Let’s all welcome Cam Newton, the undisputed franchise quarterback of an athletic caliber Panthers fans had never witnessed before 2011. Already enlightened to his athletic prowess and uncanny ability to get out of a jam for a first down, last year saw him develop a trust in his offense and find a degree of consistency and comfort in the pocket. Now, he is stripped bare along his offensive line and in the WR crew while his contract is at the point of being negotiated. No pressure.
Regardless of how dire the situation may seem, there are some positives going into this potentially turbulent pre-season. For one, the offense will be operating under the same offensive coordinator, which is an underrated commodity. Those returning from last year’s offense won’t have to invest a wealth of time into learning new terminology or plays, which will allow them to bring the new guys along a lot faster as well. WR Coach Ricky Proehl along with consistent, veteran team players like Avant and Cotchery will be responsible for molding the young WR corp while TEs Olsen, Dickson, and Mitchell offer security blankets on the line and in the passing game.
If the savvy vets aren’t enough to sooth your worries, let’s not forget the potent (though overpaid) running game. Tolbert has been a gift since joining the team and, for the first time in a while, both members of Double Trouble are hitting the field during training camp. With Stewart in the best state of health in years along with Williams out to prove he’s still a premier back, look for both players to show flashes of their younger selves as they fight to not be a cap casualty in the coming years. Kelvin Benjamin has definitely grown on me since the draft and, as long as we can get down the field, should be an immediate threat inside the 20. Look for Shula to lean on the beastly backfield to carry us most of the way.
In the upcoming season, we will witness Newton take full command of the offense and be tested in arguably the most competitive division in the NFL. With so much improvement across the NFC South, the team as a whole will need to apply knowledge quickly in order to remain as competitive as last year and Cam will have to make some really quick decisions. As long as Gettleman and Rivera make sound decisions on the men tasked with keeping the best running QB in the NFL upright, the Panthers will be one of most quietly dangerous teams in the league. It will be no easy task, but I believe in Cam Newton. Let’s hope that he believes in the talent surrounding him.