The Panthers know they’re walking a fine line with Cam Newton.
On one hand, the offense is clearly better when he moves around. On the other, that exposes him to hits they don’t want him taking.
For the moment, they’re OK with him with it in his hands, after he ran 13 times for 71 yards in last week’s win over the Saints. He was limited to five carries for four yards in the previous week’s loss to the Buccaneers.
“When he runs, it causes problems for defenses,” Panthers left tackle Jordan Gross said, via Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. “That 40-yard run he had shows you it’s not like he’s just a slow quarterback running. He’s a threat on the ground. He threw the ball well, too.
“I think he plays better when he’s doing all that stuff. He kind of gets more in the groove of things and he throws the ball better and just has a better day usually.”
As with most things in life, it’s a complicated mix. They’re 6-3 when he runs for 50 yards, but only 1-4 when he’s the leading rusher. They key to his running is the opportunities it creates for his running backs and the coverages it loosens for downfield passing more so than any yards he accumulates.
And when those things happen, Newton’s not getting whacked.
“He gets hit, but not big. And I think there’s a difference in that, as well,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “And a lot of the runs that we have are calculated. He’s reading for the most part as to whether or not it’s a good idea to hand it off or keep it.
“But it doesn’t hurt my feelings when he hands it off, though. I’m going to be honest. I do worry about him when he’s out there.”
As much as they worry about being in a groove or not when he’s carrying, it’s obvious where their offense would be if Derek Anderson was running plays.