Don’t expect Cam Newton’s Week 1 carries to be representative of what’s to come.
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said Tuesday that Newton’s high rushing usage was more a function of circumstance than a centerpiece of the game plan. Against the Dolphins in the season opener, Newton rushed for 75 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries, the most by a quarterback in a game in Patriots history.
“That number could have been six,” McDaniels said. “It ended up being a little higher.”
McDaniels echoed coach Bill Belichick, who noted that some of Newton’s rushes were “option-type runs,” meaning the play wasn’t specifically designed for the quarterback to keep the ball.
“It really depends on how the defense defends the play,” Belichick said. “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.”
Still, Newton’s heavy workload did not go unnoticed by McDaniels.
The 15 attempts were the second-most of Newton’s 10-year career, behind only a 17-carry day with Carolina in 2014. Because the 31-year-old veteran is recovering from a Lisfranc fracture in his left foot last season, McDaniels is prioritizing his health.
“The goal is not to put anybody in harm’s way," said McDaniels. "We have a player at that position that certainly can help us, but, obviously, we have to be smart about what we’re doing and make sure we don’t put him in a situation that can hurt our team or himself.”
That’s not to say the Patriots don’t want Newton to have opportunities to flex one of his biggest strengths. After all, there have been only 29 seasons in NFL history when a quarterback has logged 100 rushing attempts — and Newton is responsible for seven of them. In 2011, he set the NFL record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a season with 14.
But in addition to protecting Newton, McDaniels emphasized the need to be unpredictable.
“I don’t know that any one thing, if you do it over and over and over, is sustainable in our league,” McDaniels said. “The coaches and the players, each week, are too good.”
Belichick, too, called the situation fluid.
“We’ll see how teams play us going forward on those type of plays,” he said. “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.”
Folk gets foot in the door
The Patriots are signing Nick Folk to their 53-man roster, NFL Network reported Tuesday evening.
Folk got the nod as the team’s starting kicker against the Dolphins Sunday. Because he was initially a member of the practice squad, he had to be temporarily activated to the 53-man roster ahead of game day, and then he reverted to the practice squad Monday.
Teams can elevate two practice-squad players to the active roster each week, but each player can be temporarily elevated only twice throughout the season, including the playoffs.
Against the Dolphins, Folk connected on all three of his extra-point attempts but badly misfired on a 45-yard field goal try. When asked what went wrong, special teams coordinator Cam Achord deferred to Folk and said the unit would continue to work together to address any issues.
Achord also said the team was pleased with both Folk and fifth-round draft pick Justin Rohrwasser, who remains on the practice squad.
“We’re happy with both guys,” Achord said. “They’re continuing to improve.”
Another QB aboard
The Patriots signed quarterback Jake Dolegala to the practice squad, according to The Athletic. Dolegala, who played college football at Central Connecticut, went undrafted in 2019 before signing with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Nicole Yang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.