Newton’s accuracy improving as Panthers prepare for Eagles
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.
Carolina quarterback Cam Newton throws downfield during a game against the Lions.