Carolina Panthers mailbag: Cam Newton or Andy Dalton?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Before getting to my Saturday mailbag, here are a few facts from ESPN Stats & Information that might interest you about the Carolina Panthers as they prepare for Sunday’s game at Cincinnati:

  • Of the 13 teams who have a negative point differential this season, the Panthers (minus-16) are the only one with a winning record.

  • Carolina ranks 31st in yards per rush (3.1). It ranked 12th last year at 4.2.

  • The defense ranks last in the NFL in yards allowed per rush (5.4). It ranked 12th last year at 4.0.

  • Quarterback Cam Newton has completed 51.7 percent of his mid-to-deep range passes (throws of 15 yards or more), which ties him for sixth in the NFL. His completion rate last season on those passes was 28.1 percent.

Now to the questions:

@DNewtonESPN: This is a tough one. Statistically, there's not much difference passing. Andy Dalton has completed 61.1 percent of his throws for 84 touchdowns since being selected in the second round of the 2011 draft. Cam Newton has completed 59.9 percent for 69 touchdowns since being selected with the first pick that year. Dalton has a career rating of 86.6. Newton has a rating of 87.1. Newton has a decided edge in rushing and rushing touchdowns, because that's what he's always done and is asked to do in the Carolina offense. Dalton runs a West Coast offense in which he's not asked to run unless it's out of necessity. Dalton gets a slight edge because he's been to the playoffs three years in a row, but he hasn't won a game there. Newton has been once and lost. It all depends on what you're looking for. Newton's health is starting to be a concern, so for that reason I'll go with Dalton - slightly.

@DNewtonESPN: I'm going with Andrew Luck simply being better than Newton, although when you look at their career passer ratings, Newton has a slight edge. Let's put it this way. Had they both come out the same year, Luck would be wearing a Carolina uniform and not Newton. But they're both franchise quarterbacks.

@DNewtonESPN: If the defense plays the way it has in three of the four games, yes. There's really not an elite team outside of Seattle and maybe Denver - and both already have lost a game. When you see the New England Patriots blown out one week and then the next they blow out an undefeated Cincinnati team, you start to realize there's going to be a lot of ups and downs this season.

@DNewtonESPN: The most popular question with this team. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, as I've said numerous times, have contracts that are too big for them to be cut or traded. Williams' deal runs out after next season. Stewart's a few years after that. Having said that, I look for the transition to begin next year as the team prepares for life after Williams. Stewart's career, because he can't stay healthy, might be over before he's ready for it to be.

@DNewtonESPN: General manager Dave Gettleman does love his "hog mollies,'' his term for big players. But to simply say the money that has been paid to Williams, Stewart and Mike Tolbert simply will go to the line would be wrong. By then, the contract of middle linebacker Luke Kuechly and then defensive tackle Star Lotulelei - to mention a few - will be ready to renew. The Panthers also will have to replace those backs, which won't come cheap even if the contracts aren't as large as the current ones. I see where you're going, but it's way too early to predict. The offensive line they have is young. Who knows? After a year of playing together, they might mesh into a solid group. Then they'll demand higher salaries.

@DNewtonESPN: I think he gets nervous as well. How else do you explain all the drops? But the Panthers love his upside, primarily his explosive speed, and are willing to stick with him for a while longer. He's a smart kid and can be an asset not only as a returner, but a receiver down the road.