We now reside in the awkward time between the end of the season and free agency. You know what that means. It’s time for some positional reviews. The Panthers success this season seemed to directly correlate with the health of former MVP Cam Newton. Let’s take a look at the most important positional group on any team: the quarterbacks.
2018 Stats: 3,395 passing yards, 24 passing touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 67.9 completion percentage, 94.3 passer rating, 488 rushing yards, four rushing touchdowns
2017 Stats: 3,302 passing yards, 22 passing touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 59.1 completion percentage, 80.7 passer rating, 754 rushing yards, six rushing touchdowns
Newton’s shoulder has been discussed ad nauseam and will continue to come up until we kickoff the 2019 season. In what could have been his best season ever, Newton shot off like a rocket through the first seven games before running out of fuel and sputtering to the finish. Would the Panthers have had a better chance at making the playoffs if Cam had been placed on injured reserve at mid-season? It’s hard to tell, but once opposing defenses realized that Cam was unable to push the ball downfield with any semblance of power, the Panthers didn’t stand a chance. Cam’s effort in the second half of the season becomes that much more admirable in hindsight, as the Panthers were just a few plays away from winning each of these games in which they had no business competing.
Raining touchdowns in the Carolinas‼️‼️‼️ pic.twitter.com/RZ8Ce5pRei
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) November 4, 2018
Newton finished with career highs in completion percentage and passer rating. New offensive coordinator, Norv Turner, did wonders bringing out the best in every skill player on the offense and allowed Newton to work efficiently in the short passing game. It’s frustrating, but exciting, to think about what this offense could have been if Newton had remained healthy throughout the season. If Cam is able to return to full form and bring a deep ball to this dynamic offense, the Panthers could surprise some people in 2019.
2018 Overall Grade: B+
2019 Predictions: 4,000+ passing yards, 35 total touchdowns, 12 interceptions. If not for a poorly timed injury, 2018 may have been Cam Newton’s best season in the NFL.
2018 Stats: Six appearances (one start), 320 passing yards, one passing touchdown, three interceptions
Taylor Heinicke made his mark on the season, most notably, by having to replace Newton in “Hail Mary” situations. In week seven against the Baltimore Ravens, we first saw Heinicke sub in for a seemingly healthy Newton. He completed a 13-yard pass to Greg Olsen, setting up a Panthers field goal before halftime. This should have created more of a stir than it had at the time, as Newton’s shoulder injury would eventually derail a hopeful season.
Heinicke filled in admirably when he had to, showing tremendous toughness and bravery to step in behind a woeful Panthers offensive line. Heinicke’s season ended after getting tossed like a rag doll by a Falcons defender and injuring his elbow during his first NFL start in week 16.
— Taylor Heinicke (@Taylor_Heinicke) January 7, 2019
It’ll be interesting to see what happens this off-season. There have been rumblings of a potential Colin Kaepernick connection with Carolina, where he could compete to back up Newton. The Panthers are optimistic that Newton will be ready for the season opener in 2019, but must be realistic and buy some insurance. There may be better band-aid type options (like Tyrod Taylor or Blake Bortles) for Carolina than Heinicke if Cam isn’t 100 percent healthy by training camp.
2018 Overall Grade: B-
2019 Predictions: Pending any roster moves that would create competition, Heinicke has earned the right to backup Newton in 2019.
2018 Stats: Two appearances (one start), 266 passing yards, three total touchdowns, undefeated as a starter
Kyle Allen walked onto campus at Texas A&M as a five-star recruit and a surefire NFL prospect. Couple the incompetency of head coach Kevin Sumlin with a crowded quarterback room that included future Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray, and you saw Allen never living up to his potential during his college years.
After residing on the Panthers practice squad as an undrafted free agent, Allen was thrown into the role of starting NFL quarterback just two weeks after being promoted to the 53-man roster.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) December 30, 2018
In Week 17, Allen proved that he was a capable professional quarterback, albeit against a resting Saints team made up of mostly backups. Regardless of the competition, Allen played well with zero expectations and probably earned some solid money in the process. That money may just need to come from another team.
2018 Overall Grade: B
2019 Predictions: Has a better shot to make the roster now, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he were placed on the practice squad or claimed by another team.