FOXBOROUGH — Cam Newton has been No. 1 on the Patriots roster since he arrived in New England, and now he’s No. 1 on the depth chart.
According to a league source, coach Bill Belichick told his players during a team meeting Thursday morning that Newton is the Patriots starting quarterback after the former NFL MVP won a three-way battle with Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer.
Newton showed consistent progress on the field as camp wore on and was taking on a bigger load of the snaps almost daily.
Newton also was elected a team captain, a testament to how quickly he has become a leader in the organization. He is poised to become the first quarterback to start for the Patriots who wasn’t drafted by them since Scott Secules started four games in 1993.
Over the course of the last three weeks, Newton has flashed the big arm and mobility that make him one of the most unique quarterbacks in NFL history. Now he gets to occupy the spot formerly owned by Tom Brady, the most decorated QB in NFL history.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on Wednesday called playing quarterback in NFL “probably the most difficult position in all of sports to play and excel at,” and said he hasn’t been surprised that Newton has quickly become the leader of the offense.
“Cam understands football very well, he can handle a lot of multiples, which you need to do at that position,” McDaniels said. “He reads coverage well and he puts a lot of time and effort into it.”
Newton’s last two seasons in Carolina were truncated by shoulder and foot injuries, and McDaniels was asked if Newton could still perform at an elite level.
“You don’t ever know until you know,” he said, “but you see enough in the drills, in the things we’ve tried to simulate, to make a pretty good assumption that it’s there and that it’s where you want it to be.”
Belichick has lauded Newton’s personality and presence and has been impressed by his work ethic.
“I can see why he had the kind of success that he had at Auburn and at Carolina,” the coach said on SiriusXM NFL Radio Monday. “In talking to people that were with him there, the things they said about him at Auburn and at Carolina — from a decade ago or two, three years ago, or even last year — it was all the same and it showed up here.
“He’s an extremely hard worker. Nobody works harder than Cam does. He’s here early. He stays late. Some players like to work on things they’re good at. Like if you’re strong on the bench press, then you just keep throwing more weight on the bench.
“But Cam’s the type of player that works on things that he’s not as good at, and really tries to improve on a daily basis. That’s something I really respect about him.”
The last time Newton talked to the media, he said his comfort level at the line of scrimmage wasn’t where it needs to be, though quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch said Wednesday he’s seen a ton of progress in that area in recent practices.
“There has been great improvement, and each day we’ve seen a substantial difference in regards to knowledge,” he said.