Cam Newton knows there’s no sense in ever trying to fill Tom Brady’s legendary shoes. The former NFL MVP plans to focus on making an impact on the Patriots as they enter Sunday’s home game against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Newton has completed 71.4 percent of his passes for 552 yards but is making even more noise as a runner with 122 yards and four touchdowns through his first two games for New England (1-1). He’s well ahead of his MVP pace of 2015.
The four rushing scores are the most in NFL history for a quarterback through two games and perhaps the total could have been one higher if Newton wasn’t stopped at the 2-yard line on the final play of Sunday night’s 35-30 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Newton, the former Carolina Panthers star, is still exerting himself as a leader with his new team, but quickly took responsibility for the decisive play not working.
“We just have to execute. And I could have bounced it,” Newton said of the play. “I just have to do better. I just have to do better here at the end. We put ourselves in a position to win and when you do that, you just have to finish and we didn’t do that.”
Overall, there are few complaints about Newton as he assimilates his style into the existing and well-established Patriot Way.
New England coach Bill Belichick feels Newton is quickly picking up the game plan and adding just the right amount of spice.
“Each week’s a new challenge, but Cam understands what we want to do,” Belichick said. “He has a good grasp. He’s got a lot of playing experience and is a very instinctive player, and when things come up in the game, he’s very quick to identify the differences from what we’ve prepared for and or what the team has shown in the past based on the last two weeks. But, we’ll continue to work together on that.”
Raiders coach Jon Gruden has Las Vegas at 2-0 after taking down the Saints on Monday night. He fears Newton’s combination of strength and size, as well as his prowess throwing the ball.
“I haven’t seen many guys walk through my doors that look like Cam,” Gruden said. “I call him ‘Slam.’ Slam Newton. That was the nickname. He’s a power forward playing quarterback.”
Newton, who has one touchdown pass and one interception, also has quickly built a strong rapport with veteran receiver Julian Edelman, who had eight receptions for a career-high 179 yards against Seattle. Overall, Edelman has 13 receptions for 236 yards.
The Raiders scored 34 points in both of their wins — by four over the Carolina Panthers and an impressive 10-point margin in Monday night’s win over New Orleans in their first game in Las Vegas.
Quarterback Derek Carr has completed 73.5 percent of his passes for 521 yards and four touchdowns without being intercepted. He takes aim at a New England defense torched for five touchdown passes by Russell Wilson last week.
Carr is looking for a strong rebound season after hearing chatter in the offseason that the Raiders would be better off moving on from him despite the fact he passed for more than 4,000 yards in each of the past two seasons.
“This organization has stuck behind me through some hard times,” Carr said. “Through some times when our team struggled, there’s no doubt about it, but when you can get on the other side of things and be 2-0 as the Las Vegas Raiders, that’s a pretty cool thing.”
The Raiders have emerging star Josh Jacobs (181 rushing, three touchdowns) in the backfield and tight end Darren Waller (18 receptions) off to a strong start for an offense that ranks fourth in scoring, which was a problem area — specifically in the red zone — in 2019.
The defense could use improvement and is allowing 27 points and 406 yards per game. Las Vegas has just one sack and the failure to pressure quarterbacks could be exploited by a dynamic player like Newton.
Las Vegas is hurting on the offensive line after placing guard Richie Incognito (Achilles) on injured reserve on Wednesday. Others missing practice were Jacobs (hip), Waller (knee), offensive tackle Trent Brown (calf), guard/tackle Denzelle Good (thumb/illness), linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski (pectoral) and defensive end Carl Nassib (illness).
New England center David Andrews (hand) was the only player to miss Wednesday’s practice due to injury. Running back James White was also absent as he deals with a family tragedy. His father was killed and his mother injured in an auto accident in Florida on Sunday.