Following a loss to the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football to cap Week 16, the Carolina Panthers face a tough decision moving forward. With the team now sitting at 6-8, they have a major uphill battle to make the postseason. But even putting that aside, t health of quarterback Cam Newton has become a major concern.
Newton, who’s been dealing with a shoulder injury for multiple weeks now, hasn’t looked like himself the past two games and struggled against the Saints. He’s now failed to score a touchdown in either of the last two games and on Monday completed just 55.2 percent of his passes for 131 total yards.
It’s gotten to the point where even Newton himself is admitting to the fact that the potential for him to be shut down is an option, but not one he’s looking forward to.
Cam Newton’s Injury & Week 16 Outlook
Although there’s been no decision made to this point on Newton’s status for the final two weeks of the season, it would make sense for the Panthers to let him get healthy. As Jourdan Rodrigue of The Charlotte Observer revealed, Newton admitted he’s tried a wide range of things to try to fix the shoulder issue, but nothing has helped.
“It doesn’t matter how much you push,” he said. “Ice, anti-inflammatories you take … I mean, trust me, I did it. Acupuncture. Massages. It’s just not been a time that (a) night has gone by without me getting some type of work done on my arm.
The same story also cites that Newton isn’t “looking forward” to the conversation about him being shut down for the season.
“I guess if we have to have that conversation, we have that conversation,” said Newton. “I’m not looking forward to that conversation.”
At this point, it comes down to the quarterback’s long-term health. And when pairing that with the Panthers’ almost non-existent playoff chances, turning the ball over to backup Taylor Heinicke would make sense.
As NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport revealed, the plan is indeed to sit Newton and let Heinicke take over under center.
Panthers Backup QB Taylor Heinicke
The Panthers have opted to roll with third-year quarterback Taylor Heinicke as their backup, who’s played in just six games over the span of his NFL career. Heinicke, who played collegiately at Old Dominion, has thrown five passes in regular-season games to this point at the professional level.
He’s a bit of a wildcard, but this decision would obviously come down to Newton’s injury more than finding out about Heinicke. Even still, getting a better idea on the backup would be wise from the team’s perspective. Over four seasons with the Monarchs, Heinicke threw for 14,959 yards while completing 67.7 percent of his passes with 132 touchdowns and 39 interceptions.
His best year came as a sophomore when he completed 68.7 percent of his passes for 5,076 yards, 44 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. During that season, Heinicke was named the CAA Offensive Player of the Year and won the prestigious Walter Payton Award, which is given to the best offensive player in Division I FCS.
During the 2018 NFL preseason, Heinicke saw action in all four games, completing 24-of-36 passes for 323 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also tacked on one rushing score for good measure.