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

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The New England Patriots didn't sign Cam Newton until two months before the 2020 season, forcing the quarterback to learn a new system during a restricted training camp with no preseason play.

Newton didn't live up to expectations during his first campaign in New England. The Patriots missed the playoffs for the first time in 12 years, and the 2015 MVP threw just eight touchdown passes against 10 interceptions over 15 starts.

But head coach Bill Belichick is confident Newton can bounce back thanks to a more standard offseason program and training camp schedule.

"Well, Cam's way ahead of where he was last year at this time, there's no question about that," Belichick said Tuesday, according to NESN's Doug Kyed. "As you would expect, he has a good year of experience under his belt, he's able to start the process at the beginning and not being in catch-up mode like he was last year. He was really just starting at this point last season."

Belichick added that, like all players who have been in attendance for the club's entire offseason program so far, Newton is stacking "building blocks" and putting learning experiences together.

"They ask questions on things they need clarification on and build to the next level when they're ready to put another brick on the pile," he continued. "So, that's good for all of us, good for Cam, good for all the players who go through that process."

New England was aggressive during free agency while putting more weapons around Newton, signing tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, and wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne.

Though the quarterback struggled through the air in 2020, he was still highly effective on the ground while rushing for 592 yards and 12 scores.

Belichick did draft an insurance policy at quarterback, selecting former Alabama passer Mac Jones at No. 15 overall. Newton is still the favorite to start, though the Patriots are seemingly leaving the door open for Jones to push for the job during training camp.

Newton avoided an injury scare during OTAs in early June. The signal-caller hit his hand on a helmet, but he was able to return for the start of mandatory minicamp after reportedly being diagnosed with a minor bone bruise.

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