It has not taken long for Cam Newton to remind everyone why he won NFL MVP honors just five years ago. The 31-year-old has looked rejuvenated through his first two games with the New England Patriots. However, Newton just suffered a potential setback to his NFL comeback. With starting center David Andrews landing on injured reserve, the Patriots’ new quarterback must quickly get on the same page with whoever fills in at the pivot position.
But Patriots fans need no reminder of Andrews’ importance. After all, his absence last season played a significant role in the team’s struggles on the offensive side of the ball. And if Bill Belichick can’t find an adequate replacement for Andrews, that could lead to serious problems for Newton and the 2020 offense.
Cam Newton and David Andrews are coming off of lost 2019 campaigns
Both Cam Newton and David Andrews entered the 2020 NFL season seeking a fresh start. For Newton, that meant a change of scenery. After spending his entire NFL career in Carolina, the former No. 1 pick spent months on the free-agent market before signing a one-year deal with the Patriots. Of course, Newton had to settle for an absurdly cheap contract because he failed to stay healthy in recent years.
For Andrews, his 2019 season ended before it ever began. The former undrafted free agent had blood clots in his lungs and did not play a single snap last year. Andrews started 57 games from 2015-2018 before missing the entire 2019 campaign.
However, the 28-year-old got cleared to return for the 2020 season. And after snapping the ball to Tom Brady for the last four years, Andrews had to begin building chemistry with a new quarterback. Through two games, the partnership between Newton and Andrews has looked terrific, as the Patriots have moved the ball well on the ground and through the air.
Newton suffers a potential setback to his Patriots comeback
After putting together two impressive performances, Cam Newton just suffered a potential setback to his Patriots comeback. On Friday, New England placed David Andrews on injured reserve. The team’s longtime center underwent surgery to repair a broken thumb on his snapping hand. He cannot return until Week 6, at the earliest.
The injury represents a devastating blow to an offense that is still finding its identity. Though Andrews has never earned a Pro Bowl nod, he holds tremendous value to the Patriots because of his intelligence, experience, and blocking ability. In fact, the Georgia native was named a team captain for the 2017 season—a testament to the respect he commands from his teammates and the coaching staff.
For Newton, losing Andrews stings in multiple ways. First, the two veterans have built chemistry dating back to training camp. A clean quarterback-center exchange must take place for an offense to even run a play. Andrews provides much more than that, especially given his experience in calling protections and identifying oncoming blitzers. Newton no longer has the benefit of working with a battle-tested veteran who knows the Patriots’ offense much better than even he does.
Secondly, Andrews’ absence could put Newton in harm’s way. He struggled to stay healthy in Carolina behind a porous offensive line. While the Patriots’ unit still looks strong overall, the downgrade from Andrews to a backup could lead to increased pressure, missed blocks, and more hits on Newton. Considering we’re only in Week 3, and given his injury history, increased exposure to contact could have a detrimental effect over time. And based on New England’s lack of proven weapons, the Patriots cannot afford to lose Newton for any period of time.
New England’s offensive line depth will be tested once again
With David Andrews out, Cam Newton’s comeback campaign just got much more difficult. Ultimately, Hjalte Froholdt will likely be tasked with filling in as Andrews recovers from surgery.
The 2019 fourth-round pick ironically spent his first year in the NFL on the sidelines just like the player he will have to replace. Froholdt went on injured reserve and still has not played a single offensive snap heading into Week 3.
Still, the Denmark native performed well in training camp and earned a roster spot. Now, he must quickly adapt and go from never playing an NFL snap to protecting Newton. Can Froholdt rise to the occasion? Or will he struggle to handle all the responsibilities of playing the center position?
Newton has certainly gotten off to a terrific start in New England, but losing David Andrews represents a brutal blow to his comeback story. Going from a Pro Bowl-caliber center to a backup with zero NFL snaps on his resume can only be viewed as a massive downgrade. And if the offense takes a step back and struggles to move the ball consistently, it will only put more pressure on Newton to carry an undermanned unit.
Let’s see if one of Bill Belichick’s recent draft picks can fill in and do his job.
If not, Cam Newton will have a difficult and painful time doing his.