To prepare for the 2018 season, Cat Scratch Reader sent five questions to Football Outsiders to get a feel on what we should expect from the Panthers in 2018. Scott Kacsmar from FO was kind enough to answer our questions, and each day this week we will share one question and answer to foster discussion here at CSR.
The first question centers around what Panthers fans should expect the offense to look like now that Norv Turner has taken over Mike Shula’s stead at offensive coordinator.
How much of an improvement should the Panthers offense see under Norv Turner’s tutelage?
I think there are a few non-coaching reasons to like the Panthers to improve a little on offense this year. First, Greg Olsen shouldn’t be injured for much of the season like he was last year. He was the leading receiver on the team from 2013 to 2016. Second, Christian McCaffrey tried to fill many roles last year, but he won’t be a rookie this time around. The team also shouldn’t trade away its No. 1 wide receiver halfway through the year like last year with Kelvin Benjamin.
As for Norv Turner specifically, I think fans should be cautiously optimistic. Turner hasn’t coached an offense that’s ranked higher than 16th in DVOA since the 2011 Chargers. His most successful offenses have often featured one dominant vertical wideout, a workhorse running back, and a great tight end. I think the Panthers have the tight end, but there are going to have to be substitutions made at wide receiver and running back.
C.J. Anderson should split time with McCaffrey as the latter has much more value as a receiver. This game has gone away from a lot of the classic deep dropbacks and throwing the ball deep. That fits Cam Newton’s skillset well, but it also is what opens him up to a lot of hits behind a shaky offensive line. Will Turner be willing to move towards more of a short passing attack with McCaffrey and D.J. Moore in the slot, and is Newton going to function at his best in that type of offense? Can Turner find the right balance between what Newton does best and what the modern NFL offense does best with short throws that gain YAC? When Turner was in Minnesota in 2016, Sam Bradford was dinking and dunking his way to a completion percentage record, but the offense wasn’t scoring many points and Turner had to step down during the season. There has to be a better balance in Carolina.
I don’t think Newton is ever going to be a quarterback that consistently completes over 60 percent of his passes, and he’s not ready to stop running yet as he hits his age-29 season. So I’m skeptical that things are going to be radically better under a coach that had his most success in an NFL that operated much differently from the modern game.
What do you think, Panthers fans? Does this temper your expectations a bit, or are you still drinking the Norv Turner flavored koolaid? Share your thoughts with us!
Also, be sure to stay tuned for the second question and answer with Kacsmar tomorrow!