The Panthers are 2-0, but not playing particularly well on offense. And they’re now faced with the loss of tight end Greg Olsen, their most consistent target in the passing game.
So Cam Newton is going to need to play better, and he knows it.
Via Bill Voth of the team’s official website, Newton acknowledged he’s going to have to improve. He didn’t make any big mistakes in yesterday’s 9-3 win over the Bills, but he also missed too many easy passes, which galled him afterward. Specifically, a late dump-off to Christian McCaffrey which would have been a touchdown sailed high over the rookie receiver’s head.
“I’m disappointed in myself, but happy for the overall team,” Newton said. ““Just the accuracy. Missing layups like that, it’s uncalled for. I wish I had about two or three balls back.”
He also came out with a sore ankle that will have to be monitored in the coming days, and the persistent questions about the state of his surgically repaired right shoulder.
“Man, it was scary,” Newton said of being checked for the ankle problem, before returning to the game. “I didn’t even want to say what I thought happened. When you hear it crunch up, the cartilage that was moving, just knowing when you get the blood back flowing and you start walking on it, you just gain confidence in it.”
But the bigger issue may be his development as a passer, at a time when the Panthers need him to improve. They put in a number of wrinkles into the offense to make his life easier, but he wasn’t around to practice them in the offseason. After throwing just two passes in the preseason, he’s looked a bit rusty, and is 34-of-57 (59.6 percent) passing on the season.
Then again, he’s a career 58.4 percent passer, and he’s never going to be Drew Brees or Sam Bradford in that regard. But they’re trying to put more of the easy-to-complete passes in for him, and he’s not hitting them yet.
“No matter how I was feeling I can’t keep having those little mishaps,” Newton said. “Let me check myself. I just have to trust the whole process. Even though we see what’s going on, I see what’s going on and it’s not happening the way I want it to happen, I know in the back of my mind things are going to get shaking.
“We’re good. I’m good. Just knowing what my expectations are for myself, it starts with me. As this team leader, knowing offensively it’s my job to put points up on the scoreboard. We didn’t have a touchdown today and I’m disappointed in that.”
Of course, the Panthers could help him out by blocking better for him. He took six sacks yesterday, when they were without Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil. Whether that attributed to the breakdown in protection (or whether his little brother/left tackle Matt Kalil took a step back after a promising sack-less debut against the 49ers), the Panthers need to get things fixed, so Newton can as well.