Carolina Panthers minicamp recap: Here’s what's coming at training camp
Cam Newton spent a chunk of his summer working out with receivers — both his own and at least one high-profile wideout from another team.
But while Newton’s time with Antonio Brown and his annual throwing sessions with Panthers receivers and tight ends in Baltimore were a good way to stay sharp, Newton will reconnect with his most important workout partner next week in Spartanburg.
It’s tough to overstate the importance of Newton’s relationship with offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who was hired in large part to get Newton playing at a level closer to his 2015 MVP form.
Shortly after Turner replaced the fired Mike Shula, Newton told Panthers coach Ron Rivera he was excited and nervous to meet Turner because of the success he’d had with Troy Aikman, Philip Rivers and other quarterbacks.
Newton and Turner had Organized Team Activities and minicamp to get used to each other, but their work will begin in earnest at Wofford.
We’ll go a little outside the box on this one.
As critical as the Norv-Cam dynamic is, the Panthers coach who will be spending the most time with Newton this season will be quarterbacks coach Scott Turner, Norv’s son. Scott Turner was an offensive assistant on Rivera’s staff previously, so he knows what makes Newton tick. If Newton shines in Norv Turner’s vertical stretch passing game, the younger Turner could put himself in discussions for coordinator jobs down the line.
To be decided in camp ...
For the first time since the Panthers drafted Newton No. 1 overall in 2011, Derek Anderson will not be his backup. That will make for an intriguing competition between Garrett Gilbert and Taylor Heinicke. The 6-4, 230-pound Gilbert is bigger and has a stronger arm than Heinicke, and his experience on the Panthers’ practice squad and active roster last season gives him a slight edge at the start of camp.
Underdog to watch
At 6-1 and 210 pounds, Heinicke is on the small side in terms of being a traditional NFL quarterback. But Heinicke is more mobile than Gilbert and was with the Turners in Minnesota. The former Old Dominion star figures to get a lot of work in the first preseason game. He could make things interesting with a strong showing.
Also keep an eye on ...
Kyle Allen, an undrafted free agent from Houston, is the fourth QB on the roster. Allen, a highly acclaimed high school prospect from Phoenix, lost the starting jobs at both Texas A&M and Houston. He could be a practice squad candidate.
Three bold predictions
▪ Despite the reminders by the Turners that a checkdown is not a bad play, Newton will come up just short of completing 60 percent of his passes — a benchmark he’s hit in two of his previous seven seasons.
▪ But as he did under his first coordinator, Rob Chudzinski, Newton will complete more down-the-field passes and throw for more than 3,800 yards for the first time since his MVP campaign.
▪ Gilbert will show off his strong arm in a couple of the exhibitions and win the No. 2 job — only to play sparingly during the regular season.