With Cam Newton Signing, Are Patriots Following Ravens’ Offensive Blueprint?
When the Ravens installed a run-heavy offense tailored to dual-threat quarterback Lamar Jackson’s unique skill set last year, it was often described as the team zigging when the rest of the pass-happy league was zagging. Does Cam Newton signing with New England mean the Patriots will be zagging, too?
It’s often said that the NFL is a copycat league, but following the Ravens’ offensive blueprint is easier said than done because few quarterbacks can do what Jackson does. Newton, though, is one of the league’s most similar.
So after two decades of being the team others in the league would attempt to emulate, are the Patriots and Head Coach Bill Belichick looking to model their offense after the Ravens?
The Ringer’s Robert Mays thinks so.
“New England’s personnel looks a lot like the offense the Ravens have built around Lamar Jackson. And that doesn’t feel like an accident,” Mays wrote. ” … The Patriots have always tried to stay ahead of the curve, but with (Tom) Brady in place, the scope of those changes was limited. Each iteration of the Patriots offense was a slight variant of its predecessor, grafted onto the same, Brady-shaped foundation.
“Bringing in Newton represents the first real departure from that approach in more than 20 years. Now, the ideal version of their offense will look a lot like what the Ravens have: a power running game built around a do-everything quarterback, and vertical play-action shots that stem from that running game.”
ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky expressed a similar sentiment.
“Feel like Patriots may often look like the Ravens on offense at moments,” Orlovsky tweeted. “Three tight ends on the field, misdirection, shifts, motion, with downhill run plus quarterback run and (play action) shots.”
Perhaps the Patriots signing a dual-threat quarterback shouldn’t come as a surprise considering they reportedly were very high on Jackson leading up to the 2018 draft.
“When the Patriots were evaluating Lamar Jackson in 2018, they liked him, but knew they’d have to flip their offensive scheme upside down if they were going to draft him. So they’ve considered switching things up in the past,” Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer wrote. “If Cam wins the job, the Pats will accommodate him.”
NFL’s Bucky Brooks expects the Patriots “will run the ball relentlessly at the defense” with power and bootlegs, mixed in with play-action passes. “But the new-school flair comes with their ability to now get into shotgun, do some RPOs, do some quarterback-designed runs, some zone-read things that we’ve never seen from the Patriots.”
NESN’s Sean T. McGuire agreed that New England appears to be constructing an offense similar to Baltimore’s, but he thinks it will be difficult to have the same success as the Ravens, who set a single-season rushing record last season, thanks in large part to Jackson setting the single-season rushing record for a quarterback en route to winning the league MVP award.
“With Newton being the biggest offseason addition for the Patriots, the selection of tight ends Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene in the NFL Draft make for some similarities to Baltimore, who used multi-tight end sets extensively last season,” McGuire wrote. “And there’s no doubt Newton, like Jackson, will help the Patriots’ skill position players with his dual-threat ability. But even with that said, the 2020 Patriots have a long way to go if they want to resemble the 2019 Ravens, who were the No. 1 ranked offense in the NFL.”
As Breer alluded to, there’s no guarantee Newton will even be the Patriots’ starter (although he has to be considered the favorite). Newton, the 2015 NFL MVP as a member of the Carolina Panthers, will compete for the job with second-year quarterback Jarrett Stidham and veteran Brian Hoyer. There are also health concerns, as the 31-year-old Newton was limited to two games last season due to a Lisfranc fracture, and he’s undergone shoulder and foot surgeries over the past two years.
Newton likely wouldn’t run as much as Jackson, or as effectively. He’s a much bigger-bodied runner who has taken more punishment.
Before the injuries, Newton was drawing comparisons to Michael Vick, just like Jackson has since entering the league in 2018. Newton held the record for most rushing attempts by a quarterback (139 in 2017) before Jackson surpassed him in 2018 (147) and 2019 (176).