Despite the NFL MVP and Heisman Trophy on his résumé, Cam Newton was still a question mark when he signed with the Patriots this summer.
Could he reclaim the form that made him one of the best quarterbacks in football? Or would the injuries that cut his last two seasons short and left him on the free agent scrap heap continue to limit his potential?
The early returns are in -- and through two games, the Patriots and their fans have to like what they've seen from Newton. ESPN analyst Ryan Clark feels similarly, raving about Newton's performance Monday morning on "Get Up."
"I felt like I hopped in the DeLorean and we were in the second half of 2015 when these two dudes were the best two quarterbacks on earth and Cam ended up winning the MVP," Clark said in regards to the showdown between Newton and Russell Wilson. "This is what everybody said: Can Cam Newton create some sort of passing game, not only down the field but outside the numbers with these weapons that the New England Patriots have?"
"I said very early on when he was signed that this offense could be better if Cam Newton was healthy than they would have been with Tom Brady, and that's exactly what we saw last night. It was time to make a play, and they put the ball in Cam Newton's hands."
Between Newton's 397 passing yards -- the third-highest total of his career and most since his second game as a pro in 2011 -- and his 47 rushing yards, Newton accounted for 444 of the Patriots' 464 total yards in the 35-30 loss. He also had three touchdowns (two rushing, one passing).
For a team that had a huge gap at the game's most important position when Tom Brady took his talents to Tampa, Newton hasn't just filled in. He's put his own mark on the team after just two games.
“I think what has to be said is, look, Tom Brady is the greatest of all-time, you will never say they are better off without him, but this particular incarnation of this team is probably better with Cam Newton at what he does than with Tom Brady and what he does,” said "Get Up" host Mike Greenberg.
“This collection of players -- Jakobi Meyers, Damiere Byrd, N’Keal Harry -- is better with Cam Newton at quarterback, period,” Clark asserted. “They are. He does more with this team than Tom Brady ever could. That’s not a knock on their careers, it’s not in any way to negate Tom Brady’s greatness. They needed Cam Newton. This is a match made in heaven the same way Cam Newton said it was. It was beautiful to watch last night.”
The one thing that wasn't beautiful for Pats fans to watch was Newton getting stuffed on what would have been a game-winning 1-yard touchdown run as time expired, but Clark had no issue with the play call.
"Josh McDaniels, Bill Belichick -- they've never had a guy like this. They've never had Superman," Clark explained. "So you know what they did? They played the damsel in distress and said, 'Come save me' and they gave the ball to Cam. And I have no issue with that. The New England Patriots are going to be all right because Superman has returned."
For a team that had Captain America at the controls for two decades, Superman would be a perfect replacement.