clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Cam Newton is playing like an MVP again

Retired NFL offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz looks into the surprise combo that’s driving the Panthers offense right now. Plus, what the Bucs?

Baltimore Ravens v Carolina Panthers Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

I was wrong. I know it’s taboo admitting you are wrong in 2018, in writing or on social media. But I didn’t think Norv Turner could change Cam Newton and through seven Panthers games, he’s done just that. Norv has Cam playing at a high level, even better than his 2015 MVP season.

And with Cam Newton playing well, it’s got the Panthers offense in high gear.

Turner has been an excellent offensive coordinator throughout this career. Generally speaking, he’s worked with the prototypical pocket passer quarterbacks, such as current and future Hall of Famers like Troy Aikman and Phillip Rivers (yes, Rivers should be in the Hall). So Norv has succeeded in the NFL with his brand of offense, with the kind of quarterbacks that we know work well in traditional NFL offenses.

He’s never had a Cam Newton.

Newton hasn’t been a traditional pocket passer. We know this. Yes, he can throw from the pocket, but he’s also uber talented using his legs. He’s a career 58.9 percent passer who can have spurts where he looks amazing and others when people in Charlotte have called for Derek Anderson.

Last season, coming off a shoulder surgery, the Panthers tried to force him into that traditional role having him focus on being more accurate from the pocket and limiting his running ability often. It didn’t work. Cam wasn’t good. When Cam, with maybe no help from Mike Shula, decided to use his leg again, he played better on the whole.

He is the only quarterback in the NFL who NEEDS to run the football. Whenever Cam is using his legs to extend plays or by design, it works. That’s clearly most important. But it also fires him up. He clearly gets more amped after a big run, and when Cam is juiced up, he plays better.

That’s almost the opposite of what you’d expect from a quarterback. You’d normally want them calm and relaxed. Not with Cam. When he’s hyped, so is the offense. It’s a chain reaction. The team feeds off that energy and it makes the crowd wild, especially at home in Bank of America stadium.

Also, it’s nearly impossible to stop Cam Newton when he’s rushing the football. When you do, the play action is wide open.

My concerns about Norv Turner paired with Cam Newton were valid. Offensive coordinators who have been around that long tend to be stubborn and set in their ways, especially when it’s worked for so long. Was he going to force Cam Netwon to be something he’s not? Was he going to learn and incorporate the types of plays that work well for Cam? I didn’t know but I leaned towards him forcing Cam into his system rather than adapt what he’s done throughout his career.

I happily couldn’t be more wrong. Norv has far exceeded my expectations for what he’s done with this offense. He’s been using spread rushing concepts, and it’s working flawlessly. Not only is Cam getting to run the ball, but it’s opened up the entire rushing attack. Norv has been able to use the variety of offensive weapons the Panthers have to rush for 5.12 yards per carry, good for second in the NFL.

And while Cam Newton’s legs are always a threat, Turner has done something with Christian McCaffrey that I said the Panthers should have been doing from the beginning — he’s made CMC the lead back! I never understand the idea that CMC couldn’t be an every down back and run between the tackles. That’s exactly what he did in college, and he’s excelling in that role now.

Special shout out to the Panthers offensive line. The line is down both of their starting tackles and had to replace a Pro Bowl left guard. But they are still opening up holes and keeping Cam Newton upright. It’s a big improvement from previous seasons.

The Norv Turner and Cam Newton marriage is off to an outstanding start. Cam is playing better than his 2015 MVP season — no, he’s not winning the MVP this year — and Norv Turner is finding ways to get touches for all his skill position players.

The Panthers offense has always been exciting because of Cam Newton. Now, it’s exciting because of the entire unit.

The Bucs in transition

The Bucs are in franchise flux at the quarterback position. Jameis Winston was suspended the first three weeks of the season. Ryan Fitzpatrick, FitzMagic, started the first four games of the season and was on fire in the first two and a half. He threw for over 400 yards in the first games of the season, with the first half of the third game being a stinker. In his fourth game, it all came back down to earth and Jameis Winston replaced him in the starting lineup.

The Bucs, looking forward to the future, made the right call in turning to Winston. Well … Winston was just benched after a four-interception performance Sunday in Cincinnati.

Winston has played in 49 NFL games. He’s thrown 54 interceptions and added 35 fumbles, 16 recovered by the defense. That’s not acceptable. And look, I’m not someone who’s appalled by all interceptions, but Winston throws some spectacularly bad ones. Yesterday, he put one high and over the middle to a safety. Another time, the ball hit a linebacker directly in the chest without a Tampa Bay receiver even close to him. You can’t make silly mistakes and be the franchise quarterback.

I think it’s clear Jameis won’t be their franchise QB if this coaching staff remains intact, which is a question mark. You can argue they should pay Winston on the option next season with a new head coach/playcaller and see what happens, especially with a weak QB class in the draft.

What the Bucs can’t do is sign up FitzMagic for more years as the starter. He’s not the answer. He’s awesome when there’s no one expecting him to be great and outside of one excellent season in New York you can’t win with him regularly.

That puts the Bucs in the worst spot in the NFL. They aren’t bad enough to be drafting at the top of the draft, and they aren’t good enough to win the Super Bowl. Their options are limited at quarterback for next season.

Could they sign Teddy Bridgewater? Do they trade up in the draft for a QB? Will there be a franchise quarterback in the middle of the first round? If they can find someone, they have a chance to be extremely good on offense with Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard.