Grill Bill: A Cam Newton, Kyle Allen conundrum coming? 

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Website submission from Derek in Raleigh, NC: Are you ready to say Kyle Allen should be QB going forward?

If by “going forward” you mean at Houston and maybe another game or two, sure. Beyond that, I liked the gist of Steve Smith Sr.’s take this week when he suggested folks “pump the brakes” on this kind of talk.

Sure, Allen was tremendous in Arizona. I certainly didn’t see that kind of nearly flawless performance coming. And while the Cardinals defense isn’t very good, Allen did make NFL-quality throws on the run and under pressure. Combine that with what he did against much of the Saints’ starting defense in the first half of last year’s season finale, and it’s impossible not to be intrigued. But because this league is so week-to-week, I’d curb your enthusiasm for now. The sample size is still too small to know what the Panthers truly have in Allen.

With that said, it looks like the decision to go with him as Newton’s No. 2 heading into the season was a good call. It’s at least an example of why I’d rather roll the dice with a young backup than a well-traveled veteran like Josh McCown and Matt Moore. We know what those guys can — and can’t — do. We don’t know much about Allen — and that unknown is the point. Maybe he’s already played the best two games he’ll ever play as a pro, or maybe his ceiling is even higher. That potential development is worth a try at the most important position in American sports.

So what if Allen continues to play at a high level and the Panthers go on a run? It’s a thought-provoking question that helps fill up airwaves and words on a page like this. For now, I’m interested to see what he can do against the Texans, and if Newton can’t go again next week, the Jaguars. If Allen rolls through those two defenses, then maybe it’ll be time to at least consider what would be one of those good problems to have.

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Website submission from Lance in Waxhaw, NC: Did Cam even bother to go with his team to Arizona ? Seems like he should Grow Up ! Man Up ! What do you think ?

Players who have been ruled out on Fridays rarely travel. But you think it’d be wise to send an injured player across the country to stand on the sideline in a walking boot?

I think it sounds like you’re looking for a reason to be mad at Newton.

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@panthersfan115 Do you expect Curtis to take the majority of the targets instead of Dj with Cam still out? I feel like Dj sat out a lot more than usual but maybe it’s just me.

Both Moore and Samuel played a little less last week while Chris Hogan had an uptick in playing time, but that doesn’t yet mean it’s a trend.

Now, it is fair to hope Moore gets more than the two targets he saw in Arizona. Maybe it was how the Cardinals were playing him. Perhaps Allen was more dialed-in to Samuel and Greg Olsen. I wouldn’t read too far into it after just one game.

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@ZacharyFaria What’s the situation with our offensive line going to look like moving forward?

Everyone wants answers to these long-term questions, but again, so much of this stuff is week-to-week. So let’s start with this week.

If an ankle injury keeps right guard Trai Turner out, the sensible solution is to shift Daryl Williams to Turner’s spot. That would also give Greg Little his first career start at left tackle.

Little had a solid debut in Arizona, but his potential matchup Sunday is against one of the hottest pass rushers in the NFL. Houston’s Whitney Mercilus already has four sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception. Decent start.

Like pretty much any young offensive linemen, Little will take his lumps — maybe against Mercilus or perhaps against Jacksonville’s pass rush a week later. So some patience could be needed. But for those who wanted the Panthers to invest in a left tackle of the future, this is the process. If Little does stick at left tackle, Williams would at the very least be valuable depth. But first, let’s see how things go Sunday.

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Website submission from Brett in Rock Hill, SC: 1-2 isn’t great and I’m worried about Cam’s future but I’m also excited about all our young guys. Are you?

Your question made me dig up Jimmy Kempski’s annual roster age rankings because the Panthers recently had one of the oldest lineups in the league.

According to Kempski’s data, which is analyzed after cutdown day in August, the Panthers began 2017 with the NFL’s second-oldest roster. They got slightly younger last year sliding up to fourth-oldest. This year, after an offseason where getting younger was one of the priorities, they ranked eighth-oldest.

Drill a little deeper and you’ll find that 20 of the 53 players on the current roster were brought aboard during the past three draft weekends either as picks or undrafted rookies:

2017

  • Christian McCaffrey
  • Curtis Samuel
  • Taylor Moton
  • Alex Armah

2018

  • DJ Moore
  • Donte Jackson
  • Rashaan Gaulden
  • Ian Thomas
  • Jermaine Carter
  • Marquise Haynes
  • Andre Smith
  • Kyle Allen
  • Reggie Bonnafon

2019

  • Brian Burns
  • Greg Little
  • Will Grier
  • Christian Miller
  • Dennis Daley
  • Jordan Scarlett
  • Jordan Kunaszyk

Add Efe Obada, Joey Slye, Ray-Ray McCloud, Natrell Jamerson and Brandon Zylstra and you get 47 percent of a roster made up of guys who have been in the league for three or fewer seasons.

Clearly, it’s natural to have a chunk of your roster made up of rookies and other recent draftees, so how much substance is in the above numbers?

Well on offense, you’ve got weapons like McCaffrey, Samuel and Moore, plus potential bedrocks on the offensive line with Moton, Little and Daley.

Defensively, Jackson’s flashed signs of stardom, Haynes is rapidly improving and ask Kyler Murray if he thinks Burns and Miller are coming along nicely.

All that doesn’t include important pieces like Armah, Gaulden and Carter or developing players like Allen and Thomas. So, sure, I can see why you have a hopeful eye on the future.

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@PanthersTimme Hey Bill Grüße from germany! What about our Backup RBs?! Everybody talking about reducing CMCs workload and he‘s just 100% in every game...i mean those 5 Snaps from Bonnafon last game...where is Scarlett? And by the way no Ian Thomas too?!

OK, so not all the young guys are getting as many reps as many of you would like.

As far as the running backs go, sure, before the season, Ron Rivera and Norv Turner mentioned scaling back McCaffrey’s reps. But saying it is a whole lot different than pulling one of the most dynamic players in football off the field during real games. And as I wrote in February, the workload stuff is overblown anyway.

I get why you want to see what Scarlett can do, but say you put him out there for five plays. Any one of those could make a big difference, and right now they’re clearly more comfortable just rolling with McCaffrey.

Thomas is a different story. Don’t forget he was slowed this spring and summer with knee and rib injuries. You don’t have to pull Olsen to get Thomas on the field, so I’d be surprised if you don’t see some more two-tight end sets with that pair as the first half of the season progresses.

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@Brannon87 Been seeing alot of good things from the special teams group. Any explanation for the improved play? I know theres some new guys out there we dont hear much about. Feel like we could see Ray Ray break one or another punt or FG block at any time soon #KeepPounding #GrillBill

Let’s start with Chase Blackburn and Ben Jacobs. It’s not easy to get guys to buy into special teams, so maybe it helps to have coaches who aren’t far removed from their playing days.

Then you’ve got Slye, who looks like quite the find. And there’s Michael Palardy, whose elite hang-time has helped him quietly turn into one of the best punters in the league. McCloud does have game-breaking ability, and he’s a good gunner across from Jamerson. He, Ross Cockrell and Javien Elliott have had a good start at the vice position, and depth across all four units has improved thanks in large part to the linebacking trio of Carter, Smith and Kunaszyk.

So there’s my special teams breakdown.

Now, the lightning round …

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Website submission from Donald in Concord, NC: Does Kyle Allen look like Avicii? Just needs to grow out the beard a bit.

RIP, but sure, I can give you that one.

Avicii and Kyle Allen

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@pantherscast Do you ride a bike to work?

No, but one of my favorite things to do is ride my bike to yoga on Saturday mornings. Is that oversharing?

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@SirPikez Who do we need to resign after this year?

It’s September.

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@timsandie01 Which Italian Restaurant is your favorite?

Joey’s in Syracuse.

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@CLTSCGirl #GrillBill Thoughts on pumpkin beer?

I had a stage a few years back where I was into it, but now I just kind of shrug. I wouldn’t order myself, but I’ll have one if you’re buying.

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@MurkN101 Is pineapple on pizza ever acceptable?

It’s not for me, but I don’t judge others if they’re into it. Sorry, my food takes aren’t very warm today.

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Website submission from Terry in Cherryville, NC: Is Bruce Irvin ever going to play? All he has done is set on the sideline nursing a Hamstring, how long dose it take to get over hamstring?

The plan is for him to play this weekend. And apparently, you’ve never tweaked yours cause it’s one of the most annoying and unpredictable injuries ever.

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@samcorkey Is My Life the most underrated Billy Joel song ever?

It’s on his greatest hits, so don’t think you can say it’s underrated. The correct answer is “Summer, Highland Falls.”

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