Archive for September, 2013

Should the Panthers Trade Cam Newton?

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It wasn’t too long ago that everyone in Charlotte had Cam fever.  He was the hope for the Panthers future, and the player that and coach would love to build around.  But things haven’t gone the way most fans expected.  The Panthers have stumbled out of the gates, to an 0-2 start, and now Head Coach Ron Rivera’s job is in serious doubt.  Should Newton’s be as well?

The fact is the offense hasn’t performed up to expectations.  A year after averaging over 22 points per game, and just two removed from a 25 point per game average, the Panthers offense has managed just 30 points in two games.  It’s not all on Cam, his Wide Receiver core is below average, the Offensive Line is patchwork at best, and he’s still missing the second Tight End that he thrived with in 2011.  But Cam has played his part in the offensive failures.  He hasn’t pulled the trigger, or simply hasn’t seen open Receivers down field,  He still is playing with poor mechanics, having trouble with accuracy, and he’s staying in the pocket too long when things break down.  Maybe the most concerning part of Cam’s play, he’s a third year Quarterback who’s still having trouble reading the defense, and staring targets down instead of looking off Safeties.  So I ask again, should the Panthers look to move Cam Newton?

Ideally no, but it’s complicated.  Even with the things Cam isn’t doing, or isn’t doing well, he’s not exactly being utilized correctly.  Cam is an athlete, and has always been at his best when making plays outside of the pocket, or down field with the ball in his hands.  Despite this, it seems the Offensive philosophy has changed under new Coordinator Mike Shula, and new General Manager Dave Gettleman.  There’s more of an emphasis on Cam to make plays in the pocket it seems, and putting him in situations to use his athletic ability has become less important.  Not to be cliché, but that is putting a square peg into a round hole.  In order for Cam to be a winning Quarterback (at least at this point in his career), you have to let him do what he does best.  That means getting outside of the tackle box on roll outs, and utilizing his ability to make plays with his legs whether it’s making a throw on the run, or getting past the sticks with his running ability.

There’s no denying that Cam can be an elite weapon in the NFL.  He’s done it already.  He’s compiled the most yardage of any Quarterback in his first two years in NFL history.  But what he’s doing in Carolina currently just isn’t working.  Whether it’s Cam’s fault, the coaches fault, or the General Manager’s fault is irrelevant.  For the Panthers to win consistently they need Cam to be Cam.  So if they don’t want him to be Cam, is there really a reason to keep him?  See, I told you it was complicated.

Ron Rivera will inevitably lose his job for his own failures.  A new staff will be brought in, and tasked with turning Cam into the top-tier Quarterback he shows the potential to be.  But will that staff recognize what Cam does well?  Will that staff let Cam be Cam?  Will that staff come up with the creative and unique plays that Cam needs to be an elite weapon again?  If not then Cam may not be the guy that this franchise needs, and both parties would be better off parting ways.

As a fan of Cam Newton I hate the idea of him playing anywhere but Charlotte, but I also want what’s best for the team.  If the Panthers can get multiple first round picks to acquire a top-tier Quarterback who fits their system, as well as complimentary pieces to build around that Quarterback it might be the best option.

Ideally the Panthers hire that dynamic Head Coach who will fully utilize Cam Newton (can anyone say Kevin Sumlin), but Jerry Richardson’s history with Head Coaching hires casts serious doubt that the next Head Coach will be that kind of guy.  It’s an interesting debate that has cases to be made for both sides.  My preference is to keep Cam, build the offense around him, and give him the weapons other teams have given their young franchise Quarterbacks, but Dave Gettleman and Jerry Richardon may not see it the same way…

Five Impressions From Week One of the 2013 College Football Season

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Week one of the college football season is in the books, and a lot happened.  It started with North Carolina heading to Williams Bryce, and ended last night with the Jameis Winston show in Pittsburgh.  I spent most of my Saturday huddled around a big screen, two laptops, and an ipad, and now it’s time to recap.  So without further ado, here are my five lasting impressions from week one of the 2013 college football season.

5. Alabama Is Not Unbeatable….

But they’re still probably the best team in the nation.  Saturday night Alabama began their title defense, and quest for a three peat in Atlanta against Virginia Tech.  While Alabama won the game comfortably by a score of 35-10, anyone who watched the game would know the final score didn’t tell the whole story.  The Crimson Tide had luck on their side Saturday, scoring 21 points from Defensive or Special Teams touchdowns.  Even more alarming were the warts that the “unbeatable” team showed, most notably on the Offensive Line.  Left Tackle Cyrus Kouandjio has been heralded as a potential top ten pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, but he looked less than comfortable on Saturday.  He and is brother Left Guard Arie Kouandjio were beaten several times pretty badly, resulting in unwanted pressure for Quarterback AJ McCarron.  McCarron struggled to deal with the pressure, completing under 50% of his passes.  He looked less like the Quarterback who can win games, and much more like the Quarterback who started his career at Alabama being asked to not lose them.  Still, this team is too talented, and their coach is too good to spend much time worrying.  I fully expect them to correct the issues, but the giant that everyone thought Alabama was may be more of a taller than average man when compared to the likes of LSU, Florida State, Texas A&M and others.

4. Johnny Football Just Doesn’t Get It….

And maybe never will.  After a Summer that saw Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel constantly in the news, you would think he would want to tone things down a bit now that he’s back to football.  You would be wrong.  After a summer of eyes on him for the wrong reason Manziel found himself in an unusual position to start Saturday, on the bench.  Manziel was suspended for the first half of the Aggies game vs Rice after he was found to have signed thousands of autographs for brokers.  Again, you would think he would want to stay out of the limelight now.  Again, you would be wrong.  It didn’t take long for Manziel to make an impact both on the scoreboard, and in the headlines.  Manziel played well helping his team pull away, but it was his actions after the play that will be remembered.  Johnny Football used some questionable celebrations, including making the gesture of signing an autograph, and a hand motion to suggest he needs more money.  He was also penalized for taunting the opposition after he got into it with a Rice player following a touchdown.  His actions were so disruptive that his coach pulled him out of the game after the penalty.  Manziel is quick to remind everyone he’s still a kid whenever criticism comes, but he’s acting like a spoiled brat on the field.  The pressure and spotlight will only increase from week one, so it will be interesting to see how he handles it.

3. The Spread & High Tempo Offenses Will Ruin Games….

But not for the reason you think.  Two things really frustrated me from the first week of college football.  I’ll cover the second in a moment, but the first was the defensive “strategy” to tempo offenses.  I’m referring to defensive players doing their best soccer dives on the field, faking injuries in order to buy their teammates time.  It’s disgusting, despicable and unfortunately unavoidable.  That is unless the officials take control.  I watched the majority of the games on Saturday, and on numerous occasions it appeared as though defenders were faking injuries to slow down the offense.  This was most notable in the late night California versus Northwestern clash, where I saw almost ten “injuries” that I thought were pretty questionable by Northwestern players.  The problem is, it worked like a charm, disrupting the flow of the offense and taking Cal Freshman QB Jared Goff out of his rhythm.  Honestly, I don’t blame coaches for using this tactic, it works.  But that’s where the official comes in.  It’s their job to question the coaches and the validity of the high number of minor injuries.  They have to take control, and make a coach feel like this is no longer an option to disrupt the offense.  Not only do they need to question coaches, but in some cases they need to penalize.  Will it happen?  Hopefully.  If not, watching teams like Cal, Oregon, North Carolina and any other spread or tempo based team will become a lot less enjoyable.

2. The Targeting Rule Will Too…

Because it’s a joke of a rule and won’t be consistently enforced.  If you’ve been living under a rock, or don’t live football 24/7 365 like I do, you may have missed a major rule change.  Beginning this year, players will risk ejection for “targeting” a defenseless player.  This has already been applied several times this season.  In one instance they got it right.  A Defensive Back for Oregon launched himself into the Nicholls State Quarterback as he was sliding.  He hit the QB in the helmet, knocking him out of the game.  He was rightfully flagged, and ejected from the game.  However just several hours later they got it incredibly wrong in the already mentioned California and Northwestern game.  Early in the fourth quarter of the home game against Northwestern, Defensive End Chris McCain was penalized for a hit on the Quarterback.  Not only was the call a roughing the passer 15 yard penalty, but McCain was promptly ejected from the game.  McCain’s hit was far from an ejection worthy penalty though.  In fact, it was probably closer to a legal clean hit, then it was worthy of being sent to the locker room early.  The play should have been reviewed, but it wasn’t due to a failure in the system.  Due to this McCain won’t be suspended for the first half of this weeks game, but it doesn’t make the issue go away.  Giving officials the power to eject a player for what they believe is targeting is a risky business.  Not only that, but what happens when a targeting situation occurs in a big game?  Let’s say Alabama versus Texas A&M in week three for instance.  Does anyone actually believe a player is getting kicked out of that game?

1. Jameis Winston’s First Start Was Good….

Really, really good.  I’m not one to jump to conclusions based on a first impression, but it’s hard not to be impressed with what Redshirt Freshman Quarterback Jameis Winston did for the Seminoles last night.  Winston was electric last night, completing 25 of 27 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns.  He also added 25 yards and another touchdown on the ground.  It wasn’t just the numbers though, it was all the things that don’t show up in the box score for the young QB too.  His pocket awareness, his decision making, his command on the field, he just looked like a much more seasoned Quarterback then he is.  We may not see just how legit Winston is until mid October when the Seminoles face Clemson.  That will be the first time Winston plays a quality opponent in the unfriendly confines of Death Valley (just ask Aaron Murray how welcome Clemson made him feel).  Still, his performance last night was incredible, amazing, insane, unreal, otherworldly, and any other ridiculous adjective you can come up with to describe it.  With a schedule loaded with inferior opposition to pile stats against, a Heisman trophy for Winston may not be out of the question.  Still he’s a Redshirt Freshman making his first career start, so I’ll be gentle on the gas of the Jameis Winston bandwagon for a few more weeks.