Bountiful in advanced statistics, Football Outsiders recently posted an article that tallied each team's 'failed completions'. From the article:
A completion that loses yards, a 5-yard gain on third-and-15, or the worst: a 2-yard pass on fourth-and-10. None of these plays are going to benefit the offense, but they help the quarterback's completion percentage and the receiver's reception total. [...]
What are failed completions? They are any complete passes that fail to gain enough yardage to count as a successful play based on these guidelines: 45 percent of needed yards on first down, 60 percent on second down, or 100 percent on third/fourth down.
Having undergone a maturation this past season, and playing in a perceived conservative offense, how did Cam Newton fare in this category?
Of his 292 completed passes, 75, or 25.7%, were failed completions. This afforded the Auburn product the 11th highest rate in the league. Of the top 16 squads, only the Panthers and the Chiefs made the playoffs. Some of this can be attributed to play-calling; memory serves that Carolina did run a handful amount of screen plays in third-and-long situations.
The good news is the distribution of Newton's failed completions: just 29.3% of the QB's failed completions came on third down. Newton is sandwiched between Aaron Rodgers (29.5%) and Andrew Luck (28.9%), with the seventh lowest percentage in the NFL. For reference, Colin Kaepernick (50%), and Eli Manning (47.2%) have the worst numbers, while Tony Romo (22.1%) and Peyton Manning (22.6%) settled for the fewest failed completions on third downs.
Accounting for the defense, Newton became comfortable (albeit, perhaps a bit too much) settling for less on first and second down, taking the sure few yards over the potential boom-or-bust play downfield.
Looking at the other side of the ball, it's well known the Panthers defensive deficiencies lie in the secondary, who surrendered a league high 66% completion percentage last year. However, a testament to the strength of the front-seven, 34.0% of those completions were failed completions, by far the highest rate in the NFL, beating Detroit and Seattle by just over five percent each. Carolina was giving up completions, but they pressured opposing quarterbacks into settling for checkdowns and the like, more often than any other team in the league.
It cannot be stated enough; the front-seven is the lifeblood of the team. Tamper with it and risk (read: ensure) a serious step back in 2014 and beyond.