For the Carolina Panthers, this offseason has been about keeping the team together rather than adding to it.
GM Marty Hurney has been busy re-signing and extending the team’s young core, but one addition the Panthers did make this offseason will have the football world watching when the games get under way: Cam Newton.
But before that, we got a little sneak preview of what is to come from the No. 1-overall pick in last year’s draft at the Panthers' annual Fan Fest. Newton worked in both 11-on-11 drills as well as 7-on-7s. Let’s break down the tape, which can be found below.
The first thing that jumps out is Newton’s size; he should have no trouble seeing over the line, as evidence by the first throw he makes in the video (0:15). Not only is Newton able to look over the line to find the fullback coming out of the backfield, but he is also able to avoid the leaping linebacker at the line of scrimmage.
His poise in the pocket is clear throughout the video. Newton is rushed numerous times, but he is able to sidestep the rush and never forces anything. If no one is open, he simply throws the ball away. While that may not seem like much, the fact that a rookie who played only one season of FCS football shows that type of maturity is encouraging.
Along those same lines, Newton does a great job of working through his progressions, and checking down to if nothing is available down the field. When those backs get their hands on the ball and start to run, you can start to see the playmaking ability of the Panthers' skill players. For a team that scored about two touchdowns a game last year, they sure do have a plethora of players who can break a game open.
Running backs DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Goodson are threats anytime they get their hands on the ball. We all know what Steve Smith brings to the table and the panthers have added another threat in the passing game with former Bears tight end Greg Olsen.
At 1:56, we see all of Newton’s talents in combination. The Panthers are in shotgun with three wide outs and a tight end. Newton takes a three-step drop and steps up in the pocket beautifully. His primary target to the right is covered, and the pocket is closing in on him. Newton remains calm, though, and scans right to left. Then he unloads a 30-yard strike right to Gary Barnidge’s chest. The pass hits the tight end in stride, which allows him to run past three defenders for a touchdown. It is, undoubtedly, the highlight of the video.
The low light also involves Barnidge (2:23). For the first time we see Newton play like a rookie. Playing against zone coverage, Newton stares down Barnidge all the way, which allows the cornerback covering the flat to leave his man and jump on the throw to the tight end. To compound the problem, Newton throws slightly behind Barnidge, and the ball is almost intercepted.
Three plays later (2:50), we start to see some of the versatility that the Heisman Trophy winner brings to the offense. Once again, the Panthers are in shotgun, but this time, they’re on the three-yard line—unheard of during the John Fox era. The play is a QB option read, and Newton reads it perfectly. Instead of taking the glory for himself, Cam sees the right end bearing down on him and hands the ball off to the running back, who runs it in for the score.
You have to take this video with a huge grain of salt, but this is also early in Newton’s evolution as a quarterback and he already looks good. For a 2-14 team, the Panthers have a talented roster; the only thing that was missing was the most important position on the field—quarterback.
By the look of things, the Panthers may have found one.