From a purely observational standpoint, I’ve been forming the impression that Chud is structuring the offense around the running game and aiming to reduce the amount of throws Newton makes. I'll get flogged for saying this but it doesn't seem much different than a classic John Fox "run - run - pass" offense aimed at keeping the game simple for the QB and reducing turnovers. (The difference is the run is a read-option instead of a traditional running game.) And yes Chud does throw in some wrinkles, but on the whole, the game plan is to base the offense around the running game and occasionally augment it with passing when the lanes open up.
A quick glance at the easily available data tends to support this theory. When Newton has thrown 28 or more passes, the Panthers are 1-11(!!). When the Panthers have managed to hold Newton to under 28 attempts, the team is 6-2 (and one of those losses includes Sunday’s loss—which was as well as Newton has played, especially considering the competition).
The Panthers two highest scoring games both came against Tampa last year when the Panthers scored 48 and 38 points. In both of those games, Newton had 12 completions—his career low.
The one win the Panthers had when Newton attempted more than 28 passes came against Jacksonville last year, a statistical aberration against a weak team in a game with unusual circumstances (heavy rain). In Newton’s arguably worst games (Tennessee last year, Tampa and NYG this year) the running game and read-option were basically ineffective, and Newton was forced to act as a pocket quarterback.
Why should this worry you? If the defense stacks the box, either scaring off the run or neutralizing the effectiveness of the running game, Newton is forced to make something happen in the air. The offense is one-dimensional, with a major Achilles heal. That’s why we’re yet to win a game against a really tough team. Basically, the ONLY chance the Panthers have at winning is if the running game is working.
And you may argue, well look at Newton’s throwing stats, they’re among the best ever for a rookie. Yes, but his most effective games came when the running game was established and the passing game opened up. Left to his arm’s own devices, Newton is prone to a QB rating in the 50s-70s range.
I'm clearly not the first to figure this out. Tampa and the Giants noticed this, and Chud has too--this year, Newton is near the bottom in passing attempts among starting QBs, just below Blaine Gabbert.
I’d love nothing more than to be proven wrong, either by Newton over the next few weeks, or anyone here with a strong statistical argument! Are you concerned at all about Newton's ability to carry an NFL team to a Super Bowl?