The Carolina Panthers are 4-0 since Kyle Allen replaced an injured Cam Newton, but Newton is getting closer to returning.
Cam Newton was clearly not himself over the first two games this season, and he has been sidelined since aggravating a preseason foot injury in Week 2 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But as the Carolina Panthers head into their bye week in Week 7, ESPN’s Adam Schefter has reported the 2015 NFL MVP is expected to be ready to practice when the team returns from the week off.
In four games with Kyle Allen as the starter in place of Newton, the Panthers are 4-0. Allen has lost four fumbles over that span, though none in the last two games while completing nearly two-thirds of his passes with nine touchdowns, zero interceptions and a 106.6 passer rating (fifth in the NFL).
After Sunday’s win over the Buccaneers in London, Panthers’ head coach Ron Rivera said he wouldn’t address the quarterback situation “until I have to.” Newton’s Lisfranc sprain has apparently healed well, so the time to make a decision is coming even if there’s no game this week to announce a starter for.
Newton struggled in his two games this season, completing just over 56 percent of his passes with no touchdowns and one interception. But the bigger sign he wasn’t right was his lack of production as a runner, with minus-two rushing yards on five attempts over those two games.
Under the idea you can’t lose your job strictly to injury, a fully healthy Newton would tentatively be in line to start in Week 8 against the currently undefeated San Francisco 49ers. But if the decision is performance-based, Allen has played better than Newton did this year and has done nothing to lose the job. Allen has also accomplished the bottom line, as much as it can be credited to him–winning games.
The Panthers have to start imagining a future without Newton. They have an easy escape from his contract after this season, with only a $2 million dead money hit while clearing over $19 million in cap space. But if he’s healthy now there’s probably some inherent loyalty from Rivera that will drive a decision to play him, for better or worse.
As much as it will be allowed to be, for as long as Rivera delays a decision and as long as Newton remains on track to practice next week, there’s a quarterback controversy brewing in Carolina.