New­ton’s ac­cu­racy im­prov­ing as Panthers pre­pare for Ea­gles

Rome News-Tribune - - SPORTS - By Steve Reed As­so­ci­ated Press Sports Writer

CHAR­LOTTE, N.C. — Cam New­ton is locked in and on tar­get.

Carolina’s quar­ter­back is on a mini-tear en­ter­ing a Thursday night show­down against the Ea­gles, com­plet­ing 77.4 per­cent of his passes over the last two games for 671 yards with six touch­downs. That’s well above New­ton’s ca­reer com­ple­tion per­cent­age of 58.9 per­cent and last sea­son’s ca­reer low of 52.9 per­cent.

New­ton’s new­found ac­cu­racy has the Panthers (4-1) tied for the best record in the NFC with the Ea­gles and Pack­ers. Sud­denly, ques­tions about New­ton’s abil­ity to re­cover from shoul­der surgery have turned to ques­tions about com­pet­ing for league MVP hon­ors again.

New­ton shrugged his shoul­ders and of­fered no ex­pla­na­tion for his ca­reer-high com­ple­tion per­cent­age this year.

But clearly one of the rea­sons is the ad­di­tion of run­ning back Chris­tian McCaffrey, who has given the sev­enth-year QB a valu­able check-down op­tion on passes. The rookie from Stan­ford leads the Panthers with 27 re­cep­tions.

“He’s an ex­cep­tional foot­ball player who has found his role on this team and is try­ing to find ways to ex­pand his role,” New­ton said of McCaffrey. “A guy like that, he’s so easy to throw to.”

The Panthers are throw­ing more short and intermediate routes than in the past, de­signed in part to com­pen­sate for New­ton com­ing off ro­ta­tor cuff surgery. He missed most of train­ing camp and the Panthers didn’t want to rush him back by ask­ing him to throw a bunch of deep balls.

New­ton’s arm strength is im­prov­ing and he’s show­ing no signs of sore­ness, al­though coach Ron Rivera still lim­its his reps in prac­tice.

“There’s cer­tain throws that he’s mak­ing again. That’s a huge plus,” Rivera said. “I think last week was in­dica­tive of that. I think as he gets stronger and stronger, we can do some more things we want to do.”

McCaffrey is com­mand­ing so much at­ten­tion from de­fenses that it’s free­ing up oth­ers to make plays. Devin Funchess has three TD catches in the last two games and Greg Olsen fill-in Ed Dick­son caught five passes for 175 yards last week against Detroit.

File, Paul San­cya / The As­so­ci­ated Press

Carolina quar­ter­back Cam New­ton throws down­field dur­ing a game against the Lions.

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