After an injury-plagued 2018 season, Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newton has finally resumed throwing. The 30-year old underwent his second shoulder surgery in the past three years this offseason, and the hope is that he will be fully cleared before the 2019 opener. If Newton can remain healthy for the entirety (or at least majority) of the upcoming season, we will have a much more clear idea of what he can be in Norv Turner’s offense.
Prior to last season, Newton had been somewhat of an erratic passer. In his first 7 NFL seasons, he completed at least 60% of his passes only twice. In his MVP season in 2015, Newton completed only 59.8% of his passes. That clip made him only the 27th most accurate passer that season. Another knock on Newton’s throwing ability is his trait of consistently overthrowing receivers. However, after Norv Turner arrived as offensive coordinator last season, the offense was to focus more on shorter, check-down type passes that would allow Newton to become more efficient in the passing game.
In 14 games last season, the former top-overall pick completed 67.9% of passes, which ranked just inside the top 10 and marked a career-high. During the Panthers’ 6-2 start, Newton completed 177 of 263 attempts (67.3%) and threw for 15 touchdowns with only 4 interceptions. When compared to Newton’s first 8 games of the 2015 season, his numbers were actually better than his MVP campaign.
Even after the shoulder discomfort arose during the second half of the season, Newton still was accurate, albeit he significantly lost velocity and throw power. Still, if his shoulder is healthy, with the likes of Christian McCaffrey, DJ Moore, and a healthy Greg Olsen, Newton should be able to pick right back up where he left off in terms of passing efficiency.
Return of Newton’s “Swagger”
During the first half of the 2018 season, Newton and the Panthers reminded fans of what it was like during the franchise’s historic Super Bowl run in 2015. Newton and the offense were thriving and the defense was solid. The team was full of energy, optimism, and fresh off of a 6-2 start. They were just plain fun to watch and cheer on.
Then came the dismal second half of the season. Carolina closed with a 1-7 stretch that included a six-game losing streak, and Newton was eventually shut down. The team went from Super Bowl dreaming to questioning Ron Rivera’s job security. In his final 6 games, Newton threw as many interceptions as touchdowns and the team fell abruptly out of playoff contention. Perhaps one of the underlying causes of the sudden skid was the team morale.
Newton tried to sustain his positive, upbeat energy, but it was clear something was off. When Newton lost the skip in his step, it very well could have rubbed off on the players around him. Like any quarterback, Newton has a huge leadership role on the team, and is looked to by teammates, fans, and coaches for reassurance and optimism. If Newton can come back healthy this season, it wouldn’t be shocking for his big, white smile to become a trademark of the NFL once again.
January Football In Charlotte
So often it seems as though Cam Newton’s performance is a beacon of Carolina’s team success. If Newton has a poor showing, the team almost always seems to fall short. While that may sound like the case for every NFL team, it’s especially true for the Panthers. The team feeds off of his enthusiasm for the game and seems to always find a way to lose when he fails to perform. Assuming Newton is able to bounce back in 2019, the offense should be the best it has been during his time in Charlotte, and the hope is that Ron Rivera’s playcalling can help the defense return to its old glory. The Panthers certainly have the talent to be a playoff team in 2019, and a healthy QB1 would do wonders for the team and the city. Add on the fact that Carolina always seems to over-perform in odd-numbered years, and you’ve got yourself a serious contender.
Continued Dominance On The Ground
Despite missing the final two games of the 2018 slate, the Panthers’ quarterback still managed to rack up 488 yards on the ground, good for 4th among quarterbacks. In only 8 years, Newton has already piled up almost 5,000 rushing yards and could very likely pass Michael Vick this season for the most rushing yards by a QB all-time. Not to mention that his 58 rushing touchdowns are the most ever by a signal-caller. He currently holds a career average of 5.2 yards per carry, and has converted 77% of his fourth-down attempts into a fresh set of downs. Even after this most recent surgery, Newton has maintained the fact that he still is going to be a rushing quarterback.
Outlook For 2019
At this point, it truly seems as though Cam Newton is going to be ready to go in Week 1. He began throwing May 30th and is expected to do so throughout training camp, leading one to think that he is near a healthy return. If he does come back healthy, Newton will once again be one of the most dangerous and versatile quarterbacks in the NFL. It wouldn’t be at all surprising to see him throw for 4,000 yards, rush for 500 more, and continue to sharpen his craft as a passer. The Panthers are a team built around his skillset, and he has the resources around him to be successful. Look for Newton to once again have the Panthers in contention at the top of the NFC.
*All Stats And Info From Pro Football Reference