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Ron Rivera: Panthers could have 'explosive offense' even with less from Cam Newton

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Bruschi says Cam needs to run less to be effective (1:11)

Tedy Bruschi says Cam Newton needs to change his mentality and trust Christian McCaffrey in the backfield to ensure he can stay healthy. (1:11)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera doesn’t believe less running by quarterback Cam Newton means less offense.

If anything, Rivera believes "judicious" running by Newton with a scheme designed to more quickly get the ball into the hands of playmakers will create more offense and fewer hits on the 2015 NFL MVP.

"We have what we think is the potential to be an explosive offense," Rivera said Monday on SiriusXM NFL Radio.

Rivera and his staff began rethinking the way Newton was used late in the 2016 season after the No. 1 pick of the 2011 draft had taken a pounding from defenders and statistically was having his worst season.

The Panthers made a conscious effort to surround Newton with more playmakers in free agency and the draft.

They used the No. 8 pick in this year's draft to select Stanford do-it-all running back Christian McCaffrey and came back in the second round with slot receiver/running back Curtis Samuel out of Ohio State.

The thought process was to give Newton more weapons who can turn short plays into big ones, and to give Newton options that will allow him to get rid of the ball before taking big hits.

Rivera believes with the playmakers Newton has now, Carolina can return to the level it reached in 2015, when it ranked first in the NFL in scoring (32.1 points per game) and 11th in total offense (366.9 yards per game) during Newton’s MVP season.

The Panthers fell to 15th in scoring (23.1 PPG) and 19th in total offense (343.7 YPG) last season.

"There are some things we want to do in terms of getting the ball out of Cam’s hands and putting it in the hands of playmakers," Rivera said. "Those two young guys [McCaffrey and Samuel], they aren’t going to be just the primary targets.

“We’ve got a tremendous slew of targets on our team, starting with Jonathan Stewart and being able to run the ball."

Rivera said adding the rookies to the mix with Stewart, Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen, and wide receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess will create a system more like quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has with Pittsburgh.

"Look what they did with the type of player they put in their backfield, the type of players they put in their receiving corps," Rivera said. "They run the ball with a very quick, slashing-style running game. They keep it on the ground and pound it.

"Then they’ve got some very versatile receivers that make plays once they get the ball in their hands. ... We looked at some of the other teams in the league and looked at what they’re doing, trying to figure out how we can incorporate those things into what we do right now."

But Rivera made it clear the goal is to remain a run-based team without Newton having to be as big a part of the running game as he has been.

"We’ve got to be very judicious when we do use him as a runner," Rivera said of Newton, whose 3,566 yards rushing since 2011 is by far the most by an NFL quarterback during that span. “One of the things he does ... and this is something a lot of people don’t understand, too, is he will stand tall in that pocket and he will wait 'til the last minute before he throws it.

“That’s one of his strengths, having that ability and that patience to stand tall in the pocket. But again, we’ve got to be smart and he’s got to understand that the best thing for him is getting the ball out of his hands and getting it downfield."