Tom Sorensen

Curtis Samuel will be important to success of Cam Newton, Panthers

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Curtis Samuel works out at training camp at Wofford College.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Curtis Samuel works out at training camp at Wofford College. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

The Carolina Panthers have a dress rehearsal Thursday on the road against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Then they’ll tuck their best players safely away until Sept. 10 when at 4:25 p.m. in San Francisco they open the season against the 49ers.

I like some of their work thus far. The offensive line has been solid, and that's a fine place to start. I loved the Curtis Samuel pick ( the Panthers took him in the second round of the draft). Samuel can quickly get where he needs to go, whether on a short pass in the flat or a deep corner route. After suffering a hamstring injury, Samuel returned to practice this week.

In college, Ohio State moved him around. He’s a receiver with a running back’s instincts, and he can fly. He ran a 4.31 40 at the NFL combine. To put that in perspective, this paragraph took you more than 4.31 seconds to read.

There’s a lot to like about Carolina’s offense if quarterback Cam Newton is able to throw short quick passes to Samuel and rookie running back Christian McCaffrey. When you think about Newton, do you think about him quickly finding receivers?

You shouldn’t. Newton is going to beat you by throwing deep, and maybe throwing off his back foot and maybe running. He has so much confidence in his arm and legs that short and simple passes have not been part of his repertoire. But players such as McCaffrey and Samuel have not been part of the offense.

Because of Newton's injured shoulder, he has not had the opportunity to work extensively with McCaffrey and Samuel. They’re not just new players. Their skills are new. There’s nobody on the roster who does what they can do.

It’s essential that Newton develop a rhythm with them, and he can’t do that if he can’t play. I’m not certain he plays Thursday in Jacksonville.

We’re all assuming (hoping?) Newton is back for the Sept. 10 opener. Newton has detractors because, well, he's Newton. But can you imagine this team without him? If you can, they aren't contending in the NFC South.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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