The New England Patriots find themselves in unfamiliar territory. For the first time since 2002, this team simply does not have a realistic shot of making noise in the playoffs. The defense regressed from its’ elite 2019 form, the wide receivers and tight ends are terrible, and Cam Newton has been objectively bad for the better part of a month. Considering their 2-4 record and the overall build of the team, it’s time for the Patriots to look towards the future and spend the rest of the year evaluating their young assets.
It’s Time for New England Patriots To Build for the Future
How Much Longer for Cam Newton?
Of course, the most important part of any rebuild is the quarterback position. Passing reigns supreme in today’s NFL, and teams don’t have a real chance of competing if they don’t have a good option under center. Cam Newton should continue to start for this team, but his leash should be relatively short.
At 31 years old, there is a possibility that the former MVP can be the answer under center for the next five or so years. However, that possibility grows thinner and thinner by the week. When judging him solely as a passer, Newton’s only good game of the season came in Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks. Outside of that genuinely fantastic performance, the passing offense has left a lot to be desired.
Newton’s legs carried the team in Week 1, but that isn’t a sustainable way to win, especially at his age. As noted by NESN’s Doug Kyed, Newton isn’t throwing to the right side of the field. This suggests the quarterback is playing hurt, which creates something of a catch-22 for the Patriots.
Newton’s best ability has always been his rushing prowess, and his legs created easier throwing lanes. However, this is now the third straight season where injuries have dramatically impacted his ability to play quarterback. It’s safe to assume that, after a decade of NFL hits, Newton’s body is no longer capable of handling a full season of rushing duties. If Newton is to stay healthy, the Patriots will need to tone back his work in the rushing game, which takes away Newton’s greatest strength.
It’s not impossible for a quarterback to completely reinvent their game in their 30’s, but it is rare. More likely than not, Newton is not the long-term answer under center. If he cannot improve his play in the next week or two, then the Patriots need to see what else they have on the roster.
Jarrett Stidham: Patriots Quarterback of the Future?
Full disclaimer: Jarrett Stidham is probably not the long-term answer under center. In fact, all current signs point towards Stidham being nothing more than a career backup. After throwing four passes as a rookie, Stidham has actually seen the field in small stretches this year. The results have not been encouraging, as the former fourth-round pick has completed just 11 of his 23 passing attempts for 124 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions. One of those interceptions was Julian Edelman’s fault, but the overall performance has left a lot to be desired.
There is a 99% chance that Jarrett Stidham is not the quarterback of the future. However, if the Patriots lose their next two or three games, they need to make the switch and see if they found lightning in a bottle. Stidham has just 27 NFL passing attempts to his name, which isn’t enough to come to a full conclusion about his quarterbacking ability. In a best-case scenario, Stidham shows something and the Patriots have a young quarterback to build around. In a worst-case scenario, Stidham remains terrible and the Patriots have the draft capital to go and acquire their quarterback of the future.
The Rest of the Roster
Stephon Gilmore is still a fantastic player, but the Patriots should be monitoring the trade market for a potential suitor. At 30 years old, Gilmore will probably be past his prime by the time the Patriots are legitimate Super Bowl contenders again. On top of that, the Patriots have another great cornerback in J.C. Jackson that’s about to earn a huge raise. The Jacksonville Jaguars received two first-round picks for one season of Jalen Ramsey – if New England can find a similar market, they should ship away the reigning Defensive Player of the Year.
Julian Edelman is one of the all-time greats in New England Patriots history and arguably the most important non-quarterback of Dynasty 2.0. However, the 34-year old is clearly a shell of his former self and will not be a part of the long-term plans. The former Super Bowl MVP is leading the league in drops, and it’s time for the Patriots to give his snaps to somebody else.
Gunner Olszewski reportedly was New England’s best wide receiver throughout training camp. However, an offseason injury forced him to start the season on the short-term injured reserve. From there, the former undrafted free agent has had a tough time seeing the field. With the team most likely out of contention, New England should increase Olszewski’s snap count and see if that training camp performance was a sign of things to come.
Additionally, Jakobi Meyers always makes plays when actually on the field. Taking over for an injured N’Keal Harry, Meyers played in 79% of the offensive snaps while recording four receptions for 60 yards. The former undrafted free agent flashed the ability to be an NFL-caliber receiver both last night and as a rookie, and deserved the opportunity to win a spot on the offense.
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