Anyone who watched Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers last year was likely a little confused.
The Panthers often had Newton gunning the ball down the field in the vertical sense despite the fact his running game didn’t take much pressure off him and the offensive line had problems holding up a clean pocket long enough to make the passes work.
The Panthers drafting Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel this year are moves intended to help alter the offense. Carolina offensive coordinator Mike Shula noted what Tom Brady and the New England Patriots do with a short and intermediate passing game that acts as a running game, per MMQB’s Peter King:
“In the Super Bowl, how many passes do you think Tom Brady threw to his backs? Mostly completed, right? They’re glorified runs sometimes, but they work and it doesn’t matter what you call them,” Shula said.
Shula went on to talk up his new running back:
“I think Christian’s going to help Cam,” Shula said. “In fact, I know he’s going to help Cam. Giving him those guaranteed completions—well, high-percentage completions—you hit it right on the head. With what we’ll be asking Cam, he can get the ball out quicker now.”
A short passing game featuring elite weapons who can make plays after the catch masks many issues. Getting the ball out fast means less time pass blocking for the line. It means the defense creeping up, if not taking attention away from boundary targets like Kelvin Benjamin.
More importantly, Newton should take fewer hits while trying to do it all on his own. Carolina’s picks were obvious moves in this direction, though the team looking to emulate Brady and the Patriots speaks to how serious they are about the evolution of the offense.