Bill Belichick 'Very Impressed' by Cam Newton Amid Patriots QB Competition

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistAugust 25, 2020

New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton (1) holds the ball during an NFL football training camp practice, Friday, Aug. 21, 2020, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, Pool)
Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick praised the work ethic of Cam Newton as the 2015 MVP embarks on his first season with the team.

"He's an extremely hard-working player; first guy in, last guy out," Belichick said Monday on The Rich Eisen Show. "He's studied hard and has spent a lot of extra time learning the offense. I've been very impressed with that. He's a very skilled athlete."

Rich Eisen Show @RichEisenShow

.@Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has been impressed with @CameronNewton thus far: #NFL #Patriots https://t.co/aqbIgjT00O

Newton hasn't had a lot of time with his new team. He only officially signed with New England in July, and the COVID-19 pandemic limited the extent to which players and coaches could interact with one another.

The fact that the Patriots went so long without signing or drafting a direct replacement for Tom Brady seemed to be an implicit endorsement of 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham, too. ESPN's Dianna Russini spoke to a rival AFC East head coach who said the Pats "love" Stidham.

Dianna Russini @diannaESPN

I spoke over text w/ an AFC East Head Coach on Cam Newton and the Patriots. “I think they are going to keep 3 QBs. Use Cam Newton perhaps as the wild card. I actually don't see him starting Week 1 in the offense...I know one thing for a fact: the #Patriots love Jarrett Stidham"

Based on how Newton, Stidham and Brian Hoyer are being used in practice, there may not be much of an actual competition.

Zack Cox @ZackCoxNESN

QB stats in 11-on-11s: Newton: 7/13 Hoyer: 6/11 Stidham: 2/6, two INTs Rough day for Hoyer (also 0-4 in 7s) and Stidham, though the former bounced back late. Stidham saw a significantly lower rep count after throwing back-to-back picks and then missing an open Asiasi

Jeff Howe @jeffphowe

The defense won the day today in a competitive padded practice. Chase Winovich and Josh Uche led a strong pass rush. Cam Newton was 15 of 24 and again commanded control of the quality reps. Brian Hoyer was 13 of 17. Jarrett Stidham was limited and 2 of 2.

Of course, those numbers could simply reflect the fact that Newton has the least amount of experience working with Belichick.

The Boston Globe's Ben Volin posited the die is already cast with regard to New England's quarterback situation.

"Belichick has to keep up the pretense of a competition, but everyone knows the deal," Volin wrote. "The Patriots aren't bringing Newton here to back up Stidham, a fourth-round pick with four career passes, or Hoyer, a career journeyman who's changed teams nine times in 12 years."

Newton is clearly the most decorated of the three, and he's presumably healthy now after having undergone shoulder surgery in January 2019 and foot surgery last December.

With Belichick, there's always the suspicion that he's one step ahead of the competition. Sure, the addition of Newton seemed pretty straightforward, but perhaps that was merely some sleight of hand to hide how Stidham is actually the franchise quarterback.

Instead, this appears to be a clear example of Occam's razor. Newton is the best quarterback the Patriots have, and it looks increasingly likely he'll open the regular season as the starter.