Carolina Panthers: Full Position and Depth Chart Analysis at Quarterback
When fans think about the Carolina Panthers and their quarterback situation, the consensus is virtually the same: The team has a young and talented starter who continues to grow and has a capable veteran backup standing on the sideline if something were to happen.
That has been the case for the past three seasons. It seems unlikely that format will change, and for the most part the current composition of the quarterback depth chart looks to remain the same for the 2014 season.
However, the Carolina front office brought in two more quarterbacks who will compete with current backup Derek Anderson for the No. 2 position. Joe Webb and Matt Blanchard will offer the only position battle at quarterback this summer, but neither one figures to be competing for the starting job that belongs to Cam Newton.
With that in mind, the next few slides will discuss and break down the quarterbacks on the Carolina roster and their roles with the team moving forward.
Current Status: Starter
Cam Newton figures to be with the Panthers for a very long time. The front office took the first steps to assembling an offense that he can grow with with the acquisitions of wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, guard Trai Turner and running back Tyler Gaffney in the 2014 NFL draft.
Newton surprised many by showing up to OTAs in a jersey and even threw the ball around. This can be taken as a good sign because the recovery period from his ankle surgery had him projected to be back on the field sometime in July.
Regardless, having him get some face time with his receivers on the field (especially Benjamin) will go a long way in helping make the offense a solid unit when the season opens. He will have some rust either way, but the sooner he is able to work with his new receivers (which he has apparently been doing), the better the chances he will be acclimated to the new-look offense when the Panthers open the season at Tampa Bay.
Newton should continue to grow and develop into becoming more of a pocket passer. That is not to say he won't scramble and make plays with his legs, because he will. However, it would be counterproductive to the recovery process to keep relying on his footwork rather than his arm to move the ball. Newton did limit the number of rushing yards he had last year to 585, keeping below the 700-plus yards he had each of the previous two years on the ground. It should be expected to see that number to continue to drop.
The fourth year of Newton's professional career will be important, not only because of the new faces that will make up his receiving corps, but because he has now been handed the reins of leadership for the offense and will be looked up to by the rest of the team. Whether or not Carolina can defend its division title or return to the playoffs as a wild-card team will depend on how well he performs and if he can limit his mistakes.
Current Status: Second-String Quarterback
Derek Anderson has been serving as Cam Newton's backup since 2011 when the young quarterback burst onto the NFL stage and proceeded to shatter records left and right. Anderson has played sparingly during his time in Carolina as he has appeared in eight games and thrown four passes (all completed).
It should be noted that when he was brought in, Rob Chudzinski was the Carolina offensive coordinator, and the two had worked together when Chudzinski held the same job in Cleveland and Anderson was the starting quarterback.
Now that Chudzinski is out and replaced by Mike Shula, Anderson may not be around much longer. He has the benefit of being familiar with the offense, but that is limited to just the playbook as he has to get accustomed to working with new receivers as well.
The additions of Joe Webb and Matt Blanchard will serve as competition during camp, and Anderson will have to fight to keep his job. Fortunately, the Panthers' offensive philosophy is one that still embraces the running game, and if Anderson were to remain as the backup, he will be called upon to act as a game manager rather than a playmaker.
Still, it's worth keeping an eye on him in training camp and the preseason to see how well he performs in comparison to the other two quarterbacks vying for his job.
Current Status: Third-String Quarterback
Joe Webb was brought in via free agency because of his skill set. His overall ability is similar to Cam Newton's in that he is a mobile quarterback and would allow the Panthers to maintain the continuity of their playbook regardless of who is under center. Webb has that edge over Derek Anderson. Whereas Anderson would be best used as a game manager, Webb could take on plays that would typically be thrown out if Newton were not on the field.
Webb will have a bit of a learning curve to overcome. He has not taken a snap under center since 2011. Factor that with the new playbook he has to learn, and he has his work cut out for him.
It's unknown how well he will fare in camp, but he should show enough to give head coach Ron Rivera and his staff a lot to consider when they are trimming down the numbers at the quarterback position. Two years off from throwing could result in him being behind the other quarterbacks on the team, but it's a position that he did well at in college.
Current Status: Fourth-String (practice squad) Quarterback
Career Stats: None
Matt Blanchard has the distinction of being the only quarterback on the Carolina roster who has not taken a snap in a meaningful NFL game. He played his college ball at Wisconsin-Whitewater, which is so small that even his college numbers cannot be found on Sports-Reference.com. However, his player profile at Panthers.com has a brief overview of this production.
Blanchard played in 34 games (staring 25 of them) and completed 393 of 558 passes for 5,106 yards. He tallied 44 touchdowns and a ridiculously low six interceptions during his college career. His team went undefeated while he was there (45-0), and his production seems to suggest he can be capable of doing great things.
He's still a long shot to be the backup, but he could be placed on the practice squad after camp is over and he clears waivers (assuming he's cut). Blanchard's presence seems to be one that is there to push both Derek Anderson and Joe Webb. He is young and will be anxious to prove himself. That will go a long way in the quarterback competition for Cam Newton's backup.