It wasn't all that long ago that Cam Newton was a good quarterback in the NFL. Very good, even.
Through the majority of the 2018 season, before a shoulder injury worsened and sapped his production, he was among the top passers in the league.
Download the MyTeams app for the latest Patriots news and analysis
Consider some of these numbers...
Through Week 9 of the 2018 season — just two seasons ago — Newton ranked in the top five in Pro Football Focus' positively-graded throw rate.
Through Week 9 of the 2018 season — just two seasons ago — he gave his receivers a chance to make plays, checking in with the eighth-lowest uncatchable pass rate, per PFF.
Through Week 9 of the 2018 season — just two seasons ago — PFF graded him as the 11th-best passer in football.
Through Week 11 of the 2018 season — just two seasons ago — Newton had a 68.4 completion percentage. Had he stayed healthy enough to maintain that number, that would've placed him seventh in that category that season.
Through Week 11 of the 2018 season — just two seasons ago — Newton had a quarterback rating of 102.7, which was seventh in the league at that time.
Through Week 11 of the 2018 season — just two seasons ago — he also remained one of the premier run threats at the position, picking up 141 scramble yards on 21 scrambles (an average of 6.7 yards per non-designed rush), according to PFF. That was a slightly better average than the significantly-younger scrambling passer Dak Prescott (6.5 yards per scramble).
And that was with a right shoulder that needed surgical repairing in January following the season. His yards-per-attempt figure for the season ranked him 22nd, an indication he was not pushing the ball down the field all that often or that successfully.
Here’s a good illustration of just how ineffective Newton was passing downfield that season.
Cam Newton's 2018 shoulder injury illustrated: pic.twitter.com/AWTzR9k4AK— Dan Pizzuta (@DanPizzuta) June 29, 2020
Newton’s shoulder should’ve been in good shape for 2019 but we hardly got a good look at him. He broke his foot in preseason, throwing off his mechanics and his arm action for the two games in which he played last season before being shut down.
If he could play as a top-third-of-the-NFL quarterback for the majority of 2018 (with a deteriorating shoulder) then shouldn’t there exist the possibility (now that it’s been a year since the shoulder was repaired) he can recapture that form?
Understanding the price point at which Newton arrives to New England, it makes all kinds of sense to see if he can recapture that 2018 form. He doesn’t have to be an NFL MVP the way he was in 2015 in order to give the Patriots a chance. Bill Belichick still has one of the best defenses in football, and if his offensive line can stay healthy that should lead to a potent running attack.
Add it all up, and they should be the favorites in the division, which DraftKings Sportsbook says is exactly what has happened.
No surprise here, even if Newton is on a short-money deal and not exactly guaranteed to be the starter because of the uncertainty surrounding his health, but the Patriots now have better Super Bowl odds as well.
All it would take for the Patriots to make good on those wagers would be for Newton to recapture whatever it was he had in 2018. That wasn’t all that long ago, remember.