Anderson directs Panthers' offensive evolution while Newton rehabs


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was unusually quiet Tuesday. He wasn’t chirping at the defense or giving out flying hip-bumps and high-fives after big plays.

He was more like … Derek Anderson.

“I generally don’t like to say much,” Anderson said with a smile. “I don’t do a very good job of talking and thinking at the same time.”

But Anderson does a good job of being Newton, minus the talk and animation.

The 33-year-old is taking the starting reps during offseason workouts while the 2015 NFL MVP rehabs from rotator cuff surgery. He’s orchestrating the evolution of the offense so it doesn’t depend so much on Newton as a runner.

The not running part is easy because his legs never have been a big part of Anderson’s repertoire. The rest of the evolution is a good fit for the 13-year vet because he understands the importance of getting the ball out of his hands into those of playmakers.

That’s what this evolution is all about. It’s about adding playmakers at receiver and running back and using more quick-hitting passes to those players so they can turn them into big plays.

It’s about forcing linebackers and defensive linemen to respect new weapons such as first-round pick Christian McCaffrey and second-round pick Curtis Samuel — to the point that defenders can’t pin back their ears and go after Newton as they often did last season.

“We’re not re-inventing the wheel on offense,” Anderson said. “As a group, as quarterbacks, we’re trying to get the ball in the right spot, get it in their hands and let them go make plays.

“… Getting the ball out of our hands, taking the pressure off the O-line, all of the new pieces will kind of play off each other.”

That wasn’t the case last season. Plays often took too long to develop and gave defenders time to key on Newton, who took such a beating that coach Ron Rivera said his quarterback needs to rebuild his confidence.

“We’re not re-inventing what we do,” said Anderson, a 2007 Pro Bowl selection with Cleveland. “It’s how we do it. Maybe a little crisper.”

Newton can only watch when team drills begin. He isn’t expected to be cleared to throw until mid-July and he won’t throw with the team until training camp.

So watching Anderson and the other quarterbacks — Joe Webb and Garrett Gilbert — run the show is the best way he can grow from this experience.

That isn’t always easy for one as competitive as Newton.

“I get his anxiety of standing there watching,” Anderson said. “He’s a competitor and wants to get out there and it’s probably driving him nuts.”

The biggest difference in practice this offseason versus last, minus Newton’s being sidelined, is the sense of urgency coming off a 6-10 record versus a trip to the Super Bowl.

“Last year, guys were kind of tired,” Anderson said. “It was a long run. Guys were still beat up a little bit.

“Our older guys did a good job in the offseason with their bodies. They’re taking care of the older guys, making sure we’re all ready for camp.”

Anderson is one of the older guys. The Panthers have 15 players who are 30 or older, topped by defensive end Julius Peppers at 37.

Peppers worked out inside on Tuesday after complaining of soreness because the Panthers want to make sure players like him aren’t overworked before the season.

Anderson doesn’t get that kind of break because of Newton’s situation. But he relishes the opportunity to help the younger players blend in with veteran playmakers such as running back Jonathan Stewart and tight end Greg Olsen.

He’s enjoying working with the pieces that he hopes ultimately will help Newton return to his 2015 form.

“Today he was a little quiet, but last week he was loud and excited,” Anderson said of Newton. “I’m sure he’ll have some highs and lows.”

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