The Carolina Panthers don’t just intend to make the playoffs again this season, but plan to accomplish that by changing the way Cam Newton plays, turning him into a more traditional pocket passing quarterback. It worked mostly well in 28-16 preseason win over the Kansas City Chiefs, with Alex Smith struggling to finish off promising drives.
Newton is back from an ankle surgery and Ron Rivera is planning to make a chance. Newton has been the quarterback to take more hits than anyone over the last three years, and there’s no doubt in the minds of anyone within the organization that he is their franchise quarterback. Limiting his read-option looks and keeping him from taking unnecessary hits when taking off is a big goal for a team trying to capitalize on last year’s success.
Newton looked rusty early on and had only one net yard through their first three possessions. Eventually, he finished with 4-of-9 for 65 yards, not going out on a single rush. Jonathan Stewart came in for the disappointing DeAngelo Williams and showed his strength in goal line situations, rushing for two touchdowns on two and three yard carries. He finished with 26 yards on four carries.
Joe Webb got a little taste of action by completing 2-of-3 passes, and Derek Anderson (yes, he’s still around) finished with 5-of-8, hitting Benton Bersin for a touchdown pass. The Panthers are certainly worried about their receiving situation, although they do know that having an effective running game and blending Stewart with Williams correctly is the key to making things easier for Newton when it comes to avoiding big hits.
Alex Smith led the Chiefs on scoring drives, but twice they had to settle for field goals. Not a worrying sign yet, but something to think about. Jamaal Charles wasn’t in action, and the Chiefs continue to be a one-receiver team, unless they decide to get rid of Dwayne Bowe, who caught five passes for 62 yards. Smith finished with 14-of-22 for 127 yards but was sacked twice, which is understandable against the Panthers defense (Luke Kuechly, Star Lotulelei).
Aaron Murray of Georgia threw one touchdown pass for the Chiefs but he was also intercepted by A.J. Klein. The Chiefs, like the Panthers, surprised quite a few with their success last season. However, repeating on that is a lot more difficult and right now seems even unlikely considering what we’re seeing from them in the preseason, and the lack of offensive weapons Alex Smith has at his disposal.