After seeing their franchise quarterback take so many hits last season, the Carolina Panthers will make a concerted effort to cut down on the number of shots Cam Newton takes in 2017. They want Newton to throw quicker and run less.
Getting the ball out of his hands sooner, Newton is on board with. But running less? We’ll have to see about that.
“He said, ‘That’s my edge. What are you going to do? Tell a lion not to roar?’” Charlotte Observer Panthers writer Joe Person said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “And let me be clear. He was not questioning Ron Rivera. I think Cam likes the idea of running less with these designed runs, called runs, zone-read, but basically he’s saying, ‘If it’s 3rd-and-7 and that pocket breaks down and I see a running lane, I’m taking it.'”
And for good reason. Newton has 48 rushing touchdowns in six seasons with Carolina, which went 6-10 last year after reaching the Super Bowl in 2015. Newton’s numbers were down across the board. His completion percentage plummeted from 59.8 percent to 52.9 percent, and he went from throwing 35 touchdowns and 10 interceptions to throwing 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
It wasn’t pretty.
“He said today, ‘I’m trying to get my swag back. This team is trying to get its swag back,’” Person said. “They didn’t have any fun last year. The losses were the big thing. Obviously the game sucks when you’re losing. But it also had to do with the beating he took.”
Which is why the Panthers want more quick-hitters and fewer seven-step-drops. The Panthers have plenty of big, plodding pass-catchers, including Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess, and Greg Olsen, but they needed a burner.
Enter Christian McCaffrey, the No. 8 pick in the draft.
“It was important for them to add speed,” Person said. “They needed another element and McCaffrey certainly brings them that. They’re going to have him in the slot. They’re going to have him out wide. They’re not going to just stick him in the backfield. He’ll have times where he carries the ball out of an I-set, of course, but they are looking to get creative with Christian McCaffrey. He is so sudden. It’s like 0-to-60 in three seconds.”