The way to keep Newton from making a ton of mistakes is to simplify the offense and keep him in the pocket, both plans Shula and Rivera will institute in 2013.
Remember Week 4 of the 2012 season? The Panthers were on the road in Atlanta and owned a one-point lead over the undefeated Falcons with under two minutes to play. On 3rd-and-short, Newton tried to stretch a run play for a first down but fumbled. Fullback Mike Tolbert recovered the ball, but Carolina had to punt.
The Falcons drove the field in under a minute and kicked a game-winning field goal. Newton’s fumble wasn’t the sole reason why Carolina lost that game, but it’s the play everyone remembers. And it’s a result that won’t be replicated as often if Newton isn’t carrying the football as much in 2013.
There were also two media reports from last season that speculated that Newton was tipping his hand in the read-option and that Carolina wasn’t doing him any favors in its play-calling.
If Newton was predictable or Carolina was running the read-option too much early on, those trends stopped later in the season. If they hadn’t, Carolina would not have won five of its last six games. But now the coaching staff plans to remove all doubt and greatly reduce the read-option from the game plan.
If it’s truly only “an option,” as Gettleman announced at the combine, the play might be more effective used sparingly.
But that theory only works if Carolina running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are successful in their transition as the Panthers move to a power-running scheme.
Keeping Newton in the pocket and limiting his running also only works if Newton becomes a more precise passer. His career completion percentage is 58.9, and he’s never had a season above 60 percent. Only four quarterbacks—Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, Jay Cutler and Andrew Luck—led their teams to winning records last season with completion percentages below 60. They were the exceptions to the rule.
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