Mitch Stringer/USA Today

Cam Newton Needs to Have Same Mindset for Passing Game in 2016

It is never easy for a quarterback to lose his top wide receiver but this didn't stop Cam Newton from having his best season of his career after losing Kelvin Benjamin during training camp. The Panthers' quarterback will get his top pass catcher back this season but he needs to have the same mindset he did last year.

Entering the 2015 season, the Carolina Panthers had a number of questions surrounding it but the biggest was the wide receiver position. The team just lost their number one wide receiver, Kelvin Benjamin, in training camp. How would they respond or more importantly how would Cam Newton respond?

Well, the short answer is extremely well.

The Panthers quarterback went on to have a career year with 3,837 passing yards and career high in passing touchdowns (35) and a career low in interceptions (10). One of the reasons for the drastic improvement was his willingness to work through his progressions and hit the open man, rather than focus on one player.

Below is a target breakdown of Panthers' receivers in 2014 and 2015.

2014 Season

Player Targets Percentage of Team's Total Targets
Kelvin Benjamin 146 26.8%
Greg Olsen 122 22.3%
Jerricho Cotchery 78 14.3%
Jason Avant 40 7.3%
Philly Brown 36 6.6%

2015 Season

Player Targets Percentage of Team's Total Targets
Greg Olsen 123 24.6%
Ted Ginn Jr. 96 19.1%
Devin Funchess 64 12.8%
Philly Brown 55 11.0%
Jerricho Cotchery 53 10.6%

Based on the percentages, there was no question that Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin were options 1A and 1B for Newton as they accounted for nearly 50% of the team's total targets. The Panthers' quarterback didn't really move the ball around much and really focused on his rookie wide receiver. 

However, last year Newton utilized all his weapons and had five players with over 10% of the team's targets. The Panthers were much more explosive and made life difficult for opposing defenses because they were not able to really focus on one wide receiver in this offense. Even when the defense was able to take away that first or second option, Newton continued to work his way through his progression to find the open receiver.

This upcoming season, Cam Newton needs to remember this and not fall into the trap of trying to force the ball to his star wide receiver. The presence of Benjamin is going to help the other wide receivers on this team because he is one player defenses will try and game plan to take away.

Another reason Benjamin got as many targets as he did was because the team didn't have great depth at wide receiver that year. Jason Avant had the fourth most targets in 2014 for the Panthers and he was released after Week 11 and didn't even finish the season with the team.

This season is different though as they still have Ted Ginn Jr., who caught 10 touchdown passes a season ago, and second year wide receiver Devin Funchess along with other players like Philly BrownBrenton Bersin, and Kevin Norwood.

The return of Benjamin should be a boost for an offense that scored over 30 points per game a season however it will be on Cam Newton to keep this offense on track. He must have the same mindset he did last year working through his progressions to find the open wide receiver and not force passes to his top wide receiver.

Twitter @BrandonCroce

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