It’s time for the Carolina Panthers to re-think how they will approach the next phase of Cam Newton’s career.
There’s a Cam Newton problem in Carolina, but there’s also a way to fix it.
The Carolina Panthers are now 6-8 after losing on Monday night to the New Orleans Saints. What began as a promising start between Panthers Cam Newton and new offensive coordinator Norv Turner has turned into a season that the franchise wants to forget.
A 6-2 start has been negated by six consecutive losses, in which five of those defeats have been by a touchdown or less, and Newton’s shoulder health appearing to deteriorate by the week. Lastly, despite a stellar defensive performance last night, the defense routinely have given up big play after big play throughout their losing streak. Coming into the Saints game, their third-down conversion rate was a whopping 47.5 percent in the last five games.
But Christian McCaffrey has served as a light in the tunnel, becoming the all-purpose back that the Panthers envisioned when drafting him in 2017. So far McCaffrey has 979 yards on the ground and 768 yards receiving. He’s shown his versatility by being an inside-outside running back while giving Cam a threat as a dump off. He even threw a 50-yard touchdown against the Saints, making him the first player since Walter Payton in 1985 to have 50 yards passing, rushing and receiving. But McCaffrey’s heroics haven’t been enough to save Newton and the Panthers.
Going forward, some changes in the secondary will help. Led by Cam, the Panthers have developed into a run-first, grit-and-grind team that relies on physicality and a stout defense. But the story for the second half of the season has been a non-functioning offense and a bad defense. In their six-game slide, Cam has thrown for nine touchdowns to nine interceptions. The secondary has yielded 11 touchdown passes and has forced one interception.
Ultimately, the Panthers must build the next few years around McCaffrey and Newton. The offense still needs an infusion of talent on the perimeter and the line must be upgraded, but that duo is a good place to start for a team that hasn’t had an elite receiver since Steve Smith.