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Carolina Panthers

Can Cam Newton still make the deep throws?

Last Sunday, the Carolina Panthers faced off against the Dallas Cowboys at home in Bank of America stadium. As expected, they came out with a win of 16-8. Cam Newton played a fantastic performance, throwing laser after laser and running like only the best can do.

However, one concern that popped up revolved around the Panthers QB’s deep ball accuracy. In the game, he attempted two true deep balls, both of which were incomplete. On those plays, critics argue that Cam’s accuracy should be a concern when throwing deep. They believe the blame should fall on him for those incomplete passes.

Nevertheless, not everything is as seems on paper. While the stats sheet may argue against Cam’s favor, another look at replay may provide another conclusion to the matter.

Without further ado, here’s an alternate conclusion on why it may not actually be all Cam’s fault on those two incomplete deep passes.

Deep Ball #1 – Cam Newton to Devin Funchess Incompletion

Surprisingly, this was a play that actually was defended quite well by the commentators. First of all, credit to Troy Aikman for saying something that doesn’t downgrade Cam in this instance and tells exactly what happened. Something rare from these commentators. While it’s understandable they’re trying to be objective and criticizing Cam on occasions, they seem to be leaning towards a non-objective side given some of their weird criticisms of some of his good throws. Even then, this time they got it right.

Anyhow, the play begins with Torrey Smith and Devin Funchess on the left side of Cam Newton. However, what’s interesting is where those two end up. Both of them seem to be streaking down the field and essentially keeping in each other’s space and running in each others routes. It clearly wasn’t part of Norv’s blueprint for such to happen. As a result, Devin Funchess is out of position as Cam throws deep, and staggers behind the ball while attempts at tracking it down were futile.

As far as who was a part of the miscommunication, who knows. The likely culprit is Funchess, but just as easily could’ve been Torrey Smith running the wrong route. Either way, clear that the two of them certainly were not supposed to be where they were and disrupted the timing of Cam. Or, more likely, Cam threw right where Funchess was supposed to go but route confusion got to them.

Troy Aikman said it best when he gave his comments on the play. He stated he expects Norv to chew Funchess out during film session for such a blatant error. As Troy has been under Norv’s system before and understands his expectations for perfection with his receivers, such mental errors surely wouldn’t slide.

Since it is week 1, it’s only reasonable to assume mistakes will occur. After all, Norv Turner is new as an OC and it will be a transition. However, blaming Cam for his wide receiver’s miscommunication should not be the case. It’s 100% not his fault Devin Funchess ran the wrong route.

This incompletion wasn’t a result of anything wrong with Cam’s deep accuracy.

Deep Ball #2 – Cam Newton to Christian McCaffrey Incomplete

Now this one I’m sure everyone is standing up, pointing, and saying “gotcha!” After all,it appears like a pure overthrown ball straight to Christian McCaffrey with no ifs, ands, or buts that any QB should’ve made.

However, another closer look reveals more to the picture.

First off, here’s another throw from Cam Newton later in the game.

Sadly, Joe Buck in this one decides to open his big mouth and argue this was a throw “behind Funchess” that “you’d like to see more accurate” while completely ignoring one particular detail.

Notice who’s coming straight at Funchess from the middle of the field. That defender is certainly no turtle coming in. He’s more likened to a speedy heat-seeking missile aiming straight for poor Devin Funchess’ head. Of course, Cam Newton on that particular snap recognizes the danger Funchess could be in and throws his pass a little behind to help him out.

The result? Funchess gets a completion and keeps his head attached to his body. He’s able to slow himself down and pivot to make the catch while protecting himself from a massive concussion.

Now, in the case with his incompletion to Christian McCaffrey, notice the safety up top coming right in the window. This safety pretty much comes in like a missile ready to disrupt CMC’s out and up route. This action helps close off a possible vertical line towards the endzone and forces CMC to angle towards the sideline. The safety’s job basically is to force CMC in that direction and close off any opportunity as much as possible.

Now, this particular throw is hard to make. Cam has to attempt to direct CMC towards the sideline so he doesn’t throw an interception or cause CMC to get in any harm. The only possible way this play goes well is try a sideline throw and hope CMC makes it in time.

As such, Cam tries to open an opportunity with that throw. Just simple facts that the window was already small and CMC couldn’t make it in time.

Sure, had Cam threw the ball a few milliseconds later, perhaps it would’ve been a perfect throw for CMCt But to expect Cam to time that perfectly and throw it perfectly all the time is asinine. Very few QBs could make that throw while maneuvering the pocket like Cam.

Today, only Aaron Rodgers could make that throw in that situation. And he’s arguably the best QB in the league by far.

It’s a small window few QBs could make. While yes, there indeed was an opportunity for a completion, understand this was to point out how hard of a throw it was to complete. Cam actually opened up an opportunity by throwing it in the only playable location, and how it wasn’t as wide open as it appears.

Blaming Cam for such a throw really doesn’t seem reasonable in this case.

Conclusion

Should Cam Newton’s deep ball be a concern? History says he’s been one of the best at it. Aside from last year where his arm was recovering from shoulder surgery, he’s always been in the top tier in terms of accuracy down the field. As long as he has reliable deep ball targets, he’ll hit them in stride and well.

Critics have voiced their concerns concerning Cam’s deep ball accuracy in preseason and training camp. However, the counterpoint is simply the fact that he’s trying to build reps with new receivers. After all, the only familiar name over a multi-year span in the wide receiver room really is Devin Funchess. The rest are either second year/hurt a lot/completely brand new. It’s fair to expect he’s using training camp and the such to try and gain rapport with his receivers, and it’s hard to blame Cam for missing a few here and there.

However, what shouldn’t be happening is using examples of small window throws and wide receiver error as knocks. Using those throws from the first game of the year to build a narrative that Cam’s inaccurate/an overthrowing quarterback is hardly credible for anyone paying attention. Plus, most quarterbacks such as Tom Brady and even Aaron Rodgers have their fair share of overthrows. These are rarely subjects of conversation anywhere, yet for Cam Newton, it’s one of the main topics.

Either way, none of these two throws are credible as evidence for Cam having a poor deep ball/being inaccurate. For now, Cam’s deep accuracy should not be a concern despite what anyone else says. There’s simply no surefire evidence so far this season that supports that notion.