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Panthers 2018 season review: Cam Newton

The story of the season was his injured shoulder, so why did it make me optimistic for his future?

New Orleans Saints v Carolina Panthers Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

This is the whole conversation, right? The Carolina Panthers’ hope for a successful 2019 season rest entirely on the surgically repaired throwing shoulder of their star quarterback. We’ll get to the rest of the quarterback group later today, but first we’re going to spend this morning talking about what 2018 was for Cam Newton and what it meant for his future.

We know that a healthy Newton is one of the best deep passers in football and that a healthy Newton is almost impossible to defend on the ground. We also know that an unhealthy Newton who can’t throw a football further than, by his own admission, 30 yards down the field isn’t going to win a professional football game.

The greatest news the Panthers have received this year, the greatest news they could receive this year, is that Newton is recovering well from his shoulder surgery. He posted a video of his surgeon telling him that the damage to his shoulder, this time mostly in the form of scar tissue, wasn’t as extensive as they had feared. Through various communications, word has come out that Newton has regained significant range of motion since his surgery and that he is exceeding his own preoperative expectations. That is huge coming from an athlete that has made a career of believing in his own ability to beat the odds.

Newton’s shoulder injury isn’t the only story to come out of the 2018 season. In his first year working with offensive coordinator Norv Turner and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner, he showed a remarkable turn around in his ability to make plays while throwing short passes. A lot of the credit there goes to Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore, but Cam deserves an honorable mention for the progress on that side of his game.

Newton had a reputation for throwing deep more often than was wise instead of taking easier shots to open receivers underneath. He was a home run hitter who didn’t have the appetite to take what a defense was willing to give him. But his attitude wasn’t the only thing that changed this season.

Anybody who has been watching the Panthers since Cam’s rookie year will remember seeing a lot of designed short passes and check downs sail off or over the hands of Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert. He threw rockets and never seemed comfortable with the touch required to turn a short pass into a consistent and formidable weapon.

His health is the story to watch this offseason, but the successes that he did have in 2018 are the reason to believe he has a chance of coming back better than ever.