It’s no secret that success of the 2019 Carolina Panthers hinges on the most important (to football) joint in Cam Newton’s body, his throwing shoulder. Off season surgery and rehab have him, by all accounts, back on track to being healthy. But we all know that recovery from any surgery is never a simple or easy thing. That said, it’s June and football is still miles away, so let’s keep our dreams where they should be for fans of a 25 year-old franchise with very little hardware: firmly rooted in the future.
The 2018 season, for all of its even year bullshit, was still a breath of fresh air for the Panthers. Their offensive line and pass rush were pitiful and their quarterback was a shambling mess of ambition and scarred ligaments. But, oh boy, did they have receivers and a freshman offensive coordinator in Norv Turner who knew learned how to use them.
Newton’s career has been marked by two things since the departure of offensive coordinator Rod Chuzinski after Cam’s rookie year: a lack of imagination and a lack of weapons not named Greg Olsen. Pass protection has ebbed and flowed and has been the ultimate predictor of success, but there has been little and less each year in terms of successful investment in talent around Newton. That lack of success meant that it didn’t take many straws at all to break the offense’s back in a given season. Even the high flying 2015 offense ultimately fell apart because one player, Mike Remmers, couldn’t hold a candle to one single other player, Von Miller.
Last season, the Panthers finally put together a portfolio of weapons for Newton to rely on. Christian McCaffrey was a lightning rod for both real and fantasy points. D.J. Moore took strong strides towards being a true number one receiver and is already a breathtaking playmaker. Curtis Samuel was finally healthy and showed that he hasn’t lost even a single step of that college speed that got him drafted in the second round. Ian Thomas took his lumps as a rookie and still showed enough promise to get fans excited for this year and beyond. Jarius Wright was one hell of a dependable third down option.
Look at all of the names I’ve just mentioned and realize that I haven’t even talked about Greg Olsen yet. Consider that 2015, the benchmark season for the Carolina Panthers, featured only Greg Olsen and Ted Ginn, Jr. Then consider that the Panthers went further this off season and signed wide receiver Chris Hogan away from the New England Patriots. Consider they retained offensive tackle Daryl Willaims, signed center Matt Paradis, and drafted a potential left tackle of the future in Greg Little.
The Panthers offense is finally talented enough, top to bottom, to handle a few extra straws on Cam’s back. If healthy for Cam Newton in 2019 means that he can throw the ball the way he did before his original injury in 2016, if it means that he can practice with his receivers to develop timing and trust before opening day in September then the league had better watch out. We won’t be asking what if Newton is healthy in 2019, we’ll be asking what if he had an adequate supporting cast between 2011 and 2018.