Cam Newton does a lot of things extremely well at quarterback. Completing passes at a high percentage is not one of them. The Panthers want to fix that.
Norv Turner understands that he has a big challenge ahead of him as the new offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers. Chiefly, his task will be to make Cam Newton a great NFL quarterback. That’s going to require a big upgrade in Newton’s accuracy as a passer.
Fortunately for the Panthers, Turner isn’t shying away from the challenge in the slightest. He believes the team’s franchise quarterback can get his completion percentage in the “mid to high-60s.” That would represent a significant increase over Newton’s career average of just 58.5 percent.
Turner’s new offensive scheme will certainly be designed to accentuate Newton’s set of skills. There will be plenty of vertical routes, but look for the Panthers to try to give Newton more safe throws as well. Four and five-yard checkdowns won’t make SportsCenter highlights, but they can keep drives alive. They also can help Newton stay healthy throughout the year.
The plan to help Newton be more accurate isn’t just a schematic issue though. The Panthers have also invested heavily in better skill players. This might be the best group Newton’s had during his NFL career.
Running back Christian McCaffrey is an excellent receiver out of the backfield and he should improve during his second NFL season. The return of a healthy Greg Olsen at tight end can also do wonders for Newton’s accuracy. He’s certainly the quarterback’s safety blanket.
The real question in Carolina is whether or not the team did enough to upgrade the receiving corps in the offseason. Devin Funchess had a decent season in 2017, but he’s not good enough to carry a group on his own. The team will hope that last year’s second round pick Curtis Samuel can function like a new signing. He was a complete non-factor due to injury as a rookie. He could give Newton a dangerous weapon in the slot.
The real hope for this group lies in the new receivers they acquired. Torrey Smith comes in from Baltimore with a proven track record as a big play threat. His role will be to stretch opposing defenses vertically. That should give Newton more room to find open receivers underneath.
The Panthers need the real gem to be this year’s first-round pick D.J. Moore. Plenty of people around the organization believe he has a chance to be a star. No one has been shy to compare him to former Panthers star Steve Smith. That’s high praise in Carolina.
Moore’s role will be to help Newton turn short throws into big gains. The team really liked his ability to produce yards after the catch at Maryland. Doing so will be more difficult in the NFL, but he’s got the body type and size to make it happen.
If Newton is going to get his completion percentage into the upper 60s it’s going to take a true team effort in Carolina. Turner will need to improve the team’s offensive scheme, but more importantly, Newton’s new weapons will need to help their quarterback out. If all that comes together, the Panthers could emerge as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.