The Patriots reportedly signed the free-agent quarterback to a one-year contract Sunday as he looks to rebound from an injury-plagued 2019 season.
If healthy, Newton is a significant upgrade over second-year QB Jarrett Stidham and journeyman Brian Hoyer. His mobility (assuming full health) also gives New England's offense another dimension that, if you ask LaDainian Tomlinson, will directly benefit the team's deep stable of running backs.
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“If I’m Sony Michel or James White, I’m very excited about the opportunities that I’m getting in that backfield along with Cam Newton,” Tomlinson said Monday on NFL Network's "NFL Total Access," as transcribed by 247Sports.com. "When you think about all of the running backs that Cam Newton has played with, DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, even to Christian McCaffrey, all of those guys have had success because of the RPO game."
Newton excelled at the "run-pass option" in Carolina because defenses had to honor his threat to run: He racked up 4,808 rushing yards and 58 rushing TDs with the Panthers from 2011 to 2018. That threat opened up rushing lanes for Carolina's running backs, and the results showed: The Panthers ranked among the NFL's top five teams in rushing yards in four of Newton's first eight seasons with the team and never finished worse than 11th.
"You have to account for Cam Newton. Therefore, you have to always have an identified and defined box," Tomlinson added. "A lot of times they’re going to play eight or nine men in the box. That way, when you’re a running back, you clear the first wave of people and there’s nobody else back there. Because everybody is lined up in the box to stop the RPO game."
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels -- who never ran RPOs with the glacially slow Tom Brady -- has a wealth of options in the running game if Newton is healthy: Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden and Damien Harris complement Michel and White in one of the NFL's most versatile RB groups.
Oh, and Newton likes throwing to his running backs, too: McCaffrey led all NFL RBs in 2018 with 107 receptions. That's good news for White, who could become Newton's safety valve in the passing game.
The Patriots averaged just 3.8 yards per rush last season, 25th in the NFL. If Newton is healthy enough to be a threat in the running game, he should help boost that number significantly.