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Week 1 Analysis: Cam and Carolina's New Offense Can Work

Plus, why the Giants couldn’t move the ball to save their lives, why the Texans are in deep, deep trouble, and the most encouraging thing about Green Bay’s win over Seattle

Among discussions of all 12 Sunday games (and the Eric Berry injury), Andy and I discussed the new-look Panthers and how Cam Newton played in his first game as New Cam

Benoit: Christian McCaffrey was the featured point, Gary, for Carolina. He was the guy the offense ran through.

Gramling: That Jonathan Stewart touchdown catch, that was a neat little play they drew up there.

Benoit: Stewart and McCaffrey in the backfield together, they had some good backfield passing designs. So we’ve talked a lot about Carolina’s offense this year. And I think our listeners know I’m skeptical that what they’re trying to do can work, at least what I was expecting they were trying to do, which is use McCaffrey kind of as their Julian Edelman/Darren Sproles type of guy, have that kind of offense, get those easy underneath completions for Cam. What’s made me skeptical is that Newton is a power thrower, he’s not a precision/accuracy/timing type of thrower, two very different things. And we saw that in the first half, by the way. Newton was rusty, until the two-minute drive at the end of the first half, and then he got going and warmed up. But you saw the inconsistencies in accuracy. The difference though, Gary, is a lot of that are playing this way, with the shifty underneath guys and the inverted formations, they spread out and do it. Carolina did not spread out. They stayed in condensed formations. The wide receivers were just a few yards outside the offensive tackles, they often had two guys in the backfield, it was McCaffrey and Ed Dickson or McCaffrey with Stewart, someone moving around, an off-set guy. They were very diverse schematically. And it did a few things. For one, it sets up all the moving pieces in their run game. They feature pull blockers and misdirection elements. They try to get you moving in the wrong direction defensively in the running game. When you put a lot more bodies in the middle of the field you can do more things in that regard. So I was a little bit impressed with how they’re doing it, and it’s something I hadn’t considered, it O.K., they’re going to be a shifty, underneath controlled passing game at times, but maybe they’re not doing out of spread formations. They’re going to try to do it out of some of the running formations that we’ve seen from them before. We’ll see if it works. It worked today, it’s a long season though. We’re watching this, and their opponents are watching it too. But so far off to an intriguing start. Let’s call it an intriguing start for Carolina’s offense.

Gramling: What did you think of Cam? He missed a couple throws, but I didn’t think it was a red-flag type of performance for him. I thought he was fine.

Benoit: I was happy with how he settled in. I thought it was pretty red-flag-y early on. I thought some of the misses were inexcusable. And they were misses how he’s been known to miss: wild wide and high. He got settled in late in the first half. Actually, [Kyle] Shanahan went for it on fourth-and-1 around midfield, which baffled me that he did that. They didn’t get it. Carolina pushed the ball down the field. Newton had a skinny post completed to Kelvin Benjamin to set up a field goal and it was almost like, right from there, the light bulb went on. Kind of like Aaron Rodgers, when he hit Davante Adams at the end of the half in that playoff game against the Giants last year, how all the sudden Rodgers got on track just like that. It was around the same time in the game and it was a similar scenario, and once Newton got on track I was impressed. But he’s gonna have to do it for all four quarters. That’s the other reason I’m not sure the approach can work over the long haul. Can he be a consistently accurate passer for four quarters, because right now he’s a streaky jump-shooter. And in the second half he hit some threes, but he missed a lot of shots in the first half.

Football games that count were played on Sunday, and we’re here to tell you everything you need to know about what went down. Why the Giants couldn’t move the ball to save their lives. Why the Texans are in deep, deep trouble. The most encouraging thing about Green Bay’s win. How Cam looked for the new-look Panthers. And lots more stuff!

Do the thing you should have done long ago and subscribe to The MMQB: 10 Things Podcast! If you do, you’ll have it in your feed first thing Monday morning every Monday morning (for non-subscribers, there is a lag.) Here it is, NFL Week 1 in podcast form...

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This week’s show:

1. Cowboys D looks good against cruddy Beckham-less Giants—1:26

2. Jaguars are kings of the world, Texans can’t block anyone—6:27

3. Packers can play defense! Rodgers grinds it out against Seattle—12:10

4. Falcons escape in Chicago, but questions raised (also, Tarik Cohen is so good!)—17:03

5. Rams destroy Colts’ practice squad, Jared Goff looks sharp—23:13

6. Baltimore de-pantses the Bengals, what in the world is Andy Dalton doing?—28:17

7. New-look Panthers look pretty good, Cam could be back—32:49

8. Eagles fly in Washington behind Wentz . . . but there’s a catch!—37:16

9. The Lightning . . . ish . . . Round! (Derek Carr sharp and Marshawn Lynch is Kyra Sedgwick in The Closer, Steelers scrape by in Cleveland but lose Stephon Tuitt, Kenny Golladay freaks out as Lions storm back over Cardinals, Bills beat Jets in American football competition, what Eric Berry injury means in K.C.)—41:32

10. Weekly Awards—49:08