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Monday, July 4, 2022

Bounce-back year for Cam Newton and Co.?

Head coach: Bill Belichick. There were times last season when watching Patriots games felt a lot like seeing Guns N’ Roses in the early 2000s, with only Axl Rose left from the original band. I mean, the songs kind of sounded right. And Robin Finck did do an admirable job. But it just wasn’t the same.

Now Belichick enters Season 2 A.T., as in, After Tom. And I don’t really have any reason to think his title of greatest coach in the history of the NFL (maybe North American sports) is in jeopardy. Not even close. He went into 2020 with a number of key players opting out of the season. He was without Brady and Gronk, and Julian Edelman missed most of the season due to injury. Despite all of that, the Patriots still managed to win seven games. They humiliated the Chargers, and Belichick pretty much did the best he could, given the circumstances. Now he has another chance to — and this probably isn’t the right expression — prove himself. Or at least remove any doubt about his unparalleled greatness.

Quarterback: Cam Newton. I’m a big Cam Newton guy. Needless to say, I was a bit insufferable — even more so than usual — when Cam got out to that hot start last season. And then … well, we’re not here to talk about old stuff. OK, maybe a little bit. At any rate, the Patriots thought enough of Cam to bring him back for another season. I mean, they did draft Mac Jones in the first round in April. But Cam knows what time it is. He even acknowledged it in a recent interview with ESPN Radio.

“For me, the Patriots’ organization has been impeccable,” Newton said. “So my time there has been everything I could have asked for. I guess it’s now time for me to uphold my end of the bargain, through and through.”

Cam averaged 177.1 passing yards per game in 2020 (fewest in the NFL among 35 qualified quarterbacks). He also ranked toward the bottom of that group in TD-to-INT ratio (8:10) and passer rating (82.9). But he had 592 rushing yards (third most among QBs) and 12 rushing touchdowns (most among QBs) last year. So, I’ll say it: He still can play at an elite level. Some might think the 32-year-old is a bit too old to do it. But you know who else they said that about? C.T. from the MTV’s The Challenge. And guess who won The Challenge: Double Agents last season? That’s right, Boston’s own CT. So show some respect for your elders.

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