New year, new quarterback, and new offense for New England.
On Monday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked during a press conference to discuss whether, as it appears, the team ripped up its offensive playbook and constructed a new one.
“We always try to do what’s best for the team to win,” Belichick said. “Everything we’ve done for the last 20 years, and rightfully so, has been for Tom Brady. It was for Tom Brady. Everything was dedicated to him, other than the games that he didn’t play in, like when [Matt] Cassel played or Jimmy [Garoppolo] and then Jacoby [Brissett] when Brady was suspended. So there were times when we had to plan differently, but when your starting quarterback has things that he’s good at or things that you can take advantage of, then I think you try to take advantage of them.”
That’s just good coaching. Do what your players do well. Don’t do the things they don’t do well.
New quarterback Cam Newton runs well. He ran the ball 15 times on Sunday. Is that something that will continue, given the physical risks that such an approach presents to a quarterback who often has been injured?
“Well, some of those runs were option-type runs, so we don’t know who’s going to get the ball,” Belichick said. “It depends on how the defense plays. It’s not like handing the ball off to the halfback and running up the middle. When you run plays that have some type of an option to them, you don’t know for sure who’s going to get the ball. That’s just an unpredictable part of that play. It’s like running a pass play. Unless it’s a screen pass, when you drop back and throw the ball, you don’t know which receiver you’re throwing to. It depends on the coverage and the matchup that you get. So, it’s the same thing on an option-type run. The quarterback could keep it or the quarterback could hand it off. It really depends on how the defense defends the play.
“So 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. So, we’ll see how teams play us going forward on those type of plays. If we run those again — I don’t know — 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.”
In other words, there’s a difference between a designed run and an option play. On Sunday, Newton decided (presumably based on his keys) to run 15 times. Depending on the manner in which the Seattle defense performs on Sunday night, Newton may decide to hand the ball off more.
Regardless, it seems like the decisions made when constructing game plans will take into account Newton’s mobility. Some weeks, the mobility could be part of a misdirection. Other weeks, Newton could get the ball a lot.
At the end of the day, the Patriots need to be concerned about the number of hits Newton takes. He looks indestructible, but he isn’t. Keeping him healthy will be critical to going as far as the 2020 Patriots possibly can.