The second-round pick out of Michigan caught three passes for 71 yards and a touchdown. He had only 90 yards receiving entering the game.
I thought the snap counts might increase after Funchess caught a 14-yard pass over the middle in traffic against New Orleans in Week 3, but it didn’t happen. After getting snaps the following week against Tampa Bay, he went from 24, 18 and then 10 snaps against Indianapolis.
But the performance against Green Bay felt different. The 52-yarder he caught over the middle with tight defense gave you a glimpse of what the Panthers saw when they drafted him and what they have seen in practice. That was a huge confidence builder. Then came the 14-yard touchdown. Funchess was so excited that he wouldn’t give the ball to quarterback Cam Newton for his “Sunday Giveaway’’ program to kids. Newton understood and let Funchess keep the ball.
The author said he can see Carolina increasing Funchess’ role, but probably not to the level of Kelvin Benjamin. Funchess can play all three receiver positions, and he creates mismatches against smaller defensive backs that the Panthers were looking for when they drafted him. There typically comes a point with every rookie receiver where things begin to click. If the Green Bay game was one for Funchess, the Panthers won’t have any choice but to increase his snaps, the story said.
Newton will become the first quarterback in NFL history to attempt at least 200 passes and rush 140 times in a season if he continues on his pace of 9.1 rushes a game, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Newton already has eclipsed 200 pass attempts with 246. He's rushed 73 times for 343 yards, which ranks 31st in the NFL but first among quarterbacks.
The most rushing attempts Newton has had in his previous four seasons was 127 in 2012.
So this begs the question: Is Newton running too much?
There was a time last season when Carolina coach Ron Rivera thought so. He expressed concern about the injury risk his franchise quarterback faced if he continued to run at a high rate.
Rivera re-iterated that again this year after Newton carried 14 times for 35 yards in the opener at Jacksonville. He said six to eight carries a game would be preferable with two of three of those sneaks, two zone reads and a couple of scrambles. But with Newton fully recovered from 2014 surgery to repair his left ankle, Rivera and offensive coordinator Mike Shula finally have come to grips with letting Newton be who he is.
Newton is calling an audible 30 to 40 percent of the time, up from previous seasons. He's getting more designed rushes than ever out of the read option. It's great news for fantasy owners and bad news for Jonathan Stewart owners, but there's always a risk of injury if Cam keeps up this pace. As long as he continues to be smart about his running, he'll continue to produce for fantasy owners.
Chud brings ample NFL offensive experience to the coordinator position. From 2012-2013, Chudzinski was the coordinator in Carolina for Cam Newton’s first two NFL seasons. With Newton, Chud helped the Panthers offense go from the worst unit in the NFL in 2010 to a top-10 offense the next two seasons.
In earlier NFL stops, Chud worked with the tight ends in Cleveland and San Diego.
Chud arrived in Indianapolis last season after he spent 2013 as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns (4-12 record).
With the Colts, Chud has been a special assistant and is the current associate head coach. His duties have spanned both sides of the football during his two seasons in Indianapolis.
Chuck Pagano is very familiar with Chud, the story went on to say. The two served together on the University of Miami coaching staff in the late 1990s. Chud played a part in recruiting and coaching both Frank Gore and Andre Johnson at “The U”. That could be good news in terms of getting those players going from a fantasy perspective. At this point in the season, it's hard to expect a lot of change for the offense and it could be a move Pagano was forced to make to save his head coaching job.
Yet Carolina's offensive coordinator isn't about to put Newton in shackles when it comes to running out of the read-option or scrambling from the pocket — despite the obvious increased risk of injury.
"You have to let him play, give him the ability to do what he does best," Shula told The Associated Press. "And you have to appreciate that Cam understands that, too. He's not going to play cautiously, but he's going to play smart."
Shula said he doesn't mind if the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Newton takes on a defender one on one — in fact with his size, he likes those odds — but said he wants the fifth-year quarterback to "get down" if multiple defenders engage him in the open field. Newton runs the ball more than any quarterback in the NFL, averaging 642 yards rushing per season, with 33 touchdowns the last four seasons. Some scrambling QB know how to play smart and some don't. Fantasy owners should be able to enjoy the added bonus of Newton's rushing yards but they'll also need him to stay healthy and on the field.
Monday, August 31, 2015, 2:33pm
This is starting to sound like a broken record, but Panthers wide receiver Corey Brown had two more drops that stood out. The first happened on the first play of team drills. The second occurred later in the left corner of the end zone when Brown got two hands on a high pass from Cam Newton and lost the ball as he hit the ground.
These came after he dropped four passes in Friday night's 17-16 loss to New England and two the week before against Miami. Brown worked with wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl on a few things before practice. One was attacking the ball instead of waiting for it to come to him as he did against the Patriots.
There remain a few kinks to work out there. When Brown caught a pass later in practice, he cradled it to the ground like he was making a fair catch on a punt.
Ever since Kelvin Benjamin went down, the Panther WRs have struggled with either drops or injuries, including rookie Devin Funchess who is expected to be the team's top WR in terms of fantasy production. We have Brown ranked second among Panther WRs but the drops aren't a good sign at least in terms of trust with Newton.
Monday, August 24, 2015, 2:49pm
They were like brothers almost immediately, whether they were combining for big plays on the field or delivering Christmas presents to students of local schools off the field.
Newton didn’t return to practice on Wednesday when Benjamin suffered a season-ending ACL injury until he helped the 6-foot-5, 240-pound receiver onto the cart. He predicts there will be “hell to pay" when Benjamin returns in 2016.
Meanwhile, look for Newton to build a similar relationship with 2015 second-round pick Devin Funchess.
“He has to learn at an accelerated rate, but I’m taking him up under my wing," Newton said after Friday’s preseason victory over Miami. “I have full confidence in Devin that he gets it, sooner rather than later."
Funchess sat out of the 31-30 victory against the Dolphins with a tight hamstring, but he is expected to be ready for Friday night’s game against the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. The plan was to have him on the field for Monday's practice as the Panthers begin the Charlotte practice phase of their preseason. Funchess could very well turn out to the be the team's WR1 this year, much like Benjamin ended up last year. He's bumped up our rankings to 45th.
Monday, August 3, 2015, 5:35pm
Don’t blame left tackle Michael Oher, though. HC Ron Rivera thought Oher practiced better on Sunday than media reported, and likes what he’s seen from Oher so far.
We've had recent news items that stated the Panthers want to be a top offense this year and think they have the weapons around Newton to do that. But, the team will need to improve up front and it appears, at least right now, the blocking is still an issue that could hold back the Panthers offense.
Sunday, August 2, 2015, 9:19am
"Our main goal now is to become the No. 1 offense in the league," Newton told ESPN.com. "And I'm not just blowing smoke when I said that."
The Panthers ranked 16th in the NFL in total offense last season with 346.6 yards a game despite an injury-plagued offensive line and a completely rebuilt wide receiving corps.
Newton missed two starts, the opener with fractured ribs and a December game with broken bones in his lower back suffered in a car crash. He also was limited as a runner in the first five-and-a-half games after undergoing offseason ankle surgery.
But Newton believes he understands the game better than ever. Because of upgrades at wide receiver and on the offensive line, the potential is there to be No. 1.
"We have endless potential, but that hasn't done anything for anybody in this league," Newton said.
The story went on to say since arriving at Carolina as the first pick of the 2011 draft, the Panthers have been ranked no higher than seventh in total offense. That was during Newton's rookie season. Carolina ranked 26th in 2013 when it went 12-4 and Newton went to the Pro Bowl. The story went on to say Newton showed his improved knowledge of the game with a play coach Ron Rivera noted after Friday night's practice. The fifth-year player suckered the defense in, then ran a naked bootleg and went over the top with a deep pass to Jerricho Cotchery. There are a lot of impressive offenses in the league, but with improvement at the WR position, a very good TE in Greg Olsen and Jonathan Stewart at RB, the potential is certainly there to at least finish among the leaders in overall offense.
David Newton: It's not so much whether Newton is capable. He didn't win the Heisman Trophy at Auburn or win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year at Carolina for a lack of talent. The question is this: Does Newton have the talent around him to become an MVP? Aaron Rodgers didn't win the award last season without having a solid offensive line, top receivers and a running game that takes the pressure off him. Newton needs the same.
The good news, the story points out, is Cam Newton seems to have a talent pool around him now. Wide receivers Kelvin Benjamin, Devin Funchess, Corey Brown and Ted Ginn Jr., along with tight end Greg Olsen, give him plenty of capable targets. Jonathan Stewart showed again at the end of last season that, when healthy, he's a top five back. Now, the offensive line is going to be the key. Newton will also have to become a more consistent passer. While the odds may be against him for MVP, he's capable of a solid fantasy season. Newton cracks our top-10 QBs heading into camps, coming in eighth with an ADP of about the seventh round. He's another of the long list of fantasy QBs who will be around during that stage of your draft if you're set on waiting on the position.
Monday, June 29, 2015, 5:10pm
The Carolina Panthers' revamped receiving corps has been one of the most-discussed units in the NFL this offseason, with praise emanating from nearly every corner of the franchise.
"We're going to be a dynamic duo, two 6-5 guys out there on the outside just making damage and causing havoc on the field," Funchess told the Detroit News last week. "You never see that type of duo in the league, two 6-5 guys on the outside that are athletic and that can run and go up and get the ball. Nobody has that wingspan in the league like us, so it's going to be fun during the season."
The story went on to stay the duo doesn't possess much speed, but the Benjamin-Funchess combo should aid quarterback Cam Newton, who has a tendency to spray high on passes. We have Benjamin ranked 17th among our WRs with an ADP of the fourth round. Funchess isn't getting a lot of draft love so far and we have him ranked 61st. However both should make Newton a more desirable fantasy QB. We list Newon eighth among our QBs so far this season.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera was non-committal as to how many times he'd like Jonathan Stewart to carry the football during a game, adding that he's encouraged by what he's seen in OTAs from young backs Fozzy Whittaker and Cam Artis-Payne.
"Honestly it's going to come down to how you are doing," Rivera said. "If you are running the ball well, obviously you are going to feed him. We would like to be able to run the ball when we have to and run the ball when we want to."
Stewart was tremendous down the stretch, averaging 105 total yards (97.0 rushing) in the final seven games, including two playoff games. He averaged 5.30 YPC in that span, including 5.13 YPC versus Arizona and 5.38 YPC against Seattle in the playoffs. Over the final five games of the regular season, he was the #10 fantasy running back. He turns 28 in March, so there is definitely some tread left on his tires. Even though he has missed 20 percent of his team's games due to injury throughout the career, he’ll be a high-upside pick in the middle rounds. The Panthers are committed to running the ball and Stewart has talent. They originally said they planned to limit him to 15 carries per game, but these comments indicate they will continue to give him the ball if he's running well.
Tuesday, June 2, 2015, 8:48pm
Steelers RB DeAngelo Williams is considered a bridge back until LeVeon Bell returns from suspension, but he shouldn't be alone on that bridge. The Steelers will need just as much from Dri Archer as from Williams, who signed a two-year, $4 million deal worth $1.13 million in signing bonus money but no incentives in 2015.
Williams is exactly what the money suggests he is -- a veteran who can get you 10-12 carries at a respectable clip and nothing more.
There's not much to love about the idea of starting Williams against the Patriots, 49ers and Rams during Bell's three-game suspension, but we believe that the team will try to get him closer to 15 carries per game. He should be healthy to start the season, and there are reasons why he only averaged 12.2 carries per game in his career -- he was splitting time with Jonathan Stewart and QB Cam Newton carried much of the rushing load for the Panthers. The biggest concern is Williams' 3.5 YPC last season, but he battled injuries the whole way. We think he'll provide low-end RB2 numbers while Bell is sidelined, provided he's healthy.
Seattle has held Cam Newton to one touchdown in three games since 2012. What has been the key to that?
Seahawks beat writer Terry Blount: Newton shouldn't feel too bad. The Seahawks have made a lot of very good QBs look bad the past couple of years -- Peyton Manning in the Super Bowl and Aaron Rodgers this year in the season opener, to name two. But the biggest thing is they've done what I'm sure the Panthers want to do to Russell Wilson -- cut off his running lanes and force Newton to beat them throwing. Newton had 12 carries for only 24 yards in the game at Charlotte earlier this season. Forcing any QB to beat them just by passing is a chore against the No. 1 pass defense in the NFL, which has three Pro Bowlers in Chancellor, Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas.
Newton has averaged 146 passing yards and 35 rushing yards in his last three games against Seattle. He has thrown one touchdown pass and one interception (total) in those three games. Daily fantasy players should look elsewhere for a strong quarterback play.
Just two weeks after walking away from a massive car accident in Charlotte and sustaining a pair of transverse process fractures in his back, the Pro Bowl quarterback will return to the field against the Browns in a make-or-break game at Bank of America Stadium, NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Saturday, per team sources.
The fourth-year signal-caller cleared the final medical hurdle on Saturday, per Rapoport. Newton is playing with an injury similar to that of Tony Romo, which means there will be some degree of pain management. Newton's mobility may be impacted a bit, especially if Mike Pettine loads the box and forces Newton to throw.
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