Quarterback play is always important but the Carolina Panthers backups need to shine during training camp…
The Carolina Panthers selected quarterback Cam Newton with the first overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft in hopes he could be the franchise signal caller for the future. Newton has filled the role, setting NFL records and leading the Panthers on their most successful string of seasons in team history.
Carolina has won three consecutive divisional titles and been to the playoffs four times over his first seven seasons. The only other quarterbacks to have visited the postseason an equal number of times during the same stretch are named Tom Brady (7), Aaron Rodgers (6), Ben Roethlisberger (5), Russell Wilson (5), Alex Smith (5) and Matt Ryan (4). Like Newton, only Brady, Wilson and Ryan have led their teams to at least one Super Bowl appearance.
Each season prior, Derek Anderson served as the backup quarterback to Newton but this year will be different. Although Anderson started only four games in place of Newton, he entered into the position with NFL starting experience and one Pro Bowl season already on his resume. Still a free agent, the former backup remains a potential candidate should none of the current roster pan out.
Although coach Ron Rivera has expressed his desire to select a backup from the three other options currently on the team, their NFL experience is virtually zero. Only Taylor Heinicke has attempted a pass in a regular season game – the good news, he completed it but the bad news it was his only attempt, ever.
Current front runner Garrett Gilbert shined during the preseason last year in Newton’s absence but he never was relied on to contribute afterwards. While he displayed a tendency for good decision making and showcased a strong arm, whether or not he can step in and keep the Panthers offense on track remains to be seen.
More from Cat Crave
- Ranking the top-five QB prospects the Panthers could draft in 2023
- 4 remaining Carolina Panthers cap crunches after Damien Wilson release
- Could Duce Staley help Carolina Panthers land Jamaal Williams in 2023?
- How much could the Carolina Panthers afford to offer Lamar Jackson?
- 4 Panthers rumors to emerge from 2023 NFL Scouting Combine
It’s safe to say that any significant time missed from Newton would derail the Panthers season but what if someone else is needed for just one or two games, possibly even a half of football. In what is expected to be another extremely tight NFC South race, every game is going to be important and Carolina cannot afford to have their playoff hopes lie in the hands of an inexperienced quarterback.
At this time it appears this scenario is precisely what is going to play out although training camp and preseason game performances are likely to influence the decision making process. If none of the current candidates – Gilbert, Heinicke or undrafted free agent Kyle Allen performs well enough to leave Rivera and new offensive coordinator Norv Turner feeling confident in their abilities, then another option may be explored but it may be too late.
Either way, expect Anderson, who has stated he’s not ready to retire, to be keeping a close watch on the performance of these three along with all Panthers fans across the country.