With training camp within three weeks, CatCrave proudly presents an analysis on each position on the Panthers roster. In an effort to prepare you for the excitement of watching your favorite team prepare for the season, we will analyze the projected strengths and weaknesses at each position.
In part two of our series, we look at the most important position in American sports, the quarterback. While many talented teams have not reached their full potential due to the inability of quarterback play, Carolina has the luxury of Cam Newton, a quarterback who has matured and improved in each of his three seasons. However, with all the changes to the positions around him, will Cam be able to lead a charge to defend Carolina’s NFC South Division Title?
Strengths: With his third season passed, Cam Newton made impressive growths in a career which is budding into elite level. Newton lead the Panthers to the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and posted career highs in completion percentage (61.7) touchdown passes (24) and quarterback rating (88.8). With all the numbers to analyze that Cam improved in his third season in the pros, the intangibles that many questioned with Newton were no longer a concern in his third season.
Elected a captain for the first time in his career, Cam’s leadership ability was on full display in comeback victories and late game charges against the Miami Dolphins, the New Orleans Saints, and most notably a Monday Night win against the great Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. A Pro Bowler last season, Cam made progressive leaps last season and should continue to improve this season.
Unlikely to see the field outside of an injury to Newton, the Panthers do field two veteran quarterbacks who can hold down the offensive fort in case Cam would ever get hurt. Formerly a Pro Bowler, Derek Anderson is projected to be the second string quarterback and, though was never able to regain the 2007 season, has proven in stints in Arizona the ability to win games.
The other quarterback projected to make the roster is the duo threat quarterback Joe Webb. A former wide receiver prospect, Webb is more like Cam in playing style. If Cam were ever to be injured, Webb’s skills are more likely to be a more seamless transition if he were thrust into the starting role.
Weaknesses: Among the talented, young quarterbacks in the league (Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Colin Kapernick, Russell Griffin III, Ryan Tannerhill), I would put Cam as the third best behind Luck and Wilson. Cam has gotten better in each season and not only thrived, but has broken into the NFL record books with his play.
In his first three seasons, Cam has become the first player in NFL history with 10,000 passing yards and over 1,000 yards rushing and to throw for 50 touchdowns and run 25 scores. Yet, with all his accomplishments, Cam may take a step back–not due to his play, but due to the talent around him.
Five of the most proven veterans in the NFL struggled last season due to the talent surrounding them. Eli Manning and Matt Ryan took huge steps backs last season in part to offensive line troubles. Super Bowl MVPs Joe Flacco, Aaron Rodgers, and Tom Brady each struggled at times last year due to injuries and the talent of their receivers. If Rodgers and Brady had difficulty last fall, two of the four best passers in the NFL, I expect at times this season Cam may be on the sideline with a disgusted look on his face after a bad possession with a towel draped over his head.
While Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant have been reliable in the past, have age and past injuries caught up to the two steady receivers? While Kelvin Benjamin has shown tremendous game changing talent in OTAs, Benjamin is still a rookie who will take his bumps as he continues to improve in his first season. Tight end Greg Olsen certainly is the most proven receiver on the roster and should be Cam’s go-to target.
Perhaps the most underrated aspect of the NFL (since they receive little glory from fans and analysis alike) is the stability of the offensive line. It will be the indicator of a successful or disappointing Carolina season. Most notably, the blindside of Newton ( the left tackle position) is currently up in the air between Nate Chandler and Bryon Bell. While each played well when inserted into the lineup due to injury last season, Bell did have a tendency to allow sacks, allowing 9 total on Newton, ninth worst among qualifying tackles. Meanwhile Chandler has only started eight games as an offensive lineman for Carolina.
Cam Newton is the most dynamic and best offensive player on the Carolina Panthers. If the Panthers struggle offensively, it will not be due to Cam’s play, but the performance of the positions he will rely on the most. While Cam will be ready to lead another strong campaign for Carolina, will the weight he could potential carry be even too much for Superman?