Cam Newton is the one guy playing for the Carolina Panthers who can do it all, but the team doesn’t need that. What the Panthers need is for Newton to do a better job of using the players he has around him, and to not shoulder the load as often has he does.
It’s not that when Newton tells his team “get on board, I got this” it’s always a bad thing. Sometimes it works quite well. But when the Panthers come up against quality competition with well prepared defense, the All-Cam game is not the best approach. Teams have to defend against Newton both throwing and running the ball anyway, so if that team has it figured out and can stop SuperCam, then the giant holes in the Panthers’ offensive plan just jump right out.
In 2012 Newton racked up 741 rushing yards and 3869 passing yards, leading the team in both categories. He accounted for over 35% of the team’s 2088 rushing yards. This wouldn’t be such a glaring statistic if the Panthers didn’t have some quality running backs like Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams.
Prior to Newton’s arrival in Carolina, both Williams and Stewart were 1,000 yard rushers, feeding off each other and making the Panthers run game one of the best in the league. Now with Newton rushing for over 700 yards per season, both Williams and Stewart have seen their numbers, workload, and effectiveness diminished.
And it’s not that the Panthers have suffered in their running attack on whole per say (they finished 9th overall in the NFL in 2012), but there is a predictability factor to what they are doing. Of Newton’s 600+ dropbacks in 2012, over 100 of them turned into runs. It’s doubtful that the majority of those plays were designed runs for Newton, which means that he is probably giving up on the pass play too often.
Newton has a cannon, and a pretty accurate one at that, not to mention some pretty decent receivers–Steve Smith, Greg Olsen, Brandon LaFell–who have a little bit of experience in getting open. Cam has to do a better job of reading the defense at the line, and then going through his progressions before he resorts to tucking the ball and running. While he may gain positive yards by running the ball, he’s potentially leaving yards to open receivers on the table.
The threat of Newton being able to run is enough. It’s enough to force teams to put a linebacker spy on him, and to keep the defense honest. He’s got to learn to trust his arm as much as he trusts his legs. When that happens, the Panthers will move from a dangerous team on the schedule, to a feared one.