Earlier today I looked at the veteran QB options (or lack thereof) for the Carolina Panthers in 2011, and now lets discuss just how the organization can move forward if they've decided Cam Newton will be the #1 QB on their depth chart.
The piece of the puzzle that is tough to work out is Matt Moore. Local writers seem to be thinking Moore is gone, and it is a pretty damning statement that Moore was the only Panthers QB not to get a play book. On the one hand this can be justified by saying "Well, he's a free agent" but ultimately that doesn't explain why DeAngelo Williams and Thomas Davis got playbooks, but not Matt Moore.
I feel the Panthers will bring in a veteran QB, but not as a mentor or as a caretaker, rather, just to play backup. Someone with a big enough arm to operate a vertical offense and someone with no delusions of grandeur, happy to fill the role of #2. I wont pretend to know who this is exactly, but ultimately I feel this will be the best way to go.
We'll talk about Cam Newton's role in a new offense after the jump.
The name I hear mentioned fairly often is Sam Bradford, and while superficially I can see the relation- really, Bradford and Newton share almost nothing in common other than a spread offense and a Heisman. The St. Louis Rams offense in 2010 revolved around a short passing game that would allow for a lot of safety both for Bradford and his still tender shoulder, and the mediocre Rams' receiving corps. Essentially the Rams needed to compensate for a rookie QBs questionable deep pass accuracy, and receivers who didn't have top end talent to shake NFL caliber corners.
This wont be the case for Cam Newton, especially if the Panthers are able to convince Steve Smith to stay in Charlotte. We will see Newton out of the shotgun a lot more than we're previously used to see. In this way the running backs will need to adjust because the running game changes drastically if you're running a lot of plays out of the shotgun. However, what this will do by nature is take some of the pressure off the offensive line who may has some more pressure on the edges, but ultimately takings snaps out of the gun buys the QB a little more time.
Using a short passing system like Bradford did does not really play to Cam Newton's strengths. Arguably the weakest part of his game right now are the quick hitches and outs- the 'chain moving' plays. Instead of this I feel we'll be seeing a lot of plays of roll outs in short yardage situations with the RB releasing into the flat while Newton's legs bait an OLB into closing in on him. From here he can either attempt to out run the pursuer, or flip the ball to the RB or TE in the flat. This represents a high success play that we know Newton can run, while not trying to make him do something he's not accustomed to.
Concurrently, the fake Newton used at Auburn where he would drop his foot forward, selling the run then back up for a pass will likely be the best tool to use early as an effective play action fake. The thought here would be to freeze the safeties in the center of the field allowing the WRs (primarily Gettis and Smith) to get early release so Cam can show his true strength, his arm.
Essentially the key will be to make opposing defenses think Cam Newton could run the football on every single down. This threat alone will cause defenses to spy him, and keep a safety dedicated to stopping him. The better Newton and the Panthers can sell his running ability, the easier the passing game will open up- this will be the ying and yang for Carolina's offensive success in 2011.
1. Newton is a threat on every down, either with his legs or with his arm.
2. Short passes should rely on rolling out and use the flats
3. Deep passes should rely on play action
If the Carolina Panthers can stick to these three basic tenets in their passing game then I think you'll see an offense which can be both potent, and successful from the outset.