Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton had an amazing 2015 season. He threw for 3,837 yards and 35 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions. He also rushed for 636 yards and 10 touchdowns. When a quarterback rushes for as many touchdowns as he throws interceptions, he is doing something right.
Carolina finished the season with a 15-1 record. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get the job done. They fell to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50. After that game, fans thought two things would happen: either Cam would have an MVP season or he would fall off the rocker. He’s far from an MVP season. But it’s not all on him.
The Carolina Panthers Peril
Newton’s having a career low season. He’s thrown just 14 touchdowns and eight interceptions. While eight interceptions is a career-best, he still has to face his former teammate in cornerback Josh Norman and the Washington Redskins defense as well as the Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense.
He’s also been sacked more than he was the first five seasons in his NFL career. That is on the offensive line. Even when Cam was chased out of the pocket in 2015, he could make plays with his feet. His longest touchdown run was 47 yards. This year, if he gets chased out of the pocket, he is forced to either throw it away or just takes a sack.
Many may ask but what about when he’s not under pressure? Where’s the problem there? One problem there is that he is not targeting who he should be targeting. Kelvin Benjamin could be a key to success to the Panthers success.
Give Benjamin the Ball
Before he caught a touchdown pass in their loss against the Oakland Raiders, Benjamin didn’t have a touchdown catch in six games. In those six games, the Panthers went 3-4. Those four losses were all by three points. Had Cam gotten Benjamin the ball, the Panthers could have gone into Seattle on a eight game win streak.
While it’s not likely due to the opposing defense clinching wins over Carolina in that time, it could have been possible. In 2014, Benjamin showed everyone what he was made of. He recorded 73 receptions for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns. He missed the 2015 season due to a torn ACL.
Newton needs to give Benjamin the ball much more than he has. That’s what made the team successful in 2014.
The Panthers defense was one of the best in NFL history last season. No one thought that they would ever fall off the rocker. They lost Norman in free agency, but they still have Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis Jr. and a few other defensive players that do well.
There’s really no excuse for the lack of defense this season. Some may say it’s the loss of Norman, but that can’t be the case. On a team that finished 15-1, Norman only recorded four interceptions. There’s other players that can make plays on this defense, and they need to start doing so.
Carolina has also made history. They are now the first team in NFL history to finish at least .500 after winning 15+ games the season prior. They’ll probably finish below .500, but for now, they’re looking at 8-8 at best.