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Norv: Cam Newton capable of high 60s completion rate

The Panthers spent last offseason hyping Cam Newton's potential evolution away from designed zone-read runs and toward the swashbuckling passing style of Ben Roethlisberger.

A year later, new offensive coordinator Norv Turner is invoking the names of two prototypical pocket passers who excelled under his tutelage: Hall of Famer Troy Aikman and current Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.

Installing a system that will focus on play-action and quick-release, high-percentage passes, Turner believes Newton can approach the accuracy numbers that Aikman and Rivers posted in the prime of their respective careers.

"I see Cam as a guy that can be in the mid- to high-60s in the completion percentage," Turner offered, via ESPN's David Newton.

With all due respect to Turner's expertise and experience, that goal is pure, unvarnished fantasy.

Newton owns a career rate of 58.5 after managing to complete just 56.0 percent of his passes over the past two years. Because his lower body is so often out of concert with his corkscrew throwing motion, he's prone to misfires and overthrows.

The Panthers are attempting the delicate, high-wire balancing act of winning now while also dramatically altering the playing style of their most important player.

It took former play-caller Mike Shula just a few games last season to throw the franchise's grand offseason plans out the window, capitulating to Newton's demonstrated dual-threat strengths. A Newton-led offense works best when he's stressing defenses by combining designed runs and late-in-the-down improvisation with deep strikes that highlight his prodigious power arm.

To Turner's credit, he understands his quarterback is special because he can beat defenses with his speed, length, tackle-breaking power, goal-line acrobatics and the passing ability to burn defenders selling out to stop the threat of the run.

"They're all unique," Turner said of his former quarterbacks. "[But] I really believe defensive coaches look at Cam as tough a guy to defend as there is. I personally believe he can be the toughest guy to defend."

As evidenced by his 2015 MVP award, Newton is as dangerous as any quarterback in the league when he's locked in, protected by a stout offensive line and surrounded by playmakers. Even in that dream season, though, he failed to reach pro football's Mendoza Line for starting quarterbacks -- a 60.0 completion rate.

Turner is set up for NFC South success with Newton and an upgraded wide receiver corps. But it's not going to happen by wishcasting a measure of high-level accuracy that his quarterback simply doesn't possess.

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