Carolina is for real (and so is Cam Newton)

Panthers QB Cam Newton hasn't had much help on offense, but he's still be one of PFF's top 10 QBs.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

(AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

Carolina is for real (and so is Cam Newton)

Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers are the NFL’s surprise package through six weeks. The team now tops the NFC South alone, standing at 5-0, and are one of the league’s five remaining undefeated teams.

The knock on them through four games was “who have they beaten?”, but after traveling to Seattle and taking down the Seahawks playing with one of the league’s best home-field advantages, they have earned the right to be taken seriously.

For the second year in a row Cam Newton has begun the season extremely well, carrying the offense on his back and dragging the team with him. It looked before the season that he would be the entirety of the Carolina offense, with no receivers or blockers to speak of, but the Panthers offensive line has actually been a surprise package so far this season. With the notable and inevitable exception of Michael Oher – who remains a liability at left tackle – the Panthers offensive line has actually been pretty good this year. Andrew Norwell, Ryan Kalil and Trai Turner have all graded well on the interior, and right tackle Mike Remmers has only just dipped below average after an ugly outing this week trying to contain Seattle’s fearsome pass-rush.

The lack of receivers has remained a legitimate concern, and Newton has been making do with Philly Brown and Ted Ginn as his top two receivers.

Rookie Devin Funchess has played plenty of snaps, but has now dropped one fewer pass (4) than he has caught (5). While DeAndre Hopkins leads the league with 90 targets, the Panthers wide receiving corps combined, all six of them, have totaled just 71 targets on the season. What is perhaps even more concerning than that, they have caught only 53.5 percent of them.

Newton is getting it done with a combination of his own rushing ability, his TE Greg Olsen, and the occasional play from other players.

Olsen has caught 61.5 percent of the passes sent his way, and has been huge for the Panthers at times this season.

Newton isn’t far off from leading the team in rushing, having 225 yards to his name on the ground compared to Jonathan Stewart’s 298 on 29 more carries. Newton doesn’t just scramble, though he is averaging 7.4 yards every time he does that, but he is a legitimate part of the running game with the kind of unique build to absorb that kind of punishment and not a risk of going down hurt in the way smaller quarterbacks are.

Every time he takes off I’m astounded by the sheer size of him, dwarfing linebackers as he speeds past them. Newton has 28 designed carries this season (not counting quarterback sneaks) that have gained 148 yards (5.3 per carry), giving the Panthers an added dimension to that aspect of the offense not available to most teams.

In addition to that he has been getting it done as a passer, too. He won’t ever be the most accurate quarterback in the league, and as we have mentioned his receiving corps won’t help that, but Newton sits firmly inside PFF’s top-10 graded quarterbacks with arguably less help than anybody around him in the rankings.

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

  • a57se

    It is just a matter of time before he gets injured…running QB’s are a nice idea but not the answer in the NFL.

    • shaunhan murray

      He hasn’t been like doing this 4 years or anythin.last year he got hit by a car and he missed I think 1 game

      • JudoPrince

        No player is indestructible….but Cam is as close to it as can be.

    • MrBoo

      7 carries and not 1 hard hit?

    • josh cajiuat

      or maybe the matter of time before of which you speak of was last year when he missed the opener because he had surgery? Have you seen him slide more and run out of bounds more? Is it at all possible that he has learned what privilege it is to play this game at his level since the truck accident? Your right it is a matter of time, but I think that matter of time was last year.

      • a57se

        I love how all the Cam Fanboys come on here and, despite what they know
        deep down inside, try and argue that Cam is the exception.
        The guy
        has a 55.4% Completion Percentage because he is a LOUSY QB, he is a
        dynamic runner and that is the ONLY reason he has a job. Once the legs
        go, so does he. Just sayin’…

    • a57se

      I love how all the Cam Fanboys come on here and, despite what they know deep down inside, try and argue that Cam is the exception.
      The guy has a 55.4% Completion Percentage because he is a LOUSY QB, he is a dynamic runner and that is the ONLY reason he has a job. Once the legs go, so does he.

    • Ben Snyder

      Plenty of QBs get hurt in the pocket too. At this point, his injury risk compared to a pure pocket passer is a push. (Say that five times fast.)

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  • JudoPrince

    Eli Manning received an onslaught of praise last week for his game winning drive against the Niners — despite the fact that most of his throws never traveled beyond a few yards to his RB. The final throw on the drive was nice, with a better catch, but it was the simple runs after the catch by the RB against soft coverage, and penalty that Beckham drew, that put the Giants in position.

    This 4th quarter game winning comeback by Newton stands alone as by far the most impressive drive of the season for any QB. The only short pass attempt was an 8 yard screen pass to Jonathan Stewart on the first play. Every other pass on the drive was a perfectly aimed dart that traveled at least 10-20 yards in the air. The only exception was the 30 yard td strike to Olsen that sealed the deal. And all of this against tight, physical, non-prevent defense where every throw was contested. Cam Newton is a legit MVP candidate this year.

    • JudoPrince

      The most impressive throw on that final drive? The perfectly placed 16 yard strike to Funchess on 2nd and 19, in-between three lurking defenders. Come on media, how does this not get more praise?

    • mormonrock124

      Just stop you left the same comment on ESPN. Cam is being discussed as a legitmate MVP candidate despite having pedestrian numbers in every single category. He is avg 213 yds passing, he has 4 picks to 8 TD passes and 5 total turnovers to 11 total TD’s. He’s offensive weapons are few, so they rely on him more but he is carried by a top flight defense and the fact they have played 0 teams with winning records and have beaten the likes of Blake Bortles, Ryan Mallet, Luke McCown, and Jamesis Winston. When Cam starts putting up real numbers than he can be a real MVP candidate right now the media is making him more than he is.

      • Steven Caponi

        The reason why he has pedestrian numbers is because there is no weapons on offense. He had an accuracy rating of 80% and has had over 11% of his pass attempts dropped on the year. Not to mention 2 or 3 of his interceptions have come from WR tipping balls into DBs. I’ve seen you’re comments on here and honestly you just sound like a sour Giants fan.

  • Rudell fields

    I honestly don’t like to see Cam Newton running the ball even though he’s very capable we are definitely going to need him healthy if we are going to make a serious playoffs push. I was very impressed with how he orchestrated THE game winning drive utilizing Six different receivers. Let’s celebrate this win,but move on and get ready for the EAGLES on Sunday night.

  • Rudell fields

    Believe me when I say this THE BEST of this Team is yet to be seen especially on DEFENSE

  • Rudell fields

    I read a headline that refrenced to a possible Steve Smith return to Carolina. Wow I would love to see this happen but knowing how Steve feels about how he was jettisoned out of town and Mr. Gettleman being a hard nose GM it’s not likely to happen,but Man it would without question make this season a bit more interesting.