The Carolina Panthers were in desperate need of a spark. They had fallen to 1-9 over their last 10 games and to 0-2 on the season when they lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home last week. With Cam Newton unable to start due to a left foot sprain, Kyle Allen started on the road against the Arizona Cardinals and wound up providing that spark.
Allen led the Panthers to a 38-20 win in convincing fashion, completing 19 of his 26 passes for 261 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. With Allen enjoying more success under center in his last two starts than Cam Newton has of late, could there be a changing of the guard coming in Carolina?
Kyle Allen’s path to Carolina’s backup role
Kyle Allen split time with Kenny Hill as a true freshman for the Texas A&M Aggies back in 2014, collecting 1,322 passing yards with 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions. As a sophomore, Allen had 2,210 passing yards with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions as he played through an AC sprain in his throwing arm.
Allen decided to transfer to the Houston Cougars in 2016. He sat out that season due to the NCAA’s transfer rules, and in 2017 he was benched in favor of Kyle Postma. He declared for the NFL Draft that offseason instead of returning to school for his final year of eligibility and was not drafted.
The undrafted free agent signed with the Carolina Panthers in 2018. After spending most of the season on the practice squad, Kyle Allen was promoted to the main roster in December to back up Taylor Heinicke when Cam Newton was shut down for the season.
Kyle Allen got his first NFL start last season against the New Orleans Saints in Week 17. He went 16-for-27 for 228 yards and two touchdowns in Carolina’s 33-14 win over the Saints. Allen also rushed for a touchdown in the win as well.
Has Cam Newton’s time in Carolina come to an end?
The sample size on Kyle Allen is tiny. And his two starts have come against a Saints team that was resting many of its starters last season and an Arizona Cardinals team that is expected to finish near the bottom of the league in 2019.
But regardless of how you spin it, the Panthers are 2-0 in Kyle Allen’s last two games under center. They are 0-8 in Cam Newton’s last eight starts. Newton does not look like the quarterback he once was anymore; he has not thrown a touchdown pass in any of his last four starts and has thrown seven interceptions over his last five games.
It’s difficult to imagine even having this conversation when Cam Newton is a former first overall pick and NFL MVP while Kyle Allen is an undrafted prospect. But Allen is also only 23-years-old; Newton is 30, and he’s taken a lot of hits over the years.
Is it time to see what Kyle Allen can do?
Carolina has some tough decisions coming
Will Grier could also be waiting in the wings. The Panthers spent a third-round pick on Grier in the 2019 NFL Draft. The 24-year-old is seen as a long-term project by Carolina, but he was drafted due to his explosive production with the Mountaineers; over his last two seasons with West Virginia, Grier had 7,354 passing yards and 71 passing touchdowns with only 20 interceptions.
Cam Newton is in the final year of the five-year, $103.8 million deal that he signed back in 2015. Should the Panthers try to keep their franchise quarterback? Should they move on from Newton and give Allen and Grier the chance to shine in 2020 and beyond? And will Ron Rivera be the man coaching this team when these decisions are made?
It’s going to be an interesting next 12 months for the Panthers and their fans. On the bright side, at least they’ve got a bonafide star in running back Christian McCaffrey to build their offense around over the next few years.