The offensive struggles are not entirely Cam Newton’s fault
It is easy to point the finger at the quarterback of any struggling offense and there are plenty of times where it is the quarterback’s fault. However the Panthers struggles go far beyond the quarterback position.
Yes Cam Newton has not looked good and has thrown six interceptions to only three touchdowns the past four weeks. However, the offensive line has not done him any favors and provided him much time in the pocket.
Over the past four games, Newton has been sacked a total of 19 times. To put that number in perspective, there are 13 teams in the NFL who have not allowed 19 sacks all season.
Now this isn’t to say the Panthers quarterback does not deserve some of the blame. Against the Eagles he made some poor decisions, especially on his first two interceptions. However, if the Panthers want the Cam Newton from 2013, the offensive line has to find a way to provide some sort of protection.
Jonathan Stewart is the team’s best running back
It seems pretty apparent that Jonathan Stewart is the Panthers best running back this season. Over the past three games, he has averaged 4.6 yards per carry but has only been given the ball 35 times over that stretch.
Ron Rivera and the Panthers coaching staff seems set on the idea of splitting the carries almost down the middle between Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. The issue is that Williams has been extremely ineffective and is only averaging 2.4 yards per carry since his return two weeks ago, nearly half of what Stewart has done.
Right now, the Panthers offense needs to feature Stewart. who is a bigger running back and can pick up those tough yards behind a weak offensive line. The Panthers next opponent, the Atlanta Falcons, struggle against the run and would seem to be a perfect opportunity to establish a run game with Stewart as the lead back.
Panthers Can’t Stop the Pass
This is something that has been known for a few weeks now but it would be easy to chalk up the Panthers performance to the fact they faced great quarterbacks like Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers three straight weeks.
This time though they faced Mark Sanchez, who hadn’t started a game since 2012, and put on a show with 332 passing yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions against Carolina. Sanchez looked like he should be heading to the Pro Bowl instead of a quarterback who hadn’t seen meaningful action in a year and half.
The question is now who is to blame for the Panthers struggles: the secondary or the lack of a pass rush? These two components usually go hand in hand with one another. If a team has a strong pass rush, it will make the secondary look better because they won’t be asked to cover as long. If a defense has a strong secondary, the quarterback will be forced to hold the ball a second longer and allow the pass rusher to get to him.
Unfortunately for Carolina, they have neither right now. The team completely overhauled the secondary this offseason and right now Josh Norman is playing the best football in this group. The pass rush took a major hit when they lost Greg Hardy at the start of the year due to his legal troubles.
Until one of these two groups step up, the entire defense will continue to struggle stopping the pass.