Cam Newton's next challenge: Opening up Patriots' passing game

Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:

1. Cam's next challenge: After an impressive debut in a Week 1 win against the Miami Dolphins sparked by his legs, quarterback Cam Newton's next challenge will be opening up things up in the passing game Sunday (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC) against the Seattle Seahawks (1-0).

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, all of Newton's 19 pass attempts in Week 1 had a completion probability of 50% or more. That was the most pass attempts, all with a completion probability of 50% or more, by anyone in a game over the past five seasons.

The conservative approach worked against the Dolphins, and it helped the Patriots never trailed and the Dolphins struggled against the run, but even Newton acknowledged it's a modest start.

"We're just trying to keep building, take as much as possible that the defense is going to give us," he said.

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels noted the approach will change weekly, saying "there's probably not a greater discrepancy between two different types of defenses than the two we're playing here to start the season."

So Newton should be challenged to make more difficult throws, and how the Patriots respond will be a good barometer of the progress in the passing game. Atlanta's Matt Ryan passed for 450 yards against the Seahawks in the opener, though some of that came in garbage time.

2. Edelman not focal point: Receiver Julian Edelman's limited playing time in the opener (37 of 56 snaps) was notable, and it was highlighted in colleague Bill Barnwell's piece of "stats nuggets that might have been missed."

It might have been simply a result of coaches not wanting to put unnecessary wear-and-tear on the 34-year-old in a run-based attack, but I also thought Newton's explanation of the offensive approach was interesting.

"Miami's last game in the [2019] regular season was with the Patriots, and they came into this [year] with the same type of mentality to take No. 11 away. We both kind of looked at each other as the game was going on, saying, 'At some point in our career, we needed help to take the focus off [us].'" Newton relayed on sports radio WEEI.

"They don't have enough defenders in my opinion if they want to focus on [No.] 11, or if you want to focus on [me], or if you want to focus on [someone else]. It just keeps people at a disadvantage of trying to scheme us up. That's been a focus point for us trying to prepare this year -- to take what the defense gives us and we'll be OK with that."

So much of the offense ran through Edelman the past few years, in part because he's the player quarterback Tom Brady trusted most.

The early approach of the Newton-led offense is geared toward more equal distribution, although there's still a lingering question: Are there enough pieces around Edelman to make it work?

3. Cam's leadership: If there was any question about Newton's leadership, including whether his selection as a captain after two months was warranted, his response to a question last week about second-year receiver N'Keal Harry answered it decisively. Newton went to bat for Harry, the 2019 first-round pick who lost a costly fumble through the end zone in the opener. It made me think there isn't another player who will benefit more from Newton's presence than Harry. Newton is Harry's biggest champion, and it's clear Harry is taking a cue from him.

4. Bruschi calls for more J.J.: There might have been some University of Arizona ties in play, but Patriots Hall of Famer and current ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi endorsed the idea that undrafted Patriots running back J.J. Taylor should be given an expanded opportunity after Sunday's opener (9 snaps; 4 carries for 28 yards). Coach Bill Belichick said running back is the type of position where you can tell more in live games -- when ball security, pad level and blitz pickup show up more -- and 5-foot-8, 185-pound Taylor made a solid first impression. "We love what he's doing," running backs coach Ivan Fears said. "The guy plays big for his size."

5a. Onwenu on the rise: The Patriots might have found another sixth-round gem from the University of Michigan. While no one can compare to what 2000 sixth-round pick Brady accomplished after being selected 199th overall, one of the surprising early-season storylines is how quickly Michigan's Mike Onwenu (sixth round, No. 181) has shot up the offensive line depth chart to compete for a starting role. He subbed in for starting right tackle Jermaine Eluemunor as part of a rotation in Sunday's opener, with Belichick saying Marcus Cannon's decision to opt out of the season created "a good opportunity to open the position up to competition, [and] those two players are ahead of the rest at this point."

5b. Uche bides his time: While Onwenu is off to a fast start, the same can’t be said for fellow Michigan alum Josh Uche, the second-round linebacker (No. 60 overall) who has already been declared out for the second game in a row Sunday night. Last week, Uche was a healthy scratch, as third-rounder Anfernee Jennings (No. 87 overall) got the nod over him. This week, Uche popped up on the injury report Thursday (ankle) and was ruled out Friday. While some might view it a cause for concern, I see it differently. Uche is essentially being asked to make a position switch, from primarily a pass-rusher to all-around linebacker -- somewhat similar to what Tedy Bruschi went through in 1996. That’s a huge jump, especially in the Patriots’ scheme. His time will come.

6. Blink and you'll miss it: One of the results of the ground-based offense in Sunday's win was the clock kept ticking -- a point announcers Jim Nantz and Tony Romo made in the third quarter of the CBS broadcast -- with the game taking 2 hours and 45 minutes. It was the Patriots' fastest game since their 2014 finale against the Bills lasted 2:43. In that game, they had the top playoff seed wrapped up and approached it with a get-out-healthy mindset. Mark Sunday's game down in a tie for the eighth-fastest regular-season game in Belichick's 21-year tenure as coach.

7. Hollister and Dorsett in Seattle: Former Patriots Jacob Hollister (tight end) and Phillip Dorsett II (receiver) have found new homes with the Seahawks, so what type of roles might they play Sunday against their former team? Hollister is working behind veteran Greg Olsen and Will Dissly as the third tight end, with Luke Willson as the No. 4. Given that role, some wondered whether Hollister would make the roster with his $3.259 million salary as a restricted free agent. He played 11 snaps in Sunday's opener, with one catch for 9 yards. Dorsett was inactive with a foot injury but projects to a No. 3 or No. 4 role when healthy.

8. Izzo's offseason: Third-year tight end Ryan Izzo had one of the surprising roles in the opener, playing all but one snap and grading out competitively as a blocker while contributing one catch for 25 yards on a play that showed a growing chemistry with Newton. One thing learned last week from listening to tight ends coach Nick Caley: Izzo crushed it in the offseason, reporting to training camp in outstanding shape, which ultimately set the stage for him to be called upon over rookies Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene.

9. They said it: "I remember going into the game, they were talking about 'That's the best defense ever.' A lot of people think about the Malcolm Butler interception, and the bad call by Pete Carroll -- or whatever you want to say -- but we were down 10 in the fourth quarter against the best defense in the league. We put two great drives together to get touchdowns. Then the defense came up with the greatest stop ever. To me, that was the epitome of team." -- Shane Vereen, former Patriots running back who had 12 receptions in the Super Bowl XLIX win against the Seahawks, to ESPN.com this week.

10. Did You Know? Newton enters Sunday needing 48 yards rushing to pass Randall Cunningham for the second most by a quarterback in NFL history. Michael Vick tops the charts (6,109), followed by Cunningham (4,928) and Newton (4,881).