Given the Patriots' dearth of quality offensive weapons, it's been challenging to get a true read on Cam Newton's ceiling this season.
Does he still have enough skill to be a successful starter? Or is the former NFL MVP not good enough at this point in his career?
Both Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels have stood by Newton as the team's best option at quarterback, even after Thursday night's dud against the Rams when he completed fewer than 10 passes for the second time in three games, threw for 119 yards (which was somehow his highest total in three games) and saw the Patriots lose 24-3.
But when Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer sought opinions on Newton from outside Foxboro by talking to coaches and scouts whose teams have faced the Patriots this season, he found evaluators who painted a pretty bleak picture of Newton's ability.
Two NFC defensive coaches explained why they don't think Newton has anything left, with one saying, "Can’t throw, no accuracy. Also, when he runs it’s with no authority," and the other adding, "Throwing motion is messed up. Injury has changed him... It’s awkward."
An AFC defensive coordinator echoed those comments about Newton's physical breakdown by saying he looks "like he is an older tailback playing QB."
Newton has only thrown for over 175 yards in three of his 12 starts, and his 78.9 passer rating ranks 31st in the NFL. But two AFC executives weren't willing to place all the blame for Newton's subpar statistical year on the QB himself, instead pointing to the Patriots' lackluster supporting cast.
"He looks like a backup right now. I think he’ll have a chance to be a No. 2 somewhere, but New England can’t win with him right now with a great offensive mind calling plays. [The talent around him] doesn’t help," said one, while another added that Newton could be a competitive starter if he had more help: "He’s playing with a below-average receiving corps too, so if his next team has better weapons, I could see his statistics increase and become a more effective passer."
It'll take more than Julian Edelman returning to full health for the Patriots to surround Newton with a much better supporting cast on offense in 2021, so will it be worth it for the Patriots to re-sign their starter?
If the opinions on Newton that Breer collected are representative of what the rest of the league thinks about the former MVP, there might not be a robust market in free agency if the Patriots have designs on sticking with Newton as their starter next season.