Will Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton run as much in 2018?
Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera initially indicated there would be no changes to his coaching staff after last season barring an assistant leaving for a promotion. However, just three days after being eliminated from the playoffs, the Panthers parted ways with offensive coordinator Mike Shula and quarterback coach Ken Dorsey. Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks was granted an opportunity in Arizona and eventually Rivera would need to replace every coordinator – offense, defense and special teams.
Norv Turner filled the offensive coordinator position in a return to the NFL after missing 2017, his first absence from a sideline in over 30 years at the professional level. His experience and expertise at gaining the most from his quarterbacks will be key to the success of Carolina and Cam Newton this season.
Turner has already admitted that he has never worked with anyone quite like Newton but how exactly he plans to put the Panthers quarterback in a position to succeed remains a mystery. Some obvious focal points include: quicker decision making, hitting a check-down receiver option, improving completion percentage and developing a rapport with an extremely young wide receiver group.
All important parts of the passing game but how will Turner utilize Newton’s ability to run the football?
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Rivera has talked about having Newton take less punishment by limiting designed quarterback runs, especially after entering last season with a surgically repaired shoulder. While his intentions were pure, Newton wound up rushing the most he has over his entire seven year career.
The former league MVP carried the football 139 times, seven more than his previous high from 2015 for 754 yards – another new career high but he found the end zone just six times, tying his second lowest performance in terms of scoring.
Carolina parted ways with veteran running back Jonathan Stewart last year but signed C.J. Anderson as a first-down option and a heavier workload is also expected of second-year back, Christian McCaffrey. Both are viable options in the backfield and combined with Newton provide an interesting mix of weapons for Turner to scheme around.
A slight change from the power run blueprint of the past to a more down field threat from the receivers is expected, in addition to slightly less zone-read options. Both should take away a few carries from Newton.
Setting the highest rushing totals of his career last year, expect a decrease in output this season but keep an eye on how Turner elects to incorporate Newton running, which is too valuable an asset to go unused.