Cam Newton needed Patriots to find MVP form again — not Panthers or any other team

Cam Newton has already been better than expected as the Patriots’ starting quarterback. But don’t think for a second that a healthy Newton would be producing this way, this fast for any other team that was needing better QB play in 2020.

That includes his former team, the Panthers, who moved on by paying Teddy Bridgewater a lot more money than Newton ended up getting in his late-offseason one-year deal with the Patriots. File the Bears, Colts and Washington Football Team under the same category. The Jaguars, Chargers and Broncos, too.

Newton needed an offense that would adjust to his strengths. New England, with Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels, had been sticking with second-year QB Jarrett Stidham for a long time this spring and summer as Tom Brady’s replacement. You can bet they were buying time to make sure Newton was fully healthy for them — and devising ways to incorporate his unique dual threat into their offense.

For Newton to get back on track, he needed a team like the Ravens with Lamar Jackson — centered around the running game and taking advantage of his big arm in the deep passing game. Just like Jackson would have been a first-round draft misfit away from Baltimore, John Harbaugh and Greg Roman, Newton would have been a free-agent flop anywhere else.

The Patriots haven’t wasted any time embracing the running aspect of Newton, immediately making him their leading ball-carrier and rusher ahead of their veteran committee, which struggled in the power running game last season. By creating space behind a very good line, they have managed to get Newton to rely less on his big physical frame and more on his athleticism so he’s not taking those body blows that burned him in the past, much like Jackson is mostly untouched when running for the Ravens.

When Newton has been in the pocket, he has mostly been asked to get the ball out quickly, being more calculated with his deep shots. After Newton just had to “game manage” to beat the Dolphins, he was 2015 MVP-level stellar against the Seahawks on Sunday night to give his team any shot on the other side of red-hot Russell Wilson.

Newton (30-of-44, 397 yards, TD, INT, 9.0 yards per attempt, 94.6 passer rating) is no longer trying to be Superman. You can tell the Patriots have emphasized with him that they don’t plan to put him in harm’s way often. At this stage of his career, trying to make a mini-comeback at age 31, he needs to be more system- and supporting-cast dependent.

What the Patriots have provided Newton with is the ideal Justice League teamup. While Belichick and McDaniels are Batman and Robin, wide receiver Julian Edelman is The Flash with his speed and quickness. The coaches are using everything in Newton’s utility belt and knowing that Edelman’s role should be expanded to become his go-to deep threat.

There’s nothing complicated about what New England is trying to do with Newton, and that’s why he’s succeeding. After being humbled with his release from the Panthers, the reviews from his new Patriots teammates say Newton has made it a point to stand out with his playbook mastery and leadership.

The Patriots knew that Newton had an outlet for motivation, much like Brady arriving with an under-drafted chip on his shoulder, out to prove many doubters wrong. They also tapped into Newton’s big personality, letting him embrace his alpha as long as he “did his job.”

In the end, they made it easy for Newton to fit in, because everything was already adjusted to him, and not the other way around. Outside of the Ravens, Chiefs, Seahawks and a a handful of other teams that already are set with their franchise QB, there weren’t many teams able to adapt and evolve with Newton operating their offense in a new way.

Newton should be thrilled that all those bad-to-be teams, including Carolina, weren’t interested in him, because it put him down the path of being a perfect fit with the Patriots. Those non-New England teams that could have used Newton didn’t just “pass” on him. They all would have failed him, too.

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