Cam Newton isn’t the only person responsible for boosting the Panthers’ passing game. The team wants the wide receiving corps to step up and help too.
It’s very clear the Panthers hired Norv Turner to improve the Carolina passing attack. Most people have put the responsibility to do that at Cam Newton’s feet. That isn’t Turner’s assessment though. He believes the team’s pass catchers need to do more to help their talented signal caller.
Turner points out that quarterbacks tend to play at a high level when “everyone else around them is too.” That’s why he’s spending a lot of time this preseason trying to get the Panthers wide receivers up to speed. The team have certainly given up a lot of options to work with.
Free-agent signings like Torrey Smith and Jarius Wright were brought in both to perform on the field and help the younger receivers learn Turner’s system. Wright, in particular has experience playing under the Panthers’ new offensive coordinator. Look for him to get a lot of snaps in the slot early in the 2018 season.
Turner has high hopes for several players who’ve been with the team for multiple seasons. Obviously, a healthy Greg Olsen will make everyone look better. The veteran tight end seems to be enjoying life in his new offense. He “enjoys hearing his (Turner’s) philosophies on offense” and admits he’s adjusting his game a little bit to acquiesce to his new coach’s demands. If he can stay healthy for a full 16-game slate it will lessen the burden on everyone else in the Panthers’ passing game.
Perhaps the biggest wild card for the team in 2018 is the play of Devin Funchess. The team had hopes he could become a number one wideout when they dealt Kelvin Benjamin to Buffalo last season. Unfortunately, Funchess failed to grab the position by the scruff of the neck. That’s why the team spent a first round pick on D.J. Moore to add some talent at wide receiver this offseason.
He, and last year’s second round pick Curtis Samuel might have the most to learn. Neither has played much NFL football to date. However, they might be two of the most talented receivers on the team as well. Each has excellent speed. Samuel needs to improve his durability, but Moore’s physical running style should allow him to stay healthy at the NFL level.
None of the issues’ with the team’s wide receiver group will exonerate Newton from criticism if things don’t go well for the team this season. Turner can talk all he wants about the need for receivers to step up and help Newton, but the quarterback will continue to get the lion’s share of blame or credit depending on how the offense works.
That isn’t fair, but it’s life in the NFL. A close eye still needs to be kept on Carolina’s receivers this year. Their development could be the difference between a Super Bowl run and a sub .500 year for the Panthers.