It feels like ages since Cam Newton last took a snap with defenders scratching and crawling to get to him in the pocket.
Since being shut down for the season last December, Newton has undergone a second surgery on his throwing shoulder and re-invented his throwing motion to cope. His first tosses and minicamp in June gained a live broadcast by the Panthers on Facebook that’s been watched more the 160,000 times.
While Newton will not make his preseason debut Friday against the Bills as many had expected, according to a report from The Athletic, the 2015 NFL MVP has been sharp through training camp.
“It’s like night and day,” Bills defensive back Captain Munnerlyn (and member of the Panthers in 2018) told reporters this week after a joint practice (via The Charlotte Observer). “[Newton’s] arm looks a whole lot better now. Man, to see him come back from that injury, I know it’s been tough on him.
“To see him come back like he’s doing, I expect big things from him.”
In the second half of last season, Newton was obviously unable to push the football downfield. Secondaries pushed closer to the line of scrimmage and Carolina was forced to insert backup Kyle Allen on plays that required a desperation heave into the end zone.
According to Stats Perform data, Newton finished 20th in the NFL with only 22 big play passes that went for 25 yards or more.
That shouldn’t be the case as the team has made it a point to post one Newton deep ball after another on social media throughout camp.
Curtis Samuel doing Curtis Samuel things 🙌 pic.twitter.com/qlnu8X7w6Y
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) August 13, 2019
Quarterbacks coach Scott Turner has described Newton’s new motion as more compact, closed off and efficient. What that means for how Newton approaches the game is still unclear.
Speaking to NBC Sports last month, Newton wouldn’t say if he’s lost a chunk of velocity, but he doesn’t think that really matters entering his ninth season.
“When you get old, you have to change certain things,” he said. “It kind of keeps you young. I actually look forward to it. I embrace this whole process because it’s made me feel like a rookie again. Learning certain things, learning new mechanics, focusing on the little nuances of playing a quarterback position and trying to master it. So at this point in my career, it’s not about velocity. It’s not about throwing a ball 70 yards. It’s about efficient football that’s gonna win football games.”
That’s a mature approach from Newton, regardless of whether or not he was forced into it. Now we wait to see if there’s a payoff.