With Cam Newton’s ‘Sophomore Slump’ Over, NFL Should Be Scared For What’s To Come

We’ve known all along that Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Cam Newtown is a physical specimen. We saw him dazzle throughout his rookie season and fill up the stat sheet like few quarterbacks, let alone rookies, ever do.

But for much of this season, the ex-Auburn Tiger, Heisman Trophy recipient, National Champion, and NFL Rookie of the Year, struggled mightily as his highly touted Panthers got off to an abysmal 2-8 start. The national media began ripping apart Newton’s game, trying to expose why he wouldn’t be able to be a consistently effective playmaker and leader.

About a month later, the Panthers have rattled off 3 of 4 wins, with the only loss coming in Kansas City at Arrowhead following the Javon Belcher tragedy. Unfortunately, Carolina was in too deep of a hole to climb back into the playoff race.

While it’s probably fair to call those first 10 games of the season Newton’s “sophomore slump,” it’s just as fair to say that rough patch of football is now very far behind him. Just look to the numbers.

Newton has been able to overcome the pressures of the nation's media scrutiny to open a new, and once again extremely exciting, chapter in his career. Credit: Getty Images

Newton has been able to overcome the pressures of the nation’s media scrutiny to open a new, and once again extremely exciting, chapter in his career. Credit: Getty Images

After watching Newton’s rookie campaign, most observers agreed: “Super Cam” would probably end up being an elite quarterback as long as he could consistently make small improvements here and there. When you look at his statistics, even though most of his current campaign has been labeled as a disappointment, you’d be surprised to see that he actually has been slowly but surely improving relative to his rookie season.

The only number that has decreased from last season for Newton is the rushing touchdowns. Last year, he set a record with his 14 TDs on the ground, whereas this year he only has 7 with 2 games remaining. But let’s be realistic here. Even for the most explosive of running quarterbacks, having 6-8 rushing TDs in a season is very impressive.

As for the passing touchdowns, the numbers are just about at the same level they were a year ago. In his rookie year, Newton had 21 TDs through the air, and with 2 games left to play he currently has 18, with 12 of those TDs coming in just the past 6 games.

Although it may be too little too late for his team, Newton is certainly once again showing the explosive potential that he has, lighting it up through the air and on the ground of late.

I know, I know – you can’t just look at the touchdowns. But to my surprise, it’s the other numbers, the ones more telling to how a player is actually performing, that impressed me the most with Newton.

I’ve watched a lot of Newton this season, and throughout the first half of the season, he just wasn’t on. 

Much like a young Donovan McNabb with the Eagles, although Newton possesses the ability to run and an immense amount of arm strength, success was not coming consistently because he just wasn’t making the throws. It seemed that every play he was flinging the ball all over the field, overthrowing the ball more times than not.

Back in the day I remember watching McNabb throw the ball as hard as he could right at the feet of his Philadelphia Eagles receivers. And for a while this season, Newton was doing something similar, except he was throwing the ball entirely too hard way over and past the receivers.

In both situations, I remember just wanting the talented QBs to “take a deep breath and relax,” because you knew that if they’d take it easy out there, more throws would end up in their pass catcher’s hands.

And of late, that’s exactly what Newton has been able to do, which his statistics are beginning to reflect.

Last year, Newton had a completion percentage of just over 60%. And even with all the criticisms he has taken through most of this season, Newton has gotten his sophomore mark up to over 58%. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it once again get back into the 60s after the final 2 games of the season.

Although I don’t fully understand exactly what ESPN’s Quarterback Rating (QBR) means, I do know it’s very in-depth and supposedly takes into account every way that a QB helps and/or hurts his team. Surprisingly, Newton’s QBR is now at 89, up from the 84.5 mark he had his rookie season.

Throughout the last six weeks, Newton’s really been doing it all in order to get those last couple numbers back up to respectability and right in line with the impressive rate we saw in his record-setting rookie campaign.

So, what does this all mean going forward for “Superman?” Or as some people call him, “Super Cam?”

 

Other than the fact that his job is probably safe from that kid in the commercial (as amazingly awesome as that kid is), it means that the rest of the NFL ‘oughta stay ready for some very special success in Cam Newton’s future.

He may never have the mechanics or throwing accuracy that the Redskins’ RGIII has; he may never be able to read a defense or manage a game like Andrew Luck can; and he may never have the consistency of Peyton Manning; but Cam’s super-human talents and 6’5, 250-pound build still gives him a very unique skill set that none of the aforementioned QB’s have.

With Newton’s “sophomore slump” seemingly over, it’s time to discuss Cam Newton once again as one of the most talented and capable young players the NFL has to offer – even if it is in a way different than what we’ve ever seen before.

Superman is indeed "back." Credit: Getty Images

Superman is indeed “back.” Credit: Getty Images

Stay tuned for more on MidwestSportsFans.com as Zach puts more of the NFL’s biggest names’ 2012 seasons into perspective!



About Zach Gropper

Zach Gropper is a sports broadcasting major at Indiana University in the beautiful town of Bloomington, IN. He is from Flossmoor, IL, a small Chicago suburb.
Zach was was the sports director for WHFH 88.5 FM Flossmoor his junior year of high school and Television Station Manager of Viking Television during his senior year.
He runs a White Sox blog at GrabSomeBench.com and also contributes and reports for AssemblyCall.com. Last summer, Zach interned for ESPN 1000 AM Chicago, working on programming for the Waddle and Silvy Show.
He is currently eager to get out into the professional world of sports media, wherever that may take him.

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