Cam Newton Is Still A Fantasy Star, But Has Been Regressing In Reality
Then, with one minute to go, after the Seahawks gave up a safety, the Panthers had the ball, down four. But they didn’t even get into Seattle territory. Cam Newton was sacked and stripped, and the Seahawks recovered the ball.
The Carolina Panthers may have lost by a slim margin, 16-12, but their only touchdown in the game came from a pick-six. So to claim that their offense was absolutely dominated by Seattle’s defense would be more than fair.
Looking at the numbers, in front of a home crowd, Newton’s squad only picked up 190 total yards. In particular, the talented QB ran for 42 yards and threw for another measly 141, completing just over 41 percent of his passes.
This was just one game, but ever since the second half of the 2011 season, Newton has been on a downward spiral. He put up decent numbers last week in a 30-28 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, rushing for a touchdown and 86 yards while throwing two touchdown passes and for 215 yards. But overall, this season has not been impressive for the former Auburn superstar.
He has thrown just four touchdown passes compared to five interceptions. He has rushed for three touchdowns, but his lost-fumble count is already at two through five games when his total for all of last year was three.
Turnovers aside, what is most worrisome is Newton’s drop-off in terms of passing yards. In the first eight games of his rookie season, the Panthers QB threw for 2,393 yards, averaging 299 per game. In the last eight games of the 2011 season, Newton threw for 1,658 yards, which comes out to an average of 207 a game.
You would have to hope that he would find a way to increase his production to return to his incredible form of the beginning of his rookie season, but so far this year, Newton has thrown for a total of 1,154 yards, which averages out to 230 a game.
As for running the ball, nothing significant has changed. Newton’s rushing yards per carry has dropped from 5.6 to 5.1, but that it is not a dramatic fall.
It is another decrease in his totals though, and when you compare Newton’s statistics from this year to last year, the only important stat that has improved for the former AP Offensive Rookie of the Year is that his completion percentage has been raised from 60.0 percent to 63.6 percent.
After the first eight games last year, Cam Newton looked unstoppable. Of course, by setting the rookie records for most rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and passing yards by a quarterback, Cam Newton was on top of the world at the end of the 2011 season despite his team’s 6-10 record.
However, now that the 2012 season has rolled around and the Panthers are 1-4, you have to wonder if Carolina fans are starting to get nervous.
As for us, we should reevaluate: Is Cam Newton as good as we thought or did we let his record-breaking rookie year allow us to place him on a pedestal that he didn’t deserve to be on?
Before the season started, it seemed like we all thought of him as a top five quarterback in the NFL. Fantasy football might have had something to do with that, as many seemed to draft Cam Newton as soon as Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford were off the board due to the Panthers QB’s ability to run the ball.
However, fantasy aside, in terms of total quarterback rating, Cam Newton has been below average to start the year, earning the 18th best QBR ranking at 57.9. Ironically, Newton is No. 5 in terms of fantasy point production in standard ESPN scoring leagues, but it is not fantasy or quarterback ratings that matter.
What matters is winning. The best quarterbacks always win. No matter what.
Obviously, it would be unfair to compare Cam Newton to the best quarterbacks of all time in the NFL, but when you see Peyton Manning on the sidelines, he is looking at playbooks, talking to coaches and getting on the same page with his wide receivers.
He would never be caught sulking, especially by one of his wideouts, but that is exactly what happened when Steve Smith saw Cam Newton sitting “on the bench with a towel over his head” when the Panthers were getting blown out by the New York Giants in Week 3.
What’s been clear about Peyton since the day he entered the NFL is that he always wants to get better. In his rookie year, his team went 3-13, but the next year, the Colts went 13-3.
The difference was clearly him when you look at the stats. In both seasons, Manning passed for 26 touchdowns, but in 1998, he threw 28 interceptions, and in 1999, he threw 15.
Now, this isn’t to say that the Panthers should be 5-0 or 4-1. A quarterback can’t always do everything. Drew Brees in New Orleans this season is the most obvious example. His team’s defense is worst in the league in terms of yards given up per game, so he has to put at least 30 points on the scoreboard each game for his team to even have a chance of winning. In fact, the Saints are 10th in the league in scoring despite being winless, so it’s hard to blame Brees.
Meanwhile, Panthers fans couldn’t have realistically expected a perfect start especially since Carolina had a tough opening schedule, but it is reasonable for them to think that their team should be better than 1-4, even with a defense that is ranked only 22nd in the league in points allowed.
Moreover, it is safe to say that after eclipsing Manning’s record for most passing yards as a rookie, Newton should be playing better this year than he did last year, and that with two stud running backs in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart on the roster, his team should not be 24th in the league in points scored per game, one slot behind the Tennessee Titans who are tied with the New York Jets.
Right now, the Carolina QB is in a dangerous time in his career. And it’s not hard to see that Steve Smith understands that better than Newton does.
In an interview, he explained why he called Newton out, “I lit into him because I thought it was an opportunity for him to see and understand what was going on. This is more than about playing football. It's about becoming a man and understanding what this is.”
To be successful, Newton needs to mature and become a leader on this football team. Because whether he likes it or not, he is always going to be looked up to as long as he is the starting quarterback because QB is the most important position in football.
Obviously Newton will be given a fair amount of time to produce better results since he is a former No. 1 draft pick and only 23 years old, but if he can’t improve his attitude and keep from being so reckless with the ball in terms of turnovers, then he may be headed down a steep decline rather than a path leading to playoff victories.
The worst-case scenario would be that Newton would fall so far that he would no longer be on an NFL roster before the age of 30.
It seems unlikely that a QB who led his college football team to a national championship and then was honored with the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award could end up in that position, but that’s where Vince Young is. He is 29 and no longer employed in the NFL.