Monday, July 16, 2018
Photo courtesy of the Carolina Panthers

Quarterbacks: Cam Newton Could Be Ready for a Return

There’s some good news for Carolina Panthers fans as head coach Ron Rivera as quarterback Cam Newton is set to make his first start of the preseason Thursday night when the team hosts the Jacksonville Jaguars. Newton has been held out of action all preseason after off-season shoulder surgery.

“What we are trying to do is practice fast and create that as close as we can to game simulation as far as that is concerned,” Rivera told ESPN. “I thought they did that for us (Tuesday). I think it showed. You could see the timing coming back.”

Newton has been throwing some this preseason, but obviously this will be his first extensive week of preparation. Usually the starters play at least a half in the third preseason game as a final rehearsal for the regular season. How long will Cam go?

“A big part of it will be as long as he (Newton) is not tired or fatigued, we should be fine,” Rivera told the News Observer. “We’ll see how he is after (Wednesday) morning and make a determination.”

One thing is for sure, Newton will be advised not to run and to throw the ball away if the rush gets too close. The Panthers have made a conscious decision on offense to protect their young quarterback, sometimes from himself. As competent a back as Derek Anderson is in Carolina, this team’s hopes of returning to the postseason are all on Newton’s shoulders.

“What we’ve done this year in the draft and free agency is added some speed and some playmakers to the offense,” Rivera told ESPN. We brought in Christian McCaffrey, who has a tremendous array of ability and flexibility. He can play the H-back, play tailback, play the slot; we can even send him in motion out wide. So we’re giving Cam another look, another weapon that he hasn’t had. Then we went out and got Curtis Samuel, a receiver who also has the ability to run the ball. He has tremendous speed. He can go vertical and stretch the field for us and open things up underneath for backs and tight ends. So when we say the word ‘evolve,’ these are some conscious things we had to do to change; these are things that we have to do better to give ourselves a chance to be successful.”

Last year Newton started 14 games, played in 15 and completed a career low 52.9 percent of his passes for 3,509 yards, 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He rushed 90 times for 359 yards and five touchdowns.

Cooper Rush getting reps with the second team

If you’ve been watching the Dallas Cowboys this preseason, then you’ve noticed the obvious; rookie Cooper Rush has outplayed entrenched back up Kellen Moore by a significant margin.

In last weekend’s preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts, Rush completed 8-of-9 passes for 92 yards and two touchdowns. Moore was 10-of-21 for 131 yards and no touchdowns.

While we’re just halfway through the preseason and there’s no reason to get too excited about a back up quarterback, the Cowboys have some experience in trusting their eyes when it comes to this kind of thing. It’s what led them to hand over the keys to Dak Prescott last season.

“I’m just glad to see Rush taking advantage of his opportunities out there,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Wouldn’t want to get ahead of ourselves in any way here. And the other thing is that we still have a lot of confidence in 17 (Moore), his ability to be able to get in there when we would call on him with the personnel around him and get the ball in the right places.”

Will Rush cost Moore his job with the team? Probably not, but he’ll give Dallas plenty of reasons to keep three quarterbacks on the roster this year. The Cowboys have learned the hard way the problems a shaky back up quarterback situation can cause a team. Maybe the Colts should take notice.

Last season with Central Michigan, Rush completed 59.8 percent of his passes for 3,540 yards, 23 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He’s 6-3 and 230 pounds and should meet all the measurable requirements to have a long career in the league as a back up if nothing else.

“I’ve been one of Cooper’s biggest fans since the moment he got here,” Prescott told reporters. “You can ask Orlando Scandrick. He told Coop I was handing out applications for his fan club. He’s a guy that does everything right in the film room. He takes it. He’s asking questions and he takes what he does on the practice field and goes out there. ..The moment he goes in, he shows what he’s been preparing to do.”

O’Brien sticking with Savage for now

While the Cowboys’ brain trust are trusting their eyes on their quarterback situation, Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien is obviously going with another organ. Tuesday, O’Brien reiterated that his quarterback depth chart hasn’t changed and Tom Savage remains the starter.

Neither Savage or eventual starter Deshaun Watson played a lot in last weekend’s game against the New England Patriots. Savage put up solid numbers, going 8-for-9 with 98 yards and a touchdown pass. Watson was less effective as a precision passer, finishing 3-for-10, but he got the big plays, completing 102 yards worth of passes in his short action and running for a touchdown.

“Tom’s the starter,” O’Brien said. “Tom’s playing well this camp. Tom has really had a good camp. He’s only thrown three incompletions in two games. He’s really got good command of our offense, and like I’ve said, Deshaun is a very, very good, young player who has a great future in this league. I mean, let’s put the cards on the table. That’s what it is. But Tom has been here for four years. The way that we want to play, the style that we need to play relative to getting guys lined up, relative to cadence, relative to protection points and route reads and putting guys in the right spot, Tom’s ahead of Deshaun on that.”

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