The Carolina Panthers began their season with a less than ideal start.
Two home games down, and two very disappointing losses. This year is supposed to be different, and this year has felt different. Carolina put together an extremely talented roster and they put the lackluster 2018 season behind them.
One big question mark remained -- will Cam Newton come back fully healthy? These first two games indicate that he isn't, even though Ron Rivera is doing everything he can to convince the public that he isn't limited in any capacity. Newton does the same thing, he deflects the questions and won't admit that his mid-foot sprain and offseason shoulder injury are playing a role in his diminished play.
Carolina lost their season opener against the Los Angeles Rams in a 30-27 debacle, and they lost their Thursday night matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20-14. Both of these games were lost in heartbreaking fashion, and both of these games focused on everything wrong with Rivera and Newton.
But, what about offensive coordinator Norv Turner?
Turner joined the Panthers as the OC in 2018 and his offense plummeted after they began 6-2. Because of Newton's shoulder injury, he was given the benefit of the doubt. So, he was given an offense that was healthier, wiser and more talented this season. He still can't seem to get a grip on it.
The Panthers didn't score a single touchdown on Thursday night against the Buccaneers, and they relied on rookie kicker Joey Slye -- who had an incredible performance. Carolina failed on two fourth-and-one conversions, and they didn't attempt one quarterback sneak with Newton.
He's the same player that has 101 rushing attempts between one and three yards, where he converted 83 percent of them with 17 touchdowns scored. He's 6 foot 6, 245 pounds and they Turner didn't trust him to gain one yard on a sneak? It's pretty obvious that Newton is injured and that they don't want to risk it -- so it's understandable.
But, let's talk about Christian McCaffrey. The same player that had 209 yards from scrimmage against the Rams, finished with 53 yards from scrimmage and was forgotten in the game plan. Instead, Turner's idea was to have Newton throw 50 passes, while only completing 24 of them. No Jordan Scarlett, no Reggie Bonnofon and very few rushing yards from McCaffrey -- just throwing the ball at a high clip with an obviously injured quarterback.
The Panthers defense has been playing extremely well, but that hasn't been reflected because of the offensive slump. Luke Kuechly finished the game with 17 tackles, two for loss, a safety and a pass deflected. This defense has been playing their hearts out and all they get in return is field goals.
Newton is hurt, we understand this. McCaffrey can't do everything, we understand this. The offensive line has been awful, we understand this. But, it's hard to comprehend the play-calling that Turner has put out there in these first two games.
This offense has to be better going forward, and it begins with the guy calling the plays.