Newton has been dealing with soreness in his throwing shoulder much of the season, and with the Panthers on a six-game losing streak and all but mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, Newton will be inactive for the final home game of the year against the Falcons. Rookie Kyle Allen is expected to be signed from the practice squad to serve as Heinicke’s backup Sunday.
Newton has started all 14 games this season, completing 320-of-471 passes for 3,395 yards with 24 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He has rushed for four touchdowns and 488 yards. Newton tossed 15 touchdown passes versus four interceptions during Carolina’s 6-2 start. He has thrown nine touchdown passes and nine interceptions during the slide.
Newton struggled to push the ball downfield in the Panthers’ loss to the Saints on Monday Night Football that all but ended Carolina’s postseason hopes. He completed 16-of-29 passes for 131 yards. The 8.2 yards per completion was a season low.
Heinicke, undrafted out of Old Dominion in 2015, has come on four times for Newton in recent weeks, all in Hail Mary situations. Heinicke made his NFL debut for the Texans on Christmas Day of last year.
He knew Carolina’s offensive system even before the Panthers claimed him off waivers from the Texans on April 16. He began his NFL career with the Vikings under the guidance of offensive coordinator Norv Turner and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder showed off his mobility in the preseason. He threw 132 touchdown passes in college.