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#pounditTuesday, August 3, 2021

Cam Newton

Bill Belichick shares hint about Patriots’ QB situation

Bill Belichick

Bill Belichick was quick to say that Cam Newton is the New England Patriots’ starting quarterback after the team drafted Mac Jones in the first round, but it sounds like that is less of a sure thing now.

Belichick spoke with reporters at the start of training camp on Tuesday, and he was asked if there will be a quarterback competition in the coming weeks. He said everyone has a “clean slate.”

That’s a big change from what Belichick said immediately after the draft. He conceded that Jones and Jarrett Stidham would have a chance to compete but called Newton “our quarterback.”

Newton is still the favorite to start in Week 1, but there have been numerous reports that Jones could push him for the starting job. The Patriots have improved their supporting case by signing tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry and wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne. They’ll likely give Newton a chance to improve upon his abysmal 2020 season with those new skill players, but there will be plenty of pressure to make the switch if Newton struggles.

Even Newton has had very high praise for Jones. One anonymous Patriots player also had a very telling comment about the former Alabama star recently. Belichick has always said that he will do whatever he can to put the team in the best position to win. If that means playing Jones, that is what he will do.

5 NFL players in a contract year who need to step up

Cam Newton

Most NFL players reach a point in their career where they’re seeking a long-term contract, but things simply aren’t working out. Sometimes that situation corrects itself, and sometimes it doesn’t.

However, consistent quality play will often pave the way for those players to sign long-term deals — especially during a contract year. As we head into 2021, these five players find themselves in contract years and lacking long-term security. Now they’ll need to step up if they want that big deal.


Cam Newton offers optimistic outlook for his 2021 season

Cam Newton

New England Patriots fans have very low expectations for Cam Newton heading into the season, which is understandable when you look at how the former MVP played in 2020. While Newton is not quite ready to tell people to get their popcorn ready, he seems like he expects much better results this year.

During an appearance on ESPN Radio’s “Keyshawn, JWill & Zubin Show” on Thursday morning, Newton spoke about what has changed for him between his first and second years in New England.

“I don’t want to get so caught up in promises and things like that, but I can guarantee you that there’s been a shift in comfort of knowing more,” Newton said, via ESPN’s Mike Reiss. “And I think that’s added value in itself.”

There were many, many factors working against Newton last season. He was signed late in the offseason, and there were a number of restrictions in place due to the coronavirus pandemic. That limited the amount of time players were able to spend working out with their teammates. Newton then contracted COVID-19 during the season and was out for a while.

The Patriots also had arguably the worst collection of skill position players in the NFL last season. They have since added star tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry as well as wide receivers Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor.

While the new weapons should help, Newton clearly knows he will be under a microscope this year.

“I know who I am. At times, I do remind myself people forget who you are, and what you’ve done,” he said. “So now I’m a position now where I need to be my best self. It’s really put-up or shut-up time.”

The Patriots used the 15th overall pick in the draft on Mac Jones. Based on everything we have heard about the former Alabama star this offseason, Newton may need to play very well to keep his job. Bill Belichick has repeatedly said that Newton is the team’s starter, but there is virtually no chance it stays that way if the 32-year-old struggles the way he did in 2020.

Cam Newton is back with the Patriots! Treat yourself or a friend with this great Cam Newton Patriots shirt. You can buy it here.

Cam Newton holds improbable title with veteran RBs still unsigned

Cam Newton

Cam Newton had the worst season of his career with the New England Patriots last year, but the former NFL MVP still leads all active players in one major category — and it has nothing to do with throwing the football.

Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk made an interesting observation about the current list of active NFL players with the most career rushing touchdowns. Newton, who has 70 scores on the ground, is at the top.

Granted, that could change before the 2021 season even begins. Newton ranks fourth in rushing scores among players who were active last year. Adrian Peterson (118), Frank Gore (81) and LeSean McCoy (73) all have more rushing touchdowns than Newton. All three are free agents and want to play this season, though there is no guarantee that they find work.

Newton probably isn’t too concerned with his place among the NFL’s rushing touchdown leaders. The Patriots’ Week 1 starting job is his to lose, but some of the things that have been said about rookie Mac Jones are noteworthy. Newton will have his hands full holding off the former Alabama star, and he has to prove he can be a much better passer — not rusher — than he was in 2020.

Cam Newton shares his thoughts on Patriots drafting Mac Jones

Cam Newton

Cam Newton knew he might have to compete for a starting job when the New England Patriots drafted Mac Jones, but that does not mean the former NFL MVP was disappointed with the pick.

Newton was asked by a reporter on Tuesday how he felt about the Patriots drafting Jones in the first round. He said he fully supported the pick.

“He was the right pick, in my opinion,” Newton said, via WBZ’s Michael Hurley. “He was the best player available and that’s what the NFL draft is for.”

Although he did not take the Jones selection personally, Newton gave a very firm response when asked if he has a chip on his shoulder.

Bill Belichick has had nothing but positive things to say about Newton this offseason. He has repeatedly said that Newton is the team’s starter, and it’s possible he does not want Jones to start as a rookie. Belichick told reporters on Tuesday that Newton is “way ahead of where he was last year at this time.”

Of course, Newton will have to prove that Belichick’s confidence in him is warranted. The 32-year-old has been taking first-team reps in practice, but some believe Jones will have a chance to beat him out.

Cam Newton is back with the Patriots! Treat yourself or a friend with this great Cam Newton Patriots shirt. You can buy it here.

Cam Newton still first in Patriots’ QB order for now?

Cam Newton

Cam Newton appears to be operating as the New England Patriots’ No. 1 quarterback for the time being.

The Patriots had a practice on Monday that was open to the media. ESPN Patriots reporter Mike Reiss shared that Newton went first in the reps he saw. Mac Jones, Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer went after Newton.

The Patriots signed Newton for the minimum salary last year. He began the season well but then was placed on the COVID-19 list. Upon returning from COVID, Newton was not good as a quarterback, though he was still able to run the ball effectively.

Newton re-signed with the Patriots for this season, and the team may have some confidence in him. But they drafted Jones No. 15 overall out of Alabama. It’s unclear to what extent they will give Jones an opportunity to beat out Newton, but there is some believe there will be a competition.

Cam Newton is back with the Patriots! Treat yourself or a friend with this great Cam Newton Patriots shirt. You can buy it here.

Cam Newton already has nickname for Mac Jones

Cam Newton hat

Cam Newton may find himself competing for a starting job with Mac Jones at some point, but the former NFL MVP is not letting that stop him from establishing a friendly relationship with his new teammate.

Newton is known for coming up with nicknames for teammates and coaches, and he already has one for Jones. The rookie told reporters this week that Newton calls him “Mac and cheese.”

Jones also said Newton has been great in helping him transition to the NFL, but let’s focus on the nickname — Mac and cheese? Really?

We’d say Newton can do better than that, but can he? His nickname for offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn wasn’t terrible, but the one he came up with for Bill Belichick was quite a stretch.

Newton comes up with so many nicknames that he is probably running out of ideas, but we commend him for his commitment to being that guy.

Cam Newton is back with the Patriots! Treat yourself or a friend with this great Cam Newton Patriots shirt. You can buy it here.

Mac Jones already poised to beat out Cam Newton?

Mac Jones

Bill Belichick has made it clear that Cam Newton remains the New England Patriots’ starting quarterback even after they drafted Mac Jones. That is easy for the coach to say months before the start of the season, but it is fair to wonder how long he can stick to it.

Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald shared some observations after watching both Newton and Jones take part in organized team activities on Thursday. While it is far too early to draw conclusions about the quarterback competition, she said there is already a feel that it is playing out. And at least for one practice, it sounds like Jones looked like the better option.

Newton has been working on his mechanics this offseason, and Guregian notes that he appears to have made progress with his delivery on short throws. However, Newton displayed some issues throwing to his right and had deeper passes sail on him. He also had some issues with accuracy during drills.

Jones, on the other hand, is “clearly polished on the finer points of playing the position,” according to Guregian.

“There was one drill where the quarterbacks would make a play-fake before delivering the football. His fakes were smooth, despite playing mostly from the shotgun at Alabama,” the reporter said of Jones. “And all the pre-draft hype about him throwing a ‘catchable ball’ were on target. He leads receivers and puts the ball in the perfect spot.

“He has a nice release, is accurate and gets rid of the ball quickly.”

Again, we’re talking about OTAs. Belichick probably does not want a rookie starting Week 1, but Jones is going to do everything he can to force the coach’s hand.

Jones showed that he is thrilled with where he ended up with the message he delivered to Roger Goodell at the draft (video here). That is likely because the No. 15 overall pick knows how Newton played last season. If Cam doesn’t show drastic improvement, it will only be a matter of time before he loses his job to the rookie.

Cam Newton put in significant work on this skill during offseason

Cam Newton

After a rough 2020 season, it sounds like Cam Newton has spent the offseason getting back to basics in preparation for 2021.

According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, Newton quietly spent the offseason rebuilding some fundamentals with the help of a throwing coach. The work appears to have paid dividends, as some players who also played with the New England Patriots quarterback last season noticed a difference during voluntary workouts last week.

Newton completed 65.8 percent of his pass attempts in 2020, but only racked up 2,657 yards and eight touchdowns. Part of that came down to a lack of weapons and a more conservative gameplan, though that second factor may have been in response to Newton’s issues, not a cause of them.

The veteran quarterback will have to fend off rookie Mac Jones if he wants to keep the Patriots’ starting job. He’s named one reason he thinks he could be better this year, and if this work pays off, he might end up fairly well-positioned to start again.

Julio Jones reportedly interested in playing with this quarterback?

Julio Jones

It’s clear that Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones is very much on the trade market, though no clear suitor has emerged yet. One report indicates, however, that Jones might have a destination in mind.

Michael Holley of NBC Sports Boston said on “Boston Sports Tonight” that Jones is interested in playing with New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton.

“You know who (Jones) really wants to play with? … He wants to play with Cam Newton. He likes Cam,” Holley said, via Darren Hartwell of of NBC Sports Boston. “That’s the other thing: He thinks Matt Ryan has lost a little zing on his deep ball.”

Jones knows Newton well from their battles in the NFC South when Newton was starring for the Carolina Panthers. That said, it’s an interesting stance, especially if Jones believes Ryan’s arm isn’t what it used to be. Newton has looked like a shell of his former self in the past few years too.

The Patriots have been intriguingly linked to a Jones trade, along with several other teams. Jones doesn’t really have any control over where he’s traded to, so if he really wants to play with Newton, he’ll have to hope New England steps up to the plate with the best offer.

Photo: Lisa Ferdinando/U.S. Secretary of Defense via CC-BY 2.0