The most impressive work I saw from the Carolina Panthers on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers was from the offensive line.
Jonathan Stewart, do you need room to move? You have it. Christian McCaffrey, you want time to run those quick little routes out of the backfield? Consider it done.
Here comes the big one. Cam Newton, we’re going to do something different this season and give you time to throw.
What Carolina’s offense required, the offensive line provided. It was like ordering room service.
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Newton was interesting. In the first half his timing was off. He missed open receivers, sometimes not by feet but by yards. In the second half, however, he completed every pass he threw. He rarely went deep. He threw little passes, often to McCaffrey, and thus did the chains move.
Let’s blame Newton’s first half on rust. What I liked about the second half is that he was willing to throw short, because that has never been his game. He was always the biggest quarterback on whatever field he stepped, and he had the biggest arm. So he’s going to go deep, and occasionally he will drive his critics nuts by throwing off his back foot.
And he ran. He ran three times Sunday. The Panthers will never tell him he can’t run. Take that away and you take away one of the qualities that can make him special.
When he’s not running or he has an array of receivers to which to throw. McCaffrey and Stewart and, soon, rookie Curtis Samuel, will often line up in the backfield. Greg Olsen will be Greg Olsen, Russell Shepard had a fine camp, and Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess are tall.
We’re going to see Samuel, the second round pick out of Ohio State, do something soon. And you’re going to say, “So, the Panthers have more than one rookie.”
Newton’s surgically repaired shoulder is not 100 percent. But there’s no mad rush for him to come all the way back. If the line is as good as it was Sunday, Newton can take his time.