New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton has struggled as a passer throughout the 2020 NFL season.
He's thrown just five touchdown passes with nine interceptions in 11 games played. The former league MVP also failed to throw for more than 100 yards in each of the last two weeks, although to be fair, the Patriots won both of those games.
Can we say Newton has shown enough to be the team's starting quarterback for the remainder of the season? It was among the topics Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry discussed on the latest episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast.
"Cam Newton showed you on the first drive why he's the starting quarterback for the rest of 2020 until further notice, or when the Patriots are eliminated from playoff contention," Curran said. "What he did on that first drive in a 13-play, 75-yard odyssey, was show exactly who the Patriots are offensively and why they are that way.
"The one time Cam tried to throw downfield early in the drive, it went off the hands of undrafted but overachieving wide receiver Jakobi Meyers. Do you get mad at Meyers about that? Of course not. He's played terrific. You can't yell at the kid, in my estimation as a fan or a media observer.
"But they're limited in terms of throwing the football, so you stay on the ground. You run a couple wildcats with Damien Harris. Your simple throw to Damien Harris into the flat on the first play of the game is a 14-yard gain. Cam picks up another 14 yards on a quarterback designed run. And then when you get down to a 4th-and-2 because James White couldn't make the one guy miss when he was thrown to in the flat on third down, Cam takes over and gets them into the end zone.
"Jarrett Stidham isn't going to do those things. Well, Jarrett Stidham is a thrower not a runner, Tom. I understand that, but he's not a capable enough thrower nor does he have capable enough receivers to dink, dunk and maybe chunk his way down the field. Jarrett Stidham or Cam Newton? It's gotta be Cam Newton. I don't care about the 84 yards passing last week or the 69 yards on Sunday, what he brings to the table is why he's the starting quarterback for the rest of 2020 and I don't have a problem with it."
There's no question Newton gives the Patriots a dimension in the run game that Stidham can't provide. Newton is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in league history, and his two rushing touchdowns against the Chargers gave him 11 for the season -- tied for the third-most among all players.
But Newton has had limited success throwing the football, and Perry wonders how much that will impact the Patriots when they inevitably find themselves in passing situations over the remainder of the season.
"The question would be, 'Will you have a problem with his passing numbers when the Patriots happen to trail in a football game, even if it's 7-0?' " Perry asked. "Can you live with run, run, 3rd-and-3 run again? And then you're faced with 4th-and-1 and you try to run it again? This is what they're going to do and defenses are going to anticipate.
"And they're not, I don't think, going to play ahead for an entire month down the stretch here. So they are going to need contributions from their passing game. If they need to run the table to get into the playoffs, they're gonna need some real competent work in that area. And I think you can come away from that game, even though it's 45-0, and still wonder if they can do that."
Also in this episode: the improvement from the Patriots' defense, the reasons behind Belichick's success against rookie quarterbacks, and whether he should be the Coach of the Year award winner if the team makes the playoffs.