Once upon a time, the Panthers had a star wide receiver with a big personality. It may be best he’s not there anymore, as the Panthers are spreading the ball around more than ever.
(Then again, they’re spreading it around partly because they don’t have a star receiver.)
But one thing Panthers quarterback Cam Newton isn’t worried about is keeping people happy who want the ball, as the Panthers adjust their offense to accommodate some new players and new ideas.
“Years past I’ve had that approach. But now I leave that solely up to the play-caller,” Newton said, via Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. “When that play call is called, it’s up for me to go wherever the defense dictates the ball to go.
“And not picking any favors, not picking any type of person that hasn’t touched the ball, yet. I’ll leave that solely up to coach [Mike] Shula and his staff.”
Shiny new running back Christian McCaffrey was targeted seven times in the passing game, as many as starting receivers Kelvin Benjamin (five) and Devin Funchess (two) combined. And tight end Greg Olsen, who has been the centerpiece of their passing game in recent years, was targeted four times.
They’ve had success without an alpha receiver before (winning 15 games and going to the Super Bowl with a bunch of strays), and this was the first game for first-rounder McCaffrey, who has captured everyone’s attention.
Of course, the run game was working against the 49ers and they weren’t going to overburden Newton, with just 25 pass attempts in his first regular season game after shoulder surgery. He overcame a sloppy start, but closed by completing his last nine actual passes (not counting a spike to stop the clock).
“He threw to eight different receivers, which I think was big,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “When you do that, you’re taking a lot of pressure off the other guys. . . .
“I just think it was a matter of him getting comfortable and making things happen on the field. Once he gets into his rhythm, you see it. And that’s what happened in the second half. You could see him in the third quarter really throw the ball the way he’s capable of.”
And while some of them might want the ball more often, the personality of the locker room means it might not be the problem it once was.