Bill) Belichick as well as with (offensive coordinator) Coach Josh (McDaniels)," Newton said. "I do know I was in L.A. (when the Patriots called me) and it kind of caught me by surprise. But at the same time, I enjoyed this whole process."

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Newton has massive shoes to fill after Tom Brady led New England to nine Super Bowl appearances and six championships over the last two decades. He also has a chip on his shoulder playing on a bargain contract with the Patriots after 31 other teams wrote him off this spring due to potential injury concerns.

For all of Newton's confidence in his ability to silence his critics, though, the 31-year-old still finds himself marveling at where he ended up.

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"I'm still constantly -- I don't want to say in disbelief, but it's just a surreal moment," Newton said. "Nobody really knows how excited I am just to be a part of this organization in (more) ways than one.

"Following up such a powerful dynasty that has so much prestige and lineage of success -- a lot of people would hide from the notion to do certain things, but for me, I think this opportunity is something that I wake up pinching myself each and every day."

Newton has spent about a week at his new workplace as the Patriots continue Phase 1 of training camp at Gillette Stadium. And as he alluded to on Instagram last week, he's fired up about simply pulling into the parking lot.

"It's so surreal coming down 1 Patriot Place each and every day and seeing the whole ambience," Newton added. "Not only that, but seeing so much support around the city of Boston and Foxboro. It's just such a great environment."

Newton is a nine-year NFL veteran with three Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl appearance under his belt, but like his Patriots predecessor, a change in scenery appears to be giving him new life.

Bill Belichick confident in Patriots' safety protocols despite opt-outs

Bill Belichick confident in Patriots' safety protocols despite opt-outs

The New England Patriots already have had eight players opt out of the 2020 NFL season, and few would blame Bill Belichick -- the oldest head coach in the league at 68 -- if he made a similar decision.

So, did concerns about COVID-19 lead Belichick to consider not coaching in 2020? It doesn't appear so.

"I feel very good about the environment that we're in," Belichick said Friday in a video conference with reporters. "I feel fine."

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Belichick also confirmed no coaches on his staff have backed out of the 2020 season.

The Patriots are in the "acclimation period" of training camp, with players going through non-padded walk-throughs outside Gillette Stadium as they ramp up for their first padded practice on Aug. 17.

According to Belichick, the players and staff in the building feel confident in their safety so far.

"I can't speak for everybody, but I think my impression is that as an organization, as a coaching staff, the support people, the players -- there's a comfort level with what we're doing and who's doing it and how we're doing it, and we're being productive," Belichick said.

"So, if concerns or problems come up, then we'll address those. But right now, I think it's a good working environment. We're getting a lot done."

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The Patriots, like every other team, have to follow rigorous safety protocols that include frequent COVID-19 tests, temperature checks and physical distancing measures. That "new normal" will take some getting used to, but Belichick believes the protocols have helped create an environment that coaches and staff feel safe in.

"The organization has taken a lot of steps to ensure everyone's safety and opportunity to do their job and do it safely and do it productively," Belichick said. 

"Certainly there's a lot of responsibility on each one of us to do things in a way that doesn't affect others negatively, that we take the proper precautions that we can and should, so that's what we're doing."