(Video taken from Training Camp when Benjamin was injured)
“Up in the sky, look: It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s Superman!”
In the 2011 NFL Draft the Carolina Panthers selected quarterback Cam Newton with the hope of giving the city of Charlotte its Superman. Cam’s maturation has only improved since he entered the league. His press conferences and his leadership on and off the field are want you want to see in an NFL quarterback.
Even though he continues to use his Superman celebration, he has continued to change the way he plays quarterback and has emerged into more of a pocket passer over the past five seasons. The 2015-2016 season will be nothing new to Newton, for he has to continue to grow as a quarterback but most importantly this season, as a leader.
When Kelvin Benjamin was drafted in 2014, Panthers fans could finally relax for Cam finally had a massive target (6’5”) to produce with and they did just that. Statistically, Benjamin was the leading receiver in receptions for the Cardiac Cats and was one of three rookie receivers in the league to surpass 1,000 receiving yards and also hauled in 9 touchdowns. “Benji” was targeted 144 times, which was seventh in the league.
The Cam to Benjamin connection was promising and was destined to breakout in 2015. On Wednesday, August 19th, during a joint practice with the Miami Dolphins, Kelvin was added to the ongoing list of NFL players with torn ACL’s. “It’s just an unfortunate situation” Stephen A. Smith mentioned on First Take which airs on ESPN. With the injury to Benjamin, many say the Panthers are doomed this upcoming season but others may see it as a blessing in disguise to guide the maturation of Newton.
Newton with Funchess during training camp.
Most are unaware of the talent on the offensive side of the ball because well, they should be unaware. With right tackle Mike Remmers and Left Guard Andrew Norwell coming into the league as undrafted free agents, they have had to work to prove they belong to stay on an NFL roster. Remmers has previous NFL experience with Carolina being his sixth NFL team in five years.
Trai Turner, a third round draft pick from 2014, has also proved he can protect, but still has room for improvement. Left tackle Michael Oher was added this past offseason to protect Newton’s blindside after being released by the Tennessee Titans. The infamous Blindside star has since declined after being drafted in 2009.
Center Ryan Kalil, the captain of the offensive line, still remains and produces at an extremely high level. Leading the way for the receiving weapons is tight end Greg Olsen, who is no doubt the go-to guy. Olsen has 22 total touchdowns since joining Carolina in 2011. The wide outs include Devin Funchess, who was drafted in the second round of the 2015 draft to run along side Kelvin but is now looked at as the number one wide receiver. The others include second year wide out Corey Brown, Ted Ginn Jr., who has returned to Carolina after departing for the Cardinals for a year, and veteran Jerricho Cotchery. Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert still headline the backfield in Carolina but neither of them are getting any younger. With Rivera being a defensive minded coach, it somewhat explains the lack of talent on the offensive side of the ball. With this iffy starting offense there is no reason Panthers fans should hit that panic button just yet.
Cam continuously has had to prove critics and the NFL that he belongs. This year will prove how much of a leader Cam Newton can truly be. Can he prove the doubters wrong once again? Will the Carolina Panthers win the NFC South for the third season in row?
This just looks like another job for Super Cam.
Spark Sports NFL Analyst