Having started every game in his first three seasons, Cam Newton has missed at least two starts in four of the last six years. With that said, he’s never played in less than 14 games–until this year, that is. After a mere two contests in 2019, Newton was supplanted by a second-year signal-caller named Kyle Allen, a virtual unknown of the 2018 QB class.
Before I get to this Kyle Allen fellow, let’s understand first and foremost that Cam Newton was by no means beat out for the starting position. Newton was held out of a Week 3 contest for a foot injury that was later deemed a Lisfranc fracture. In Newton’s absence, however, Allen would complete 73% of his passes for 261 passing yards and four touchdowns, while leading the Panthers to their first victory of 2019. It would be the beginning of four straight wins for the Carolina Panthers with Allen under center.
You could say the Panthers staff were enamored with Allen’s immediate success. On November 5th, the Panthers placed Newton on injured reserve–ending his season. The front office would also let the trade deadline come and go without pursuing after another arm. Could you blame them?
During the Panther’s four-game winning streak, Allen completed 66% of his passes and threw seven touchdowns with zero interceptions. Surely, a solid performance in Week 3 against the Arizona Cardinals wasn’t impressive on its own. However, when Allen led his first career game-winning drive the following week against the uber-talented Houston Texans, people took notice.
Since the injuries began stacking up, Newton hasn’t been the same. The suddenness, stepping into throws as the pocket collapses, and his overall maneuverability to extend plays has steadily deteriorated these last few seasons.
In walks Allen with his flashy escapability and theatrics to make the big play when his team needs it the most.
Furthermore, Allen has been a more dynamic signal-caller in 2019, albeit slightly. In seven starts, Allen ranks 9th among all qualifying quarterbacks in aggressiveness percentage. Compared to Newton’s small sample size, Allen seems to be taking a bit more risk. It appears Panthers coach Ron Rivera has continued to open things up instead of playing conservative with the young passer, and it’s paying off.
In four of seven games played, Allen has completed a higher percentage of passes than what the NFL’s Next Gen Stats tells us he should. In essence, Kyle Allen is playing confident as his coaching staff and supporting cast stand behind him.
Understandably, it’s a bit different for Panthers fans. You see, Cam Newton is the epitome of what it is to be a Carolina Panther. So I can only imagine what fans, let alone the front office are thinking right now concerning the franchise quarterback’s future.
But anyway, back to Allen for a moment.
So, where did this guy come from? Although he wasn’t expected to make a roster let alone get drafted, I bet you’d be surprised to learn that this kid used to be the belle of the ball.
As a high school standout, Allen threw for more than 8,000 yards and had 86 passing touchdowns. He’d become the unanimous top-ranked quarterback prospect entering college in 2014. Both Rivals.com and Scout Media labeled him a five-star recruit, and ESPN gave him the highest quarterback grade for that year.
He’d commit to Texas A&M the summer before his senior season but eventually, lose his starting position to Kyler Murray before his junior year. After transferring to Houston and redshirting his third season, Allen would again lose his starting role before calling it quits and entering the 2018 NFL draft. The kicker? He’d never get drafted.
The Panthers would sign him as an undrafted rookie, release him, and then scoop him back up after another team took a closer look before letting him walk.
In his second stint in Carolina, Allen has taken full advantage. According to Pro Football Network’s Offensive Share Metric (OSM), Allen is considered an above-average starter and ranks 16th among all qualified quarterbacks. With the exception of Weeks 5 and 8, against solid defensive teams from Jacksonville and San Francisco, Allen has been a top 12 passer.
Most recently, Allen delivered yet another top-five OSM grade (his third time doing so in 2019) in a near-victory at Lambeau Field. Boy, that final drive was something else.
Sentimentally speaking, Cam Newton is the starting quarterback for the Panthers, and because of an injury, Allen has become the starter. However, anyone with eyes can see something is occurring in Carolina at the quarterback position that’s been missing for some time.
Allen has always had the tools. The questions surrounding him were that of his mental fortitude. There were concerns that he could be smart with the ball, read the defense, and, most importantly, handle the big situations. In eight short weeks and seven starts later, Allen has not only proven an able backup but a more than capable replacement.
Compared to the rest of the 2018 QB class, Allen is flourishing. While top prospects like Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, and even Josh Rosen continue to get the benefit of a doubt with their development, Kyle Allen is making an immediate impact in year two. Outside of Ravens signal-caller, Lamar Jackson, the Panthers quarterback may be the steal of the 2018 QB class.
Kyle Allen makes the Panthers better. Sorry, Panthers faithful.
Shane G. Tyler is the Film Room Content Director and writer for Pro Football Network. Follow him on Twitter @SugaShane15.