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Cam Newton on the Patriots could be 'terrifying,' says Jets player

Last year, the Patriots had Jets quarterback Sam Darnold "seeing ghosts" during a lopsided loss. This year, it could be Halloween all season long — and not just for New England's long-suffering rivals in New York.

That's according to none other than a member of the Jets, who declared recently that the thought of Cam Newton teaming up with Bill Belichick was "terrifying."

In fairness, offensive lineman Greg Van Roten, who was a Panthers teammate of Newton's for three years before signing with the Jets in March, meant it more as a lighthearted compliment to the veteran quarterback than as an earnest admission of fear. At the same time, the Jets have to be cringing at the inevitability of Van Roten's quotes coming back to, ahem, haunt them when the season gets going.

To some degree, though, that scenario will only unfold if Newton actually wins the starting job in New England and then excels in the role, after agreeing to a one-year deal with the Patriots in late June. Given that the other plausible contender to succeed Tom Brady is an inexperienced former fourth-round draft pick, Jarrett Stidham, the 2015 NFL MVP is widely expected to at least start the season atop the depth chart.

"What does he bring to the Patriots?" Van Roten said in an interview on SiriusXM Radio. "It's definitely terrifying to think about."

"If Cam Newton's healthy and he's in Belichick's offense, in my division, it could be a long year for the other teams, because he's a game-changer," continued Van Roten, a Long Island native who grew up as a Jets fan. "He's just built differently than a lot of quarterbacks, and he's a headache to game plan for. So, when he's healthy, you can stop the run from him, but then you gotta defend the pass. If you can stop the pass, well, then you've got to account for the run. So, it's basically, pick one thing and he'll do the other.

"And then you couple him with Belichick, who only cares about winning, and Cam really wants to prove himself, so it's definitely a recipe for disaster for the rest of the league if they can figure it out."

As Van Roten noted, Newton still has to get on the same page with his head coach, whose offensive intricacies during the Brady era could sometimes baffle veteran wide receivers hoping to hop aboard for a Super Bowl run. However, Belichick is also renowned for adjusting his schemes to the talent at hand, so he likely would play to the considerable strengths Newton showed since Carolina made him the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2011.

Of late, however, Newton has struggled to stay on the field, with major shoulder and foot injuries limiting him to just 16 games played over the past two seasons combined. Questions about the long-term health of a punishing runner who was involved in many more collisions during his career than the average pocket passer, as well as the Panthers' transition to a new owner and coaching staff, helped spur his somewhat unceremonious departure from Carolina.

"I was surprised, but I also saw it coming, if that makes sense," Van Roten said of Newton's release in March. "It was one of those situations where you have this talent, you have this franchise quarterback, and you're going to release him? To me, that seems like an interesting business decision, because you can replace a coaching staff, you can get a new scouting department, you can get a new business side of football. When it comes to a franchise quarterback — and there's plenty of teams across the league that will attest to it — you better be right, because you're mortgaging the next couple of years on that decision.

"I know Cam had some injury issues in the past, but the guy is a competitor."

Newton is certainly arriving in New England as a highly motivated player, if his Instagram account is any indication. While waiting three months for his phone to ring, he posted numerous videos showing what appeared to be strenuous workouts.

Breathing heavily and dripping with sweat, Newton said Saturday in a video, "You know what makes this different? They've never seen this Cam. They've never seen him. . . . The forgotten Cam. The [expletive]-on Cam. The tired-of-being-sick-and-tired Cam."

"It felt like I was just left to die. 'It's over for him, he's not the same player.' I love it. I adore it. I admire it. I want to taste it," he continued. "I want everything about it. I ain't never seen that me. Waking up energized after a hard day saying, 'What's next?'"

If Newton has his way, what's next is a revenge tour in which, with the help of arguably the greatest coach in NFL history, he makes other teams pay dearly for deciding they would be better off without him.

That's a scary thought for everyone on the Patriots' 2020 schedule, but none more so than the teams that have to face New England twice a year, including Van Roten's Jets. After all, they were among those who ghosted Newton following his release from Carolina. Now, one of their newest members sounds just a little spooked.

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