Don’t expect Cam Newton’s Week 1 carries to be representative of what’s to come.
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said Tuesday that Newton’s high rushing usage was more a function of circumstance than a centerpiece of the game plan. Against the Dolphins in the season opener, Newton rushed for 75 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries, the most by a quarterback in a game in Patriots history.
“That number could have been six,” McDaniels said. “It ended up being a little higher.”
McDaniels echoed coach Bill Belichick, who noted that some of Newton’s rushes were “option-type runs,” meaning the play wasn’t specifically designed for the quarterback to keep the ball.
“It really depends on how the defense defends the play,” Belichick said. “I think those numbers are, with all due respect, I think they’re a little bit skewed. If they play it a certain way, they could put the ball in whoever’s hands they wanted to if they really want to declare who’s going to get the ball.”
Still, Newton’s heavy workload did not go unnoticed by McDaniels.
The 15 attempts were the second-most of Newton’s 10-year career, behind only a 17-carry day with Carolina in 2014. Because the 31-year-old veteran is recovering from a Lisfranc fracture in his left foot last season, McDaniels is prioritizing his health.
“The goal is not to put anybody in harm’s way,” said McDaniels. “We have a player at that position that certainly can help us, but, obviously, we have to be smart about what we’re doing and make sure we don’t put him in a situation that can hurt our team or himself.”
That’s not to say the Patriots don’t want Newton to have opportunities to flex one of his biggest strengths. After all, there have been only 29 seasons in NFL history when a quarterback has logged 100 rushing attempts — and Newton is responsible for seven of them. In 2011, he set the NFL record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a season with 14.
But in addition to protecting Newton, McDaniels emphasized the need to be unpredictable.
“I don’t know that any one thing, if you do it over and over and over, is sustainable in our league,” McDaniels said. “The coaches and the players, each week, are too good.”
Belichick, too, called the situation fluid.
“We’ll see how teams play us going forward on those type of plays,” he said. “We’ll do what’s best each week based on the team that we’re playing and how we feel like we can attack them.”
One step at a time
Special teams coordinator Cam Achord did not tip his hand in regard to the plans at kicker for Week 2 or beyond.
“We’re happy with both guys,” Achord said. “They’re continuing to improve.”
In Week 1, 35-year-old veteran Nick Folk earned the starting job over fifth-round draft pick Justin Rohrwasser. Folk was temporarily activated to the 53-man roster from the practice squad, but has since reverted to the practice squad.
Rohrwasser is also on the practice squad.
Teams can elevate two practice-squad players to the active roster each week, but any individual player can be elevated only twice throughout the season. If Folk, for example, is activated again in Week 2, then the Patriots must sign him to an NFL contract if they wish to make him available in Week 3.
“Coach is going to do what’s best for the team and maximize the amount of people we can have and everything, so we’re just taking it day-by-day,” Achord said.
Against the Dolphins, Folk connected on all three of his extra-point attempts but badly misfired on a 45-yard field goal try. When asked what went wrong, Achord deferred to Folk and said the unit would continue to work together to address any issues.
Another QB aboard
The Patriots signed quarterback Jake Dolegala to the practice squad, according to The Athletic. Dolegala, who played college football at Central Connecticut, went undrafted in 2019 before signing with the Cincinnati Bengals.