I needed a few days to gather my thoughts on this one.
The Panthers lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20-14 on Thursday Night Football. The Panthers defense played well, holding Bucs QB Jameis Winston to only 20 points and only 287 total yards. But the Panthers offense was subpar, couldnt convert opportunities into touchdowns and relied on RB Christian McCaffrey too much. Lets look at my 3 takeaways from the game.
- Norv Turner needs to revert back to his 2018 offense. Last year the Panthers were an exciting offense due to misdirection. Turner called a lot of RPO, and a lot of misdirection plays…meaning fake handoffs, jet sweeps, double reverses, you name it. The Panthers had invested in speed across the board on offense and used it last year with their playmakers like Curtis Samuel and Christian McCaffrey in space. Where is that now? Panthers offense looks old. They havent really ran RPO at all, and they havent really tried to run any of the misdirection plays that worked in 2018, other than the direct snap play to McCaffrey that work Week 1 vs the Rams but didnt Week 2 vs the Bucs.
- Are they protecting Newton or is there something else going on? I thought Newton may be hurt after seeing the Panthers do everything possible to NOT have him run the ball the past two weeks. Instead, I think now it was more a stubborn play by the coaching staff to attempt to prolong Newton’s career. The problem is, Newton is not a pure pocket passer and probably never will be. But thats totally fine. His career completion percentage is hovering around 59-60% which sounds average until you learn that recently retired Andrew Luck had a career 59.4% completion rate and he was considered one of the best passers in the game. Cam completes enough. But it looks like hes trying too hard to NOT run the ball, which is not only a massive part of Newton’s game to this point, its also a massive part of what defensive coordinators around the league have had to scheme for over the past 7 years. Tampa didn’t think the Panthers would run Newton and they bet correctly. After bottling up McCaffrey by stacking 8 men in the box all night, the Panthers never recognized that they needed help in the run game. Cam Newton IS the help in the run game. Id rather have 10 years of Cam Newton trucking linebackers and having fun on the field, than 15 years of Cam Newton where the last 5 years hes a shell of his former self. I fully expect the Panthers to come out with the intent of getting Cam into the game by RUNNING him vs Arizona, often and early. If the foot is truly fine, there is zero reason to not run Cam Newton at this point.
- Stop being cute. The Panthers lost the game vs Tampa Bay because they were trying to be too cute on their final offensive play. On 4th and half a yard, the Panthers elected to motion Cam Newton to the right side of the offensive line, leaving McCaffrey alone for a direct snap. Once the ball was hiked, McCaffrey faked a jet sweep handoff to Curtis Samuel running right, and ran toward the pylon on the left. The Bucs werent fooled and tackled McCaffrey just short of the first down marker. Question…why in the world would you do that with half a yard to pick up WHEN YOU HAVE THE BEST SHORT YARDAGE RUNNER IN THE HISTORY OF THE LEAGUE AT QB? Plus, the Panthers motioned Newton out of the backfield, in effect taking him out of the play entirely and creating a 10 on 11 matchup favoring the Bucs. It was simply unnecessary. Any other year, the Panthers would have lined up and simply pushed forward, allowing Newton to stretch his 6’5″ 245lb frame over the line. It was there for the taking, and the main reason why people are asking if Newton is hurt. Want to prove he isnt? On Sunday during the Arizona game, run Newton. Run Run Pass Options with McCaffrey that are almost impossible to defend. Run Cam on short yardage. Let Superman get back to what hes good at, playing football .
On a side note, I could care less what Cam Newton wears to the podium. Talking to a High School Football coach last week, he mentioned that some of his kids were wearing similar things that they saw Newton wear the previous day at press conferences. The Moral of the tale? Hes not wearing outfits to impress YOU. He’s wearing because he likes them. Cam Newton has zero interest in conforming for anyone, that should be apparent at this point to the Panthers fan base but for some reason many are still clinging to the hair, the blogs, the outfits as reasons why the Panthers are 0-2. When in fact, lack of execution at weird moments, over and underthrown footballs and an indecisive QB have mainly contributed. Good news is, these are easy fixes and the schedule gets lighter with Arizona this week, who just drafted 1st overall in April. Get Cam on track, run him, get back to the misdirection and creativity…and Cam has to hit targets of course. With Saints QB Drew Brees out for at least 6 weeks, the NFC South is still wide open.