Some news and notes for this morning:
1) With Training Camp steadily approaching, Cam Newton likely knows that he’s facing what could be one of the most crucial points in his career when he takes the field next week.
After receiving little interest in free agency last year, Newton wound up in New England and, despite a less than stellar year, managed to earn a significant vote of confidence from Bill Belichick, who is doubling down on the veteran to hopefully guide them back into becoming a playoff contender as they look to rebound from a 7-9 season.
Unlike last year, Newton has first-round pick Mac Jones pushing him and with a host of new passing targets heading into this season, Newton has been given the tools to be successful. He’s fully aware he needs to play better and he also understands that the final product on Sundays is all that matters at the end of the day. Anything less than that simply isn’t good enough.
“Obviously, not good enough,” Newton told Keyshawn Johnson in an interview last week about his play last year. “There are things you can get better at. There are things that, you know, I know I will get better at. It’s just trusting in yourself, trusting the coaching and believe in the process of keeping it all in the wheelhouse. Once that’s understood, you’ll be A O.K.”
“Me having this conversation in July is irrelevant,” added Newton during the interview. “This is just going to be the clickbait for the next 24-48hrs, ‘This is how Cam feels’. But, truth be told, nothing’s going to matter until July 22nd is upon us and that’s a week from now. Then as training camp goes forward, everybody’s going to start saying, ‘OK, what’s the work that’s been put in? Has he been in the playbook? Does he really understand? Is his comfort what he says it is? Is he in good shape? Is his shoulder holding up? Is his foot holding up? We’re playing a sport that’s strictly based off of the final product, and the final product is on game days. With that being said, it’s just going to come down to winning and losing.”
Newton was up and down during the spring sessions but finished with one of his best practices to date when the team broke off for their final break of the summer. Meanwhile, despite coming on strong for much of the time leading up to that, Jones ended on a sour note with what most media members reported to be his worst outing.
As a result, Newton has the momentum heading into training camp and he’s aware he needs to keep it.
On paper, Newton should be the starter to begin the season and barring disaster, that should be the case. At the same time, he’ll be facing intense pressure as the season goes on since any decline in performance will likely see the questions start coming about Jones’ potential ascension.
Either way, with the amount of talent this team has on both sides of the football, Newton knows it’s up to him to make the most of it. If not, not only could his time in New England begin ticking down, but any future opportunities to start elsewhere will also likely dry up as well.
Johnson went on to tell Newton that if a repeat of 2020 happens, he believes the veteran should walk away from the game. But he doesn’t believe that will be the case.
“If yo-ass go out there and you play like you played last year, I want you to retire,” said Johnson. “But I don’t think that’s going to happen. I don’t think you’re going to play like that. But I’m just telling you straight up, because I know you can do it.”
Newton appreciated the honesty, and he knows it’s up to him to do his job and help his team win football games.
“I appreciate that. Keyshawn, you’ve always been solid with me, bro, and I appreciate that,” said Newton. “I can tell you there’s a different boogie going into this season than there was last year. But there’s nothing that I can tell you right now that’s just going to make you believe…I’m not into all that rah-rah stuff. I get myself going. I feed off the things that I need to feed off of. But at the end of the day, it is what it is, I still have to produce and that’s the most important part of sports, and that’s producing.”
2) Atlanta Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo had his jeep stolen this weekend and the only thing he asked was to get his cleats back.
Koo took to Instagram on Sunday to tell the culprits, “I won’t even be mad bro just bring all my cleats back so I can go kick.”
Koo finished the 2020 season hitting on 37-of-39 field goals while also setting the Falcons record for most field goals in a single season for Atlanta. He also hit another milestone after becoming the first player in team history to make at least eight field-goal attempts of at least 50-yards without a miss.
Falcons players are set to report for training camp one week from today, with Koo likely crossing his fingers that he’ll have his cleats – and his jeep – back by then.
3) ESPN+ came out with their future power rankings, which were based on what teams they believe are in the best shape for the next three seasons.
The Patriots surprisingly came in at #8, behind the Chiefs, Buccaneers, Ravens, Bills, Browns, 49ers and Rams, respectively.
Here were the reasons:
Why they’re here: It’s already easy to forecast a defensive resurgence in New England, with a mix of familiar and new faces that should be ready to feast in 2021 and beyond. On offense, the arc of quarterback Mac Jones will likely dictate the ceiling of this team for the next handful of years. Suffice it to say that he’ll have great infrastructure around him, as the best head coach in football in Bill Belichick and an offensive mastermind in offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels are always people to bet on. — Yates
Biggest worry: Philosophically, I admire how Belichick and the Patriots have built the team inside out: strong down the middle and set to defend and attack between the numbers. That being said, the explosive play component outside the numbers on the offensive side of the ball is concerning. Can receiver Nelson Agholor duplicate or exceed what was a career season in 2020 in terms of yards per catch? Will Jones be the same deep-ball thrower he was for Alabama? — Riddick
What could change for the better: Signing tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry gives New England offensive flexibility for years. Henry’s game is not built on speed, so he should age well. And Smith is only 25, so his multifaceted blocking and receiving game will hold up. The Patriots believe they beat the system by spending big money while the free-agent market was down due to the pandemic, thus receiving a discount on premier players. New England is still scheduled to have $57 million and $137 million in cap space in 2022 and 2023, respectively. — Fowler
Stat to know: There’s reasonable debate about how well Jones’ game will translate to the pro level. But any Patriots fan looking for hope in the numbers needn’t look too far: He recorded the highest college QBR season in the history of the metric last year! His 96.1 beat out Kyler Murray’s and Joe Burrow’s amazing seasons for the top spot. — Walder
Jones should put the club in a good position moving forward and with Belichick guiding the way for at least another season or two, the odds are pretty good that we may be witnessing a pretty good foundation being built coming off of what just a year ago seemed like a pretty uncertain future.
As for the club who came in last, the Texans earned that honor due to the mess that Nick Caserio inherited, which obviously includes the Deshaun Watson situation. But they also note that Houston “lacks many blue-chip players” but they believe he’ll eventually get the club back on track.
4) If you think the news of houses potentially going up for sale or whatever other reports we’ve heard locally in recent years to try and read the tea leaves of player’s futures here in New England are silly, the one coming out of Green Bay about Aaron Rodgers should give you a bit of an eye-roll.
With that saga continuing to play on, Packers play-by-play announcer Wayne Larrivee apparently received a bit of information and took to NFL Network to share it, telling host Andrew Siciliano he has received unconfirmed reports that Rodgers has hired a cleaning service to deep-clean his Green Bay-area home next week, which presumably means the Packers QB is headed back to his home to get ready for the season.
Larrivee also conceded during the interview that there’s a possibility it could also mean that it could be done in advance of listing it with the intention of moving to a new team, although he believes that’s not the case.
We’ll see if Rodgers shows up to practice later this week, but the drama clearly hasn’t reached a conclusion just yet.
5) Out in Seattle, it sounds like the problems with Russell Wilson have settled down and that all is finally well with the veteran quarterback.
John Clayton, who is now working for the local Seattle ESPN Radio station, reports that Wilson got what he wanted this offseason and is finally on the same page with head coach Pete Carroll, which should effectively close the book on any potential issues.
Carroll and the Seahawks also stayed silent through most of the offseason, which was wise. Thanks to Carroll, Wilson got on the same page. Wilson got a new offensive coordinator (Shane Waldron) and scheme he likes. He got more talent on offense. He got improvements on the offensive line. He got Chris Carson back and Tyler Lockett extended on multi-year deals.
Still, while Wilson was tweeting positive things about the Seahawks’ additions, national writers kept expressing how he was still not happy. Even as late as last week, someone said there were remaining problems. Wrong. The big thing is Wilson is close to Carroll, and being close to the head coach is so important for a quarterback.
“I think more than anything else, you know what I care about,” Wilson told Patrick on Wednesday. “I care about winning. That’s what I want to do. So I just put on my cleats every day. That’s always my focus. That’s always been my goal.”
Wilson wants to win. Carroll wants to win. End of story.
As a result, it appears that’s another story that people can close the book on…or at least unless the Seahawks go out and get bounced out of the playoffs, again. Given his comments and how the offseason has gone, Wilson will likely be scrutinized a bit more in 2021 as the media tries to start analyzing whether the problems truly stem from the coaching staff, or from him.
Needless to say, he’s another player who appears to have gotten what he wanted this year. What he does with it is another story, which should make it another interesting storyline to follow this season.
Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: Aaron Rodgers Cam Newton Green Bay Packers Mac Jones New England Patriots Russell Wilson Seattle Seahawks