It took three years, but the Carolina Panthers are finally approaching having the ideal receiving corps for Cam Newton. While the current roster lacks in household names or top-end talent, they excel in one key area: size. Changes to the short-yardage offense could see the team take a step forward where so many see them lagging behind.
Newton is a fantastic long ball quarterback and his running ability is second-to-none, but short passing has been problematic since he entered the league. In 2013 we saw a pattern emerge in Newton's passing -- he struggled on down and distance where tall possession receivers are required to move the chains in small spaces.
Typically we see quarterbacks who struggle in this area fall off on third down, but Newton is a rare quarterback who gets better when more pressure is on him.
|DOWN = 3 TO GO 1-2||5||8||62||62.5||7.75||42||1||0||4||126.0|
|DOWN = 3 TO GO 3-7||25||48||416||52.1||8.67||200||3||2||8||85.1|
|DOWN = 3 TO GO 8-10||22||32||228||68.8||7.13||57||1||1||7||86.5|
|DOWN = 3 TO GO 11+||17||24||187||70.8||7.79||71||1||1||2||90.1
It's second down where Cam had issues last year, and that's not really his problem. Newton routinely overthrows his receivers due to back-foot throwing. At this point it's about accepting that's something he does and scheming around it, because it might never be something he completely fixes. Heck, Jake Delhomme did it too.
In 2013 Newton didn't have receivers with good catch radius'. That's one of the many reasons he targeted Greg Olsen as much as he did in short-yardage situations. Now the Panthers could be looking at a potential combination of short-yardage receivers that features Jerricho Cotchery, Kelvin Benjamin, Jason Avant, Brenton Bersin and Olsen. Average height: 6'3.
It's unclear how the Panthers offense will operate this year due to the line, but a few critical first downs can make all the difference on a defensive team with a strong-legged kicker. For the first time in a long time the Panthers now have a tall receiving corps, now we see how that operates.