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Derek Anderson is capable, but Panthers need Cam Newton to reach goal – Carolina Panthers Blog


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Derek Anderson is the first to admit the Carolina Panthers are better with Cam Newton at quarterback than him.

He said so in his own whimsical way last year during training camp when asked how many games the Panthers would have won during their 15-1 2015 season had he been the starter.

“Cam’s pretty good,” Anderson deadpanned.

In other words, probably not 15.

But for the next four to five months, while the 2015 NFL MVP rehabs his throwing shoulder that is scheduled for surgery on March 30, the evolution of the Carolina offense is in the hands of the 33-year-old Anderson.

That can be good.

And bad.

The good is Anderson is more than capable of running the offense during offseason workouts and minicamps. He did so during the 2014 offseason when Newton rehabbed from ankle surgery.

Anderson also won’t have a learning curve when Carolina moves away from being a read-option to a more traditional NFL offense. Anderson was a traditional NFL pocket passer before becoming Newton’s backup six years ago. He runs only when he has to.

Anderson will be good for the offensive line and backs as they adjust to schemes and plays that require them to protect a quarterback that is more of a statue in the pocket than a moving target.

He will be good for the timing of the pass routes for backs and receivers.

The bad is that Newton won’t get the reps to get his timing down with a lot of new pieces, from left tackle Matt Kalil to wide receivers Russell Shepard and Charles Johnson.

He won’t be scheduled to throw until three months after the surgery and he won’t throw with the team for four months — an aggressive pace that could turn to five or six months if the partially torn rotator cuff is worse than expected.

If it is the latter, the Panthers could enter the season with Anderson as the starter. That’s not ideal when you’re trying to put the 6-10 Super Bowl hangover in your rearview mirror.

Not that Anderson isn’t capable. He was 2-0 as the starter in 2014, but both wins came against a Tampa Bay team that won only two games that season. One of those wins was the opener while Newton recovered from fractured ribs.

But don’t forget Anderson was 0-2 as the starter last season, throwing five interceptions to only two touchdowns.

He was in for just one play in one of those starts, a December game at Seattle in which Newton was benched for the opening series for violating a dress code violation.

That play was an interception.

Anderson is only as good as the pieces around him. Newton makes the pieces around him better, but he needs time to work with those pieces.

The experts that have said this is no time for the Panthers to panic about Newton’s surgery are right. It’s way too early to panic, and having Anderson as a more than adequate fill-in lessens the urgency to rush Newton back.

Chances are we won’t know much more about this story until Newton starts throwing. If he begins at 12 weeks, that’s a good sign.

If he doesn’t, Anderson’s role and value increases.

Carolina signed Anderson to a two-year extension in September of 2015 so it would have a proven starter if something happened to Newton.

Anderson chose to re-sign over exploring opportunities to start with other teams because he believed the culture of the locker room and core talent is here to get him a Super Bowl victory.

But the core starts with Newton.

Even Anderson knows that.

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