By Mike Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
The New England Patriots have figured out their next move at quarterback. Cam Newton (15-of-19, 155 yards, 15 rushes, 75 yards, two touchdowns) impressed in his Patriots debut on Sunday during the team's 21-11 season-opening win against the Miami Dolphins.
The main question heading into the 2020 season was who would take over at quarterback following the departure of Tom Brady. Once the Pats signed Newton as a free agent back in June, the question then became how effective would the former MVP be? Sunday's performance proved that Newton still has a lot of football left and he has a firm grasp on the starting job.
With the quarterback question answered, the Patriots can now move on to addressing and improving other areas of their roster. The Pats' 2019 first-round pick, N'Keal Harry (five receptions, 39 yards), still has a long way to go; Sunday's goal line fumble cost Newton his first touchdown pass as a Patriot. Julian Edelman continued to be the anchor of New England's receiving corps, catching five balls for 57 yards. Still, there is a huge lack of depth at the receiving position and the Patriots will need to address this moving forward, whether that is through a trade or a free agency signing.
Another area where the Patriots could improve is on special teams, specifically at placekicker. Stephen Gostkowski going on injured reserve last season forced New England to sign Nick Folk and Kai Forbath as replacements. Both were released after one game. Folk was re-signed following the 28-22 defeat at Houston on December 1 and finished out the season as the team's kicker. This offseason, Gostkowski departed to Tennessee in free agency. Nick Folk re-signed with the team this offseason and the Patriots spent a fifth-round pick on Justin Rohrwasser in the 2020 draft. Rohrwasser was released following a disappointing performance in training camp, so the job once again fell into the hands of Folk.
On Sunday, Folk missed his lone field goal attempt of the afternoon, pushing a 45-yard try from the middle of the field wide-right just before halftime. Folk did make all three of his 35-yard PATs, but the missed kick felt like a gut-punch considering the lack of scoring in the first half.
Obviously, it would be pretty insane for Bill Belichick to cut a guy after missing just one field goal in the first game of the year. However, if there is one thing for certain about Bill Belichick, it's that absolutely nothing is for certain with any player. We're talking about a guy who cut Lawyer Milloy, traded Richard Seymour, Jimmy Garappolo and Jamie Collins, along with a million other examples of Bill's cold-hearted mastermind mentality.
Last season, Folk was 14-of-17 on field goals. Comparably, former Needham Rocket Stephen Hauschka, formerly of the Buffalo Bills, was 22-of-28 on field goals last season for Buffalo. Hauschka, now a free agent after being released by the Bills on August 27, could be the next guy that Belichick brings in to compete for the starting place-kicker job if Folk's production continues to be an issue.
The local journalist in me wants to write the Stephen Hauschka homecoming story, but doing so would mean that Nick Folk probably shanked a couple of kicks and lost the Pats a game… which the Patriots fan in me obviously does not want. Tough position to be in, but I can't deny that if Stephen Hauschka ended up kicking for the Patriots this season, it would be really cool.
For funny and incisive sports analysis as well as video highlights of games, follow Mike Flanagan on his own personal Twitter and Instagram handles @flano0.