Admit it. The thought of Cam Newton returning to the Carolina Panthers never crossed your mind.
It happened late last week, and Newton’s arrival seems to have transformed the Panthers into a team that looks like it could make a push for a wild card spot in the NFC.
It seemed like the 2021 season was a disaster after last week’s loss. Then came Cam. The same Cam that the franchise released prior to last season.
The same Cam who, after just two days of practice, scored two touchdowns in Carolina’s 34-10 dismantling of the NFC West leading
Arizona Cardinals. Equally as important as the two scoring plays, was that the Panthers looked revitalized, motivated, and energized. There was no mistaking who got the credit for the change.
For those with a short memory. For the better part of a decade the entire Carolina offense revolved around Newton for close to a decade. Then the injuries started adding up while the productivity went down.
Deciding it was time to move on, the Panthers hired Matt Rhule as their head coach. Soon after, the greatest QB the franchise had ever had was let go.
Bringing back Newton was an admission of failure by the Panthers decision-makers. Common sense tells us that the team was able to swallow its pride. Teddy Bridgewater did not work last year. Sam Darnold has not worked this season.
The Panthers chose to pick up Newton last week after starting quarterback Sam Darnold went down with a severe shoulder injury that will end his season. Cam was available after being released by the New England Patriots during training camp in August. Newton will receive starter money ($6 million in guarantees with the potential to make up to $10 million if Carolina reaches the postseason). It has also been reported that Newton was promised a shot at resuming as the franchise’s starting quarterback again in 2022. It has already been announced that he will start this weekend.
Carolina’s passing offense ranks 28th in the league so it will not take much for Newton to improve the team’s air attack. And the team’s most productive player, Christian McCaffrey, is finally healthy again. The superstar running back has been plagued by injuries recently, missing 13 games last year and five already this season.
McCaffrey had his best season as a Panther during Newton’s last season in Charlotte. He amassed 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns on 287 carries and 1,005 yards and four scores on 116 receptions back in 2019.
Cam will also like his defense. Carolina’s defense has been one of the league’s best this season, holding opponents to 280.7 yards per game, the second-best mark in the NFL. Opponents are averaging just 19.3 points against Carolina.
If the Panthers can turn it on down the stretch, they’ll have a real chance to go on a run in potentially their first postseason since the 2017 season.