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Patriots’ Josh McDaniels says Cam Newton ‘has a different grasp of the offense’ heading into Year 2

Cam Newton didn’t have the easiest go of it in Foxborough in 2020. The former league MVP remained on the free-agent market until early July when he inked a one-year deal with the Patriots. Arriving to New England so late in the process immediately created an uphill battle for Newton to cram in as much knowledge of the team’s complex offense as he could before he was thrust into the starting spot out of the gate in Week 1. 

As one may expect, the road was a bit bumpy for Newton during his first season under Bill Belichick. While he was able to make plays with his legs (12 rushing touchdowns), he struggled to get into a week-to-week rhythm in the passing game and the offense as a whole had its ceiling diminished partially due to those deficiencies. 

Fast forward to this offseason and it’s a much different circumstance for Newton. As he prepares for his second year in the system, the 32-year-old not only has a year’s worth of experience within the Patriots offense to lean on, but he also has a full offseason of preparation to build off of. 

That luxury wasn’t available to Newton in 2020 thanks to him signing so late in the offseason along with the limitations (no preseason games) that all clubs dealt with amid the pandemic. Now that he has this ability to go through a more typical offseason, Newton’s comfort within the offense appears to be quite noticeable heading into Year 2.

“He’s worked really hard, and he worked hard all year last year,” Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels told reporters Thursday when asked about Newton’s development, via NESN.com. “He was certainly at a point when he got here that was a unique situation, having really no experience and exposure to our system prior to training camp starting. I honestly can’t remember another time in my career where we’ve had a player that has done that. Even the rookies that get drafted, they get information prior to the end of the spring. 

“So it was a unique scenario. He worked his butt off last year to do it, and then he came back certainly this year at a much different position. He has a different grasp of the offense, a different understanding of the terminology. And now we’re working on refining the precision, the details, and I always talk to the quarterbacks about trying to master the operation and the things we need them to do. And there’s always work to be done in that area. I don’t care what quarterback you’re talking about, there’s always work to be done.”

While Newton may be in a different place now than where he was in 2020, so are the Patriots. The club drafted Mac Jones in the first round of the 2021 draft and the Alabama product is now the clear future at the position. Of course, that doesn’t mean Newton will be completely cast aside and he’ll likely have a strong chance of retaining his starting spot for the Week 1 opener. New England also revamped the offensive skill positions around the quarterback spot this offseason, so Newton is set up quite nicely to have a bounce-back campaign for however long he can remain under center in Foxborough.