Bill Belichick: Cam Newton's 'way ahead of where he was last year at this time'

Through a good portion of last season -- his first with the New England Patriots -- Cam Newton struggled mightily.

That written, there were plenty of factors facing the 2015 AP NFL Most Valuable Player and longtime face of the Carolina Panthers. Not the least of which was the lack of a normal offseason and training camp to prepare Newton for his first year with the Patriots.

Thus far, Newton's way head of the curve in comparison to a season ago according to his head coach and himself.

"Cam [Newton]'s way ahead of where he was last year at this time. There's no question about that," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday morning, via team transcript. "I mean, as you would expect, he has a good year of experience under his belt and he's able to start the process at the beginning and not be in a catch-up mode like he was last year. I mean, he was really just starting at this point last season, but he's well ahead of that just from the year of experience and from the succession of building blocks that he's been able to stack up, like all the players have that have been here since the start of the OTA and the offseason program back in April, that they've been able to stack those days and those learning experiences together, ask questions on things that they need clarification on and build to the next level when they're ready to put another brick on the pile."

At the onset of his first campaign in Boston, Newton emerged as a reminder of the force and transcendent talent he was during his best seasons in Carolina. He had six total touchdowns over his first three games with 397 yards through the air against the Seahawks in Week 2. Following a bout with COVID-19, though, Newton's play fell drastically, as his accuracy was woeful and his struggles piled up.

Newton ended his initial campaign in New England and out of Carolina with eight touchdown passes, 10 interceptions and a career-low 177.1 yards per-contest passing -- though he did have 12 touchdowns on the ground.

He's grateful for the second chance in New England and continuing to take in Josh McDaniels' offense and getting all the more comfortable.

"I have a constant note that I remind myself each and every day: Pre-snap comfort will help post-snap results for me," Newton said Tuesday, via NFL Network's Mike Giardi. "Last year, Josh, Josh's system, was something that has worked for decades and decades, so for me it was up to me to learn it as much as possible, and I'm so grateful to have another opportunity to learn it as much as I possibly can. In the latter part of the season, it just caught up to me. I was thinking too much. I was trying to be something, you know, when there wasn't enough hours in the day. It wasn't like we weren't working. Jedd [Fisch] at the time, the QB coach, we were putting in hours and hours. You can't simulate real, live bullets and that's what it came down to. It wasn't anything as far as mechanics. It was more less overthinking and the comfort level."

As Newton finds himself amid a crowded quarterback room with rookie first-rounder Mac Jones, veteran Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham and vying for the QB1 spot heading into the 2021 season, it's obviously still just the most preliminary of reports. Nonetheless, Newton appears to be off to the good start he wasn't afforded getting off to a season ago.

"So, that's good for all of us," Belichick said of being able to enjoy a more normal schedule of OTAs and mandatory minicamp. "It's good for Cam. It's good for all of the players who can go through that process."

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