The Carolina Panthers rolled out quarterback Cam Newton on Thursday evening, and he impressed in his first preseason action. Newton led the Panthers offense on a 10-play 75 yard drive, completing two passes for 21 yards, including a nine-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin. Newton sat out the remainder of the game after that opening drive.
Newton had shoulder surgery this offseason, and did not throw in team drills the first few weeks of training camp. He got going in team drills this week, and now has a series of preseason snaps under his belt. There were some questions earlier in camp about his Week 1 availability, but barring any soreness that sets him back before next Thursday’s preseason finale, he seems set to play in Week 1.
That Week 1 matchup is against the San Francisco 49ers, and will offer the 49ers new-look defense a heck of a challenge right out of the gate. Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess will be threats on the outside, and the Panthers added considerable depth and versatility to offense in the 2017 NFL Draft. They selected Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel, both of whom will line up all around the offense. Newton cut back on his running last season, finishing with under 100 rushing attempts. However, his legs still remain a significant threat.
The Panthers slipped to 6-10 last season, but seemed poised for a bounce-back season. They are a six-point in Week 1 against a 49ers team that has won their season opener six straight seasons. It’s a random win streak, but it’s going to be given a stiff test this season. The 49ers are sending out an entirely new offense and defense. Will they catch Cam Newton and the Panthers off guard?